1.VATICAN CITY (AFP).- 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.
The entire project cost some three million euros ($3.77 million) -- with 1.9 million euros spent on the lighting alone. The venture was funded in part by European Union funds, with the rest donated to the Vatican in expertise, technology and man hours by the various companies taking part.
"The LEDs have a colour spectrum specifically designed with the pigmentation of the frescos in mind to ensure the light faithfully reflects the original colours, as the artists intended," said Marco Frascarolo, who works for Fabertechnica, one of the companies behind the new system.
"As each LED can be tuned to a different colour, we spent long nights in the chapel with the Vatican Museum curators, trying out different mixes of red, blues, whites... trying to get it just right," he said during a private tour for journalists of the chapel late Wednesday.
While eight colour samples are usually taken in an environment to create a LED system, 276 areas of the Renaissance paintings were analysed, he said.
The sunlight which had streamed through the windows for centuries was shut out in the 1980s, when conservators realised ultraviolet radiation was damaging the masterpieces, causing the Last Judgement and other frescoes which cover the chapel's ceiling and walls to fade. ... more