Dusting off ‘Creation’ and ‘The Last Judgment’

VATICAN CITY — Employees of the Vatican Museums spent more than three weeks this summer dusting the Sistine Chapel.

“Our restorers removed an unimaginable quantity of dust and sediment” from the walls and ceiling of the chapel, working at night from mid-July to Aug. 10, Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, told the Vatican newspaper.


Paolucci said Michelangelo’s famous frescoes and those of Botticelli and Perugino had not been touched in four years; with an average of 20,000 people entering the chapel each day and with the chapel sitting in the middle of a modern capital filled with cars, the dust and grime was significant.

To avoid disrupting summer visitors — and probably for their own safety — museum workers erected scaffolding each evening after the museum closed and took it down again each morning before the museum opened.

The museums’ crack team of restoration experts also used the nighttime cleaning project as an opportunity to evaluate the frescoes’ current condition, Paolucci said. Their conclusion is that someone, somewhere must be intelligent enough and technologically savvy enough to design a climate- and dust-control system that would prevent such a quick buildup of damaging grunge on the ceilings and walls.

The museums also announced this week that in September and October they again will open from 7-11 p.m. each Friday.

The Friday evenings in October will feature special events incorporating poetry, music and dance. As one example, “Australia Night,” Oct. 15, will feature a talk by Nereda White on the spirituality of aboriginal music and dance, as well as performances by indigenous people from Australia and the Torres Strait. The museum event precedes the canonization of the Australian Blessed Mary MacKillop Oct. 17.

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