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The Vatican. Casandra, Eduardo, Nataliya & Reiko

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    The Vatican City, view from St. Peter´s Basilica.

    Author: Eduardo Guzman M. (2010)


    General information on the site

    The Vatican City State, is a sovereign city-state that belongs to the Holy See (Sancta Sede) and is officially recognized as the world´s smallest independent state, with an area of 44 hectares (IndexMundi, 2015) and a total population of approximately 800 people (Vatican City State, 2014). The Vatican, as popularly known, is one of the most sacred places for the Catholic Church and is located in the heart of Rome, Italy (Disfruta Roma, 2015). Since 1337, The Vatican has functioned as the residence of the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church (, 2013) and it is considered the largest religious building in the World. Several cultural sites can be found within the city, such as the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter´s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, where masterpieces of Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, Bernini, etc. can be found (Disfruta Roma, 2015). In 1984, the Vatican City State was inscribed to the List of World Heritage Sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), being the Vatican the only site in the list added as an entire state.

    The Sistine Chapel, is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures of The Vatican City (Disfruta Roma. 2015). In its origins the chapel was known as The Cappella Magna, but after its restoration in 1477, its name changed to The Sistine Chapel in honor of the Pope Sixtus IV, who ordered its reconstruction (Vatican Museums, 2007). Works of Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Roselli can be appreciated in the decorating frescoes of the Chapel´s walls. In 1508 the most famous ceiling of the world was created by Michelangelo Buonarroti, being also the main attraction of the Sistine Chapel. This masterpiece tells the stories of the Genesis.


    crowds in vatican.png

    Tourists crowd in the Sistine Chapel.

    Author: Owen Franken, (2014)


    Currently the Sistine Chapel is integrated in the complex of the Vatican Museums, which can be visited every Monday to Tuesday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm for 16 euro full ticket and every last Sunday of the month is entrance free, unless it is a religious festivity (Musei Vaticani, 2007).



    Having an overview of the comments of the travelers that visited the Vatican and the Vatican Museums, and more specifically the Sistine Chapel at the forums of TripAdvisor, it can be said that the majority of the visitors agree that the Museum and the Sistine Chapel are extraordinary but they also present some concerns and complaints about the management of the museum (TripAdvisor, 2015):

    ·      Time to see the Chapel is limited due to the amount of people

    ·      Massive queues to access the museums and also long queues inside the museum and the galleries

    ·      Too crowded to be enjoyable and too hot, it can be dangerous

    ·      Very unorganized due to masses of people and chaos

    ·      Impossible to appreciate the art

    ·      Chaotic organization, too many people allowed in at the same time


    In summary, the visitors complain about crowdedness and the deterioration of the experience due to the waiting time, the conditions and the chaotic management of the museum. Then, it should be considered how the tourism have been affected on the paintings of the Sistine Chapel.

    As the director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, wrote in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano: “The anthropic pressure with dust, the humidity of bodies, carbon dioxide produced by respiration can cause discomfort for the visitors and, in the long run, damage to the paintings” (Discovery News, 2012).

                The Sistine Chapel receives around 20,000 people per day, more than 5 million people in 2014, the saturation of people is damaging the frescoes by discoloring the masterpiece done by Michelangelo more than 500 years ago (Discovery News, 2012).

    In 2013, Antonio Paolucci recognized the damaging impacts of the high levels of pollution on the frescoes and announced two actions to be taken in order to protect the paintings: to install air conditioning and LED lighting to mitigate the effects of the pollution.

    He also warned that if these measures are not enough to stop the deterioration of the historical masterpiece, they will be forced to reduce the number of visitors, which as he said would be “a painful solution” (The Huffington Post, 2013).



    Economic benefits of tourism are well known, but tourism also has negative impacts that if not well managed can result in the loss of income.

    As has been shown before, the saturation of people not only deteriorates one of the most important historical treasures of the humanity and the Christian religion, but also the tourist experience. It can generate discomfort and a bad reputation, which in the long term can lose its attractiveness to tourists and result in loss of economic income.

    As a conclusion, this article suggests to implement limitations on the number of visitors and implement management actions focused on quality of the tourist experience instead of quantity of money earned. These actions would alleviate the pressure put on this heritage site by tourists and prevent further damage by adhering to the mandated carrying capacity of the Museum and more specifically the Sistine Chapel.




    Discovery News. 2012. Sistine Chapel at 500 Years: Threatened by Tourism. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    Disfruta Roma. 2015. Capilla Sixtina. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 15].

    Disfruta Roma. 2015. El Vaticano. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 15].

    IndexMundi. 2015. El Vaticano Área. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 15].

    Musei Vaticani. 2007. Hours and tickets. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    Owen Franken, (2014), Una multitud de turistas contempla los frescos de la Capilla Sixtina del Vaticano [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    The Huffington Post. 2013. Sistine Chapel Pollution Levels Threaten Michelangelo Frescoes, Vatican May Limit Visitors. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    TripAdvisor. 2015. Sistine Chapel. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    UNESCO. 2015. Vatican City. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15].

    Vatican City State. 2014. Population. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 15].

    Vatican Museums. 2007. The Sistine Chapel. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 15]. 2013. What is the Vatican?. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 15].

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