Sensors fitted in Sistine Chapel to protect art

In a bid to ensure the preservation of priceless frescoes by such artistic greats as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino, the famed Sistine Chapel has been fitted with detectors to check for pollution.

Millions of visitors annually view the chapel, built in the late 15th century by order of Pope Sixtus IV.

Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci explained in the Holy See’s official daily, Osservatore Romano, on Thursday that the initiative was enacted in order to update the building’s air conditioning and ventilating system.

The detectors, put in place this summer, measure temperature, humidity, chemicals as well as currents of air, Paolucci said.

“It was necessary to understand the dynamics of the pollution,” he said.

Thirty-six of the detectors are suspended and 14 others are fitted in other parts of the chapel, which is covered in paintings on the walls and ceiling.

The sensor data is then matched with statistics on the number of visitors at any one time obtained through thermal cameras fitted on the doors, according to Agence France-Presse.

The frescoing of the walls was commissioned in 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV and executed by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and their workshops.

The ceiling, commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 to 1512, shows a series of nine paintings featuring God’s Creation of the World, God’s Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind’s Fall from God’s Grace.

Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment was executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel between 1536 and 1541.

The Sistine Chapel, where cardinals meet in conclave to elect a new pope, receives more than 4 million visitors every year.

Last year, scientists discovered a high quantity of particles on the walls that could cause chemical reactions that would harm the paintings, according to Agence France-Presse.

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