Tourist crush ruining Sistine Chapel?

I’ve been twice, before I had faith so I saw it with secular eyes, it was so magnificent. However, as this article points out both times it was wall-to-wall with noisy tourists ignoring the no photography rule and guards yelling “NO PHOTO” in every language they knew with no effect.

But as the crush of visitors grows year by year, this home to Michelangelo’s majestic 16th-century frescoes often feels more like a packed, sweaty, and very noisy railway station.

Five million tourists surge through the chapel every year, craning their necks to get a glimpse of the scenes painted on the 130ft-long ceiling, flouting the ban on flash photography and ignoring pleas from guards to lower their voices.

In an article in Corriere della Sera, Pietro Citati, a leading literary critic and biographer, has demanded that the Vatican limit access to the chapel, claiming it would save the frescoes from damage and restore some decorum to the consecrated site.

Do you think there should be some reforms to make the atmosphere more “chapel-like?”

At least for now the Vatican is pushing back against that:

The manager of the Vatican museums, which include the chapel, fought back on Friday in the pages of the Holy See’s daily paper, L’Osservatore Romano.

“The days when only Russian grand dukes and English lords or [American art expert] Bernard Berenson could gain access to the great masterpieces are definitely over,” wrote Antonio Paolucci. “We have entered the era of large-scale tourism, and millions want to enjoy our historical culture,” he said. “Limiting numbers is unthinkable.”


If the acts truly are ruining the Chapel, and the guards’ best efforts are truly not helping, then it seems to me extremely irresponsible and negligent to keep it open. I would say a better idea would be to take in mediumish groups one at a time, absolutely demand low voices and no cameras, and remove persons who violate these rules. Perhaps even fine them.

I think a lot of the tour guides set a bad tone in the Sistine Chapel. You have dozens of tour groups with guides yelling over each other explaining the various paintings and history. If they aren’t respecting the rules, how do you expect tourists to do so?

This may be a little over the top, but what about a room with copies of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel where guides can do their explanations? But when you enter the actual chapel, you are expected to be quiet and there is an orderly progression through it. Right now, since everyone can just congregate, it’s too difficult to keep things orderly and enforce any rules. If people walked alone the sides of the chapel in a constantly moving line, then you could enforce rules a lot better.

I doubt there is space to add anything new in the Vatican…:shrug:

having just come back from a visit to the vatican, i can tell you that they already do that. soon after the entrance into the museum, there is an open grassy area. in that area are several stations of three signs each covered with the pictures from the sistine chapel. the tour guides congregate around these stations and do their spiels there and they don’t do them in the sistine chapel itself.

it was heartbreaking to go through the sistine chapel and hear all those cameras all around us, most of them using flash. i didn’t mention that (or the line cutting getting into the general audience with the pope) when i talked about our trip on facebook because i wanted to focus on the good things that happened. but you’re right. it was terrible. i was so impressed by the art, of course, but that spiritual joy was all but extinguished by all those people talking and all those cameras. the guards were doing all they could and i stepped up to several people and asked them to stop, but it made no difference. i would be happier by far if they just closed the place to tourists, even if it meant that i could never see that beautiful place again.

Perhaps they need more strict enforcement of the rules? Those who take pictures would be escorted out of the chapel and not allowed back in with a camera or maybe the guards could just confiscate the cameras and give the cameras back when the tourist(s) leave?

Maybe they should start enforcing it as a sacred site. Have restricted hours for non-Catholics and more hours for Catholics. Have people be checked for cameras and confiscate them and return them after the tour; and limit the groups per day and raise the price of admission.

Perhaps the Vatican can allow extremely limited times of photography but at a price of €25.00 extra/per tour group.

I have been twice; both times there was lots of shushing going on. The guards were doing a pretty good job of keeping it quiet. Silent? No.

I wouldn’t want to see the limits a previous poster mentioned. At one time in history, art was used to teach the Faith. It still can. I’m sure many people go in looking at it purely as art but come out moved in ways they didn’t expect.

The rule on photographs in Church
Oil or frescoes absoslutly never.
Mosaics were permissiable.
This was drummed into are heads by our guides.

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