Masses to be washed before entering Sistine Chapel
Visitors will be "dusted off, cleaned and cooled off" before entering the chapel hosting the world-famous Sistine Chapel frescoes.
Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, has for years warned that smog, dust particles and rising temperature levels brought in by swelling numbers of tourists represent a grave threat to the chapel, which currently receives around 20,000 daily visitors.
"We will cover the 100 meters before the entrance with a carpet to clean shoes, we will install suction vents on the sides to suck dust from clothes and we will lower temperatures to reduce body heat and damp," Paolucci told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
"Dust, heat, damp and carbon dioxide are the great enemies of paintings," he said.
Changes will be introduced in 2013, Paolucci indicated. A new image gallery and a pavilion housing a "virtual tour" of the Sistine Chapel are also in the works, he added. "We have the money, we are making headway with the works."
The Vatican celebrated this year the chapel's 500th birthday.
Michelangelo laboured for four years - mostly lying on his back - on the Genesis frescoes decorating its ceilings. During 1536-1541 he also painted the Last Judgement on the altar wall.
The chapel, where popes are selected, is also home 12 Renaissance frescoes by Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli and Pietro Perugino. The last major renovation lasted 20 years and was completed in 1999.Author: Alvise Armellini