Just recently, I read a news report stating that every twenty minutes, 700 people are ushered into the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
Somehow, I instinctively knew that the numbers of those who visited this chapel were high, but not that high.
Is it any surprise then that the Vatican police & security impose such astringent measures against these tourists?
Here are the following rules that must be obeyed with no exceptions:
1. Shoulders must be covered, and no shorts are allowed as this is a place of worship.
2. No talking.
3. You are allowed about ten minutes to admire the masterpiece but must then move on.
Personally, I had no problem with moving on. It’s so crowded in there and the atmosphere is very tense. I very much enjoyed the ten minutes to take in the ceiling mural, but then you can’t help but want to move on.
4. No photos are allowed. No videotaping either. If security so much as sees you fondling a camera you will be escorted out.
Our tour guide made this very clear to us before we entered the chapel. The reason for the ban on any photography was that the Japanese now own full copyrights on the mural in exchange for helping to restore the mural as well as providing upkeep as well.
In spite of the warnings there was one fellow from our group who was asked to leave the Sistine Chapel when confronted by the police while caught taking pictures. I then watched as the same police grill the tour guide for his negligence in not properly educating his group on Sistine Chapel rules. I knew enough Italian to understand that he was profusely apologizing while trying to explain to the police that he did explain the rules implicitly.
After a few minutes, the photographer was allowed to rejoin his family, before he was caught again taking pictures. He and his family were taken from the tour group and not seen again until the end of the tour.
As for me, Frank and Jen, the tour guide was very effective in putting the fear of God into us before we even entered the chapel.
I put my camera into my purse.
We didn’t talk.
The three of us just looked up and marvelled at one of the greatest artistic wonders of the world. The colours, the music of the chanting monks, and the reality that you are actually standing in the Great Sistine Chapel was dizzying. If you’re lucky, you can find an empty piece of bench along the chapel’s perimeter to sit in silence and rest underneath Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement.”
To gain some insight on what it’s like, this site has a nice rendering of The Sistine Chapel: