The new air-purification and air-conditioning system has been design to blend seamlessly into the Sistine Chapel interior

High-tech air-con to save Sistine Chapel art

Cutting edge energy saving air purification and lighting systems have been installed in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to protect precious frescoes created by renaissance master Michelangelo.

The new system will ensure the ever increasing number of visitors to the world-famous cultural heritage site won’t exacerbate the wear of the paintings.

More than 500 years old, the frescoes, including Michelangelo’s famous Creation of Adam, are exposed to excessive levels of carbon dioxide exhaled by the visitors, body sweat odour, as well as dust brought form outside.

Since 1994, when the previous air-purification system was installed, the number of art-loving visitors to the venue, where Popes are elected in secretive conclaves, has increased four times – from 1.5 million to over 6 million. Vatican was actually forced to limit the number of people allowed in each year to 6 million and even considered closing the chapel to the public completely after experts had warned the state of the 16th century masterpieces was rapidly deteriorating.

The only other solution was to develop an extremely efficient air-conditioning system tailored directly to the specific needs of the Sistine Chapel.

"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 system.

"Air flows differently here than it does, say in an office building or even another church," he said.

Despite its performance and efficiency, the new air filtering system is virtually invisible to the visitors as it takes advantage of pre-existing duct openings to move air slowly around the frescoes. The actual filtering units are located outside the chapel, removing dust, reducing humidity and regulating the air flow.

Hidden cameras, including two on the massive Last Judgement panel behind the altar, keep control over the number of visitors inside at any given moment.

The new lighting system, made by Germany's Osram uses some 7,000 energy efficient LED lamps, which not only consume up to 90 per cent less electricity than the previously used system, but also don’t produce excessive heat, further protecting the frescoes.


Close the chapel to the public or find technology that could save the deteriorating art? Curators of the Vatican museum faced a dilemma to protect the world-famous artwork:


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