Endangered Sistine Chapel opened for outside fundraisers

Despite worries about the impact of millions of tourists on Michelangelo’s precious frescoes, the Sistine Chapel opened its doors for the first time to a new kind of tourist to support Pope Francis’ charities.

Porsche enthusiasts paid $6,400 each for a tour in Rome including an exclusive after-hours concert inside the Sistine Chapel and a dinner in the Vatican Museums.

Built by Pope Sixtus IV between 1473 and 1484, the chapel has traditionally been used as the pope’s private place of prayer and for conclaves, the private meetings held by the world’s cardinals to elect a pope.

The managing director of the Vatican Museums, Monsignor Paolo Nicolini, rejected suggestions the the chapel was available for rent.

“The Sistine Chapel can never be rented because it is not a commercial place,” he told reporters.

It was “an initiative to exclusively support the charitable projects of the pope. This initiative is organized directly by the Vatican Museums and is directed at big companies. With the payment of a ticket, they can contribute to financing charity projects.”

Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, said: “We are going to protect, from a climatological point of view, Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece, as well as giving it proper lighting.”

Nearly 6 million people a year visit the chapel, with as many as 20,000 in a single day. Paolucci said this meant “radical intervention” was needed to improve air circulation, while reducing dust, temperatures and humidity.

The U.S.-based Carrier air conditioning company is providing a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system specially designed to protect the masterpieces of Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists.

Climate control systems that regulate the temperature and humidity inside the chapel are up to 20 years old and and experts say the chapel has become a victim of its own popularity.