Air con, LED lighting and intelligent glasses: the new face of the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is set for a dramatic overhaul, the Vatican has announced this week, with a raft of features that will bring the iconic building right up to the 21st Century.

RomeA new air conditioning system is set to help visitors to the chapel keep cool all year round while LED lighting will show off the chapel’s ceiling frescos in their best light.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, said: “We are going to protect, from a climatological point of view, Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece, as well as giving it proper lighting.”

In order to help visitors view the chapel from a completely different perspective, Mr Paolucci revealed that visitors will have access to “intelligent glasses” from next year.

“Starting in the early months of 2015, visitors to the Vatican Museums are going to be offered special, disposable ‘intelligent glasses’ similar to Google Glass that will enable them to explore the Sistine [Chapel] in 3D and go deeper into its history before the actual visit,” he said.

The Vatican also announced that it is considering limiting visitor numbers, an idea that was broached back in 2012. At the time Mr Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, explained how the growing number of visitors were creating challenges for the chapel.

“Pressure caused by humans such as dust introduced, the humidity of bodies, carbon dioxide produced by perspiration can cause unease for the visitors, and in the long run, possible damage to the paintings,” he said.

“We might limit the access, putting a cap on the number (of visitors). We will do this if tourism grows beyond the limits of reasonable tolerance and if we are not able to respond adequately to the problem.”

The number of tourists visiting the chapel has grown from a figure of 1.5 million in 1980 to a current figure of six million people a year.

If the number of visitors continues on a significant upward trend Mr Paolucci revealed that “we shall introduce a limit of 20,000 visits a day [and] 2,000 at the most at any one time.”

A previous 14-year restoration project at the chapel, where technicians installed an elaborate system of dehumidifiers, air conditioning, filters and micro-climate controls came to an end in 1994.

If you are planning a visit to Rome, it’s important to organise European travel insurance in advance.

Date Created: 30 October 2014

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