I have visited the Sistine Chapel, and I’m glad I did. Those who have yet to make a trip there, however, may have to weigh the value of their personal experience with the efforts to maintain Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
After a summer-long project to remove four years of dust from the chapel’s walls and ceiling, Vatican Museum director Antonio Paolucci is cautioning that “excessive” traffic without sufficient countermeasures could lead to significant damage down the line.
Paolucci described the massive endeavor to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, an undertaking that took 30 specialists working in rotation during the night nearly a month to complete. He also noted that the staff removed “unimaginable quantities of dust and sediment” that had collected on surfaces, the result of an average of 20,000 visitors per day.
Paolucci explained that there is "excessive anthropic pressure"—that is, too many visitors—for the climate and pollution control measures that are currently in place.
"If we want to conserve the Sistine in acceptable conditions for the next generations," Paolucci warned, "this is the challenge that we must defeat. . . ." This challenge is "more arduous," he added, than the one posed by the restoration.
Ironically, there was also an article in the same newspaper on another day announcing the extension of visiting hours on certain days in September to include evening visits.
Here’s what it’s like to visit the Sistine Chapel as a tourist. The video’s poster commented: “The Sistine Chapel is gorgeous but no one is very reverent. They pack in tons of people and it is very loud and very hot.”