The Sistine Chapel (photo by BriYYZ/Flickr)

For the first time in its 600-year history, the Sistine Chapel has been rented out for a private event organized by Porsche, the Telegraph reported. The German automaker hosted a charity concert in the space for 40 guests on its €5,000-a-head (~$8,000) Porsche Travel Club tour of Rome over the weekend. Singing for the automotive enthusiasts under Michelangelo’s 16th-century frescoes was a choir from the 500-year-old Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Though it is not the first time such a concert has been held at the Sistine Chapel, it is the first time the audience has been a corporate donor rather than a private Vatican audience.

“It is an initiative which will support the Pope’s charity projects. It is aimed at big companies which, through the payment of a fee, can contribute to charity activities,” administrative director of the Vatican Museums Monsignor Paolo Nicolini told The Telegraph. The Vatican declined to disclose the exact amount changing hands, though in a coinciding announcement the Church announced it would cap the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel at 6 million annually. The director of the Vatican Museums told The Telegraph that the site has “reached the maximum number of visitors possible.”

Corrosion from high visitor traffic is the primary worry for limiting the number of visitors to the space, which underwent an extensive restoration completed in 1994. It is unclear what mechanism — reservations or otherwise — the Vatican will adopt to curb visitor flow and behavior, currently thought to be around 5 or 6 million visitors per year. A reduction in access to the Sistine Chapel has been discussed since at least 2012, when the Italian literary critic Pietro Citati wrote that the crowds there “resemble drunken herds.”

The decision taken by the Vatican under Pope Francis seems to follow in the steps of his predecessor’s views on the subject. “When contemplated in prayer, the Sistine Chapel is even more beautiful, more authentic. It reveals itself in all its richness,” Pope Benedict XVI said in 2012.

Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

2 replies on “Vatican Rents Out Sistine Chapel as New Visitor Limits Are Announced”

  1. From the Pope who said he wanted a church for the poor: renting out the Sistine chapel to huge corporations.

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