VATICAN CITY- A “drunken herd” of “unruly” tourists is damaging Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel paintings, said one of Italy’s leading arts figures. This was said as The Pope prepared to mark the 500th anniversary of the iconic frescoes’ creation.
According to NBC News, there are about 5 million people who visit the famous chapel every year, sometimes as many as 20,000 tourists can visit in a single day, and an increasing number of experts are now arguing that mass tourism is damaging the chapel’s paintings.
Despite a major, 14-year-long restoration project in the 1990s, the experts are saying that the breath, sweat, dust and pollution brought in by the tourists dramatically change the Chapel’s humidity and temperature. These are key factors to which the paintings are particularly sensitive.
Pope Benedict XVI will recite the vespers in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday night, just as his predecessor Julius II did 500 years ago to the day.
Julius II commissioned the paintings and, along with 17 cardinals, first admired the completed works, such as the Last Judgment and the Creation of Adam, as they celebrated vespers on Oct. 31, 1512.
In an article published by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Pietro Citati, one of Italy’s leading arts and literary critics, called the conditions in the chapel an “unimaginable disaster.”
Citati described the “unruly” tourists as a “drunken herd” who take forbidden pictures and speak loudly despite the guards’ orders.
“The church needs money for its various activities,” Citati wrote, “but these monstrous conditions are unacceptable.”
Marco Nocca, a professor at the Art Academy in Rome, agreed.
“I understand that 5 million paying visitors per year is good business for the Vatican, but something needs to be done to limit the damage,” he said.
“If they can’t restrict the number of people who visit the chapel, then maybe they should time the visits so that there are only a limited number of people in the chapel at any given time,” Nocca added.
More than likely, hours after The Pope recites the vespers on Wednesday, there will be thousands more tourists visiting the chapel, unfazed by the criticism.