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Pollution threatens masterpieces of Sistine Chapel

Catholic World News - October 18, 2013

Pollution is threatening the priceless frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the director of the Vatican Museums has reported.

Antonio Paolucci told a news conference in Rome that a new air-circulation system will be fully installed in the Sistine Chapel within a year. The new system, donated by Carrier, is designed to cut down on dust, humidity, and other pollutants that threaten to dull the colors of the frescoes.

If the level of pollution is not curtailed, the Vatican will be forced to limit the number of people allowed to visit the Sistine Chapel in order to preserve the artwork. Paolucci admitted that curbing visits would be “a painful solution” to the problem. During peak tourist weeks in the summer, about 20,000 people visit the Sistine Chapel every day.

Between 1980 and 1994 the Michelangelo frescoes were painstakingly restored, in a delicate and labor-intensive project to remove grime and repair plaster. Paolucci said that it would be “traumatic” to undertake the same sort of project again.

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