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Two handsome, virile naked men riding triumphantly on ferocious panthers will on Monday be unveiled as, probably, the only surviving bronze sculptures by the Renaissance giant Michelangelo.

In art history terms, the attribution is sensational. Academics in Cambridge will suggest that a pair of mysterious metre-high sculptures known as the Rothschild Bronzes are by the master himself, made just after he completed David and as he was about to embark on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. If correct, they are the only surviving Michelangelo bronzes in the world.

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The Catholic Church is often seen as an institution perpetually at odds with modernity, clinging to Latin as its official language and maintaining its all-male hierarchy, topped by an absolute monarch in the form of the pope, centuries after such a style of governance went out of fashion elsewhere.

But every now and again it upends its own image by showing it has its finger firmly on the pulse. Right now, the must-have accessory for any self-respecting great museum around the world is its own movie – a lavishly-made epic for cinema-goers, with soaring strings and spectacular camera angles, best of all in 3D, that shows off its greatest treasures to a global audience as they’ve never been seen before.

And so, using state-of-the-art technology and backed by Sky, the snappily titled Vatican Museums 3D is today on release at 250 UK and Irish cinemas, a showstopper of a 70-minute tour around the Vatican Museums.

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High above the altar in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, the halo around Jesus Christ's head in Michelangelo's famous frescoes shines with a brighter glow, thanks to a revolutionary new lighting system.

Angels, sybils and prophets in blues, pinks and golds, once lost in the gloom, are brought into sharp relief by 7,000 LED lamps designed specifically for the prized chapel, where red-hatted cardinals have elected new popes since the 15th century.

A state of the art ventilation system has also been installed to protect the frescoes from humidity, enabling up to 2,000 people at a time to safely visit one of the world's top tourist attractions, which draws over six million people a year.

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Visitors to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums can expect two things beginning this autumn: shorter lines to get inside, and considerably more crowded quarters upon entry, thanks to a refit of the climate control system, reports Vatican Radio.

The new, more powerful, and energy-efficient heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system, from US air conditioning company Carrier, will allow the chapel to accommodate nearly three times the number of visitors, with its maximum capacity set to jump from 700 to 2,000 people at a time.

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The Vatican Museums will be installing a new landmark heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system for the Sistine  Chapel, specially designed to address the challenges of protecting Michelangelo’s masterpieces against deterioration. 

The Governate of the Vatican City State and Carrier on Wednesday said the new system is expected to be installed and  commissioned by the third quarter of 2014.

The new system, which replaces a Carrier system installed in the early 1990s, is designed to have twice the efficiency and three times the capacity of the previous system. 

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012 17:13

Vatican Officials Take Measures to Protect Frescoes

The five million tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel every year pose a threat to the delicate frescoes that adorn its walls. A number of important Renaissance artists contributed to the Chapel’s paintings including Sandro Botticelli (circa 1445-1510), Pietro Perugino (circa 1446/1450-1523), and Michelangelo (1475-1564), who painted 12,000 square feet of the chapel’s ceiling between 1508 and 1512 including his masterpiece, The Last Judgment (1535-1541).

The Vatican’s director announced that visitors will be vacuumed and cooled down before entering the chapel in an effort to reduce any potential damage, as dust, temperature, and humidity are known to be harmful to the paintings' surfaces. The heat and dirt tracked in by the high volume of visitors has been blamed for layers of grime that have accumulated on the chapel’s frescoes over the years so Vatican officials will lay out carpet before the entrance and install suction vents as well as lower temperatures inside.

Officials hope that these preventative measures will keep the frescoes intact for the enjoyment of future generations.

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The 500-years-old Sistine Chapel is the most visited room in the world. Around five million people a year flock to Rome to see Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes, one of the wonders of Western civilization. After the Sistine Chapel ‘s 500th birthday this past Wednesday, the Vatican warned that they might need to limit the number of visitors in order to protect the masterpiece.

Completed on October 31,1512 after four years of work by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel has never ceased to awe visitors and has become one of the most famous images in art history. The irreplaceability of the Sistine Chapel has many critics asking the Vatican to enforce limitations on the number of visitors per year. However, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, says he doesn’t foresee that happening anytime in the near future. He did admit that it might be a necessary measure further on down the road.

The dust, humidity, and carbon monoxide produced by visitors could possibly damage Michelangelo’s frescoes in the long term. In 1994, a 14-year restoration project that included an elaborate dehumidifying system, air conditioners, filters, and micro-climate controls was completed. However, the number of visitors to the Chapel continues to grow, putting the system under increasing stress. Paolucci is currently looking into newer technologies that will prevent the Vatican from having to limit the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel.

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