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Sistine frescoes turn 500

Vatican City, Oct. 31 (Reuters): Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes turned 500 today with the Vatican warning it may eventually limit visitors to protect one of the wonders of western civilisation.

On October 31, 1512, only 20 years after the discovery of America, Pope Julius II said an evening vespers service to inaugurate the room where Michelangelo toiled for four years, much of it on his back, to finish his ceiling frescoes.

With mass tourism growing, every year some five million people, as many as 20,000 a day in summer, enter the chapel and crane their necks upwards. Most are left awestruck.

Earlier this month, Italian literary critic Pietro Citati sparked a storm by writing an open letter in a major Italian newspaper denouncing the behaviour of crowds visiting what is technically a sacred place.

 
 
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