“The state of the frescoes is good, and this whitening was reversible,” he said.
“The state of the frescoes is good, and this whitening was reversible,”Officials acknowledged that the major cleaning of the frescoes completed in 1994 – which removed centuries of built-up candle wax, dirt and smoke – probably removed a barrier between the frescoes and the environment that allowed the whitening to take place.
But they said the main culprit was the sheer number of human beings who cram into a tiny shoebox-shaped space that has limited natural air flow.
The head of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, has ruled out closing the Sistine Chapel to protect the frescoes, but has said that 6 million visitors a year is the limit.
To allow crowds to continue to admire Michelangelo’s 500-year-old “Last Judgment” behind the altar, the Vatican has installed sensors to monitor humidity, dust and carbon dioxide levels, as well as closed-circuit TV cameras to count the number of visitors so that the new cooling and ventilation system can adjust itself accordingly.
The previous air conditioning system, installed in the early 1990s, was designed when only about 2 million people visited each year.
By Nicole Winfield