The number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel may have to be limited despite efforts by the Vatican Museums and Carrier, a unit of United Technologies Corp. The air conditioning system donated by Carrier is to be operational sometime next year with a projected completion date of December 2014. The objective of the new air conditioning and purification systems is to reduce the damage to the invaluable ceiling frescoes and other art of the chapel. Visitors already complain that the lines are too long that they have to endure to visit the famous chapel.
The new air purification systems to reduce pollution levels are imperative because of the increase in visitor traffic to the chapel. Visitor traffic has tripled in the past three decades. More visitors mean more humidity, dust, carbon dioxide, and dirt is carried into the space. Twenty-thousand people enter the chapel every day during the busiest season with projected visitors estimated to be well over five million this year. The aim of the new system is to keep the pollution levels at a maximum of 800 particles per million. Officials with the Sistine Chapel say that currently pollution levels can exceed twice that amount.
The Sistine Chapel is a part of the huge Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museums contain one of the most important if not the most important art collection in the world. The Sistine Chapel is famous for the ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo. Pope Julius II commissioned these frescoes in 1508. As an interesting sidelight, Michelangelo painted the stories of Noah to Creation in reverse order because he wanted his best work to show God. Michelangelo's interpretation of God is the first time God is depicted as having long white hair and muscles, which is the enduring image most people take from visiting or viewing the Sistine Chapel. He also painted the twelve apostles in the pendentives or outer parts of the arches. "The Last Judgment" and Michelangelo's other frescoes are considered by some experts to be the world's finest paintings. However, Michelangelo is not the only important painter to grace the Sistine Chapel; Sandro Botticelli painted frescoes on two walls depicting Moses and Christ. Pietro Perugino, Luca Signorelli, and other masters have also contributed to the irreplaceable masterpieces contained in this chapel.
The Sistine Chapel was restored in the 1990's. Critics have lambasted this restoration as not being true to Michelangelo's original ethereal interpretation. Specifically the restoration made the colors brighter than they were originally. Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, said at a conference, "There won't be any more restorations." Paolucci went on to say "Maintenance continues."
Sistine Chapel's new air conditioning and air purification system is hopefully the answer to preserving these iconic frescoes for generations to come.