(Repeats story first published on Oct. 29, text unchanged)
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY Oct 29 The Vatican on Wednesday
unveiled new high-tech, energy-saving lighting and air
purification systems to protect Michelangelo's delicate Sistine
Chapel frescoes from damage caused by ever-growing crowds of
Dust brought in from outside, body sweat and carbon dioxide
pose a major risk to the masterpieces, which are more than 500
years old. They include one of the most famous scenes in the
history of art - the arm of a gentle bearded God reaching out to
give life to Adam.
To protect the frescoes, the Vatican has decided to restrict
the number of visitors to the chapel - where popes are elected
in secret conclaves - to 6 million a year.
The previous lighting and air conditioning systems were
installed in 1994 - when the number of visitors stood at about
1.5 million - and had become inadequate to protect the work of
the Renaissance master.
The new air filtering and conditioning system, which is
virtually invisible to visitors and uses pre-existing duct
openings, moves air at a very slow speed so as not to damage the
Hidden cameras, including two on the massive Last Judgement
panel behind the altar, check the number people while some 70
monitors control machines outside the chapel that determine air
flow, filter out dust and reduce humidity.
"This chapel is a unique structure so we spent a great deal
of time understanding how air flows here in order to map the
technology," said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer for
United Technologies unit Carrier, which developed the
"Air flows differently here than it does, say in an office
building or even another church," he told reporters during a
evening presentation after the Vatican Museums had closed for
the day to tourists.
The new lighting system, made by Germany's Osram
uses some 7,000 LED (light emitting diode) lamps consuming up to
90 percent less electricity than previously, reducing heat to
further protect the frescoes.
It has three levels of lighting. One very low level will be
used when the chapel is empty, a medium level of illumination
will be used when the chapel is open to tourists and a third,
much brighter and hotter level will be used only several times a
year during papal ceremonies.
The frescoes, inaugurated in October 1512 by Pope Julius II,
underwent a major 14-year restoration that ended in 1994. They
also include the famous "Last Judgement" on the wall behind the
altar, which the artist painted separately between 1535 and
Neither the Vatican nor the companies would disclose the
cost of the work.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Andrew Hay)