The Sistine Chapel, which sees some 5 million tourists a year and up to 20,000 in one day in summer, may put a ceiling on visitor numbers in the furture.
The move comes after an open letter by literary critic Pietro Citati became the latest severe criticism over the behaviour of crowds at the site, one of the wonders of Western civilization.
“Tourists resemble drunken herds,” wrote Citati. “They unwittingly risk damaging the frescoes with their breath, their perspiration, the dust on their shoes and their body heat.”
The atmosphere, Citati continued, was anything but contemplative as the tourists ignored the Vatican’s requests for silence, composure and a ban on taking photographs.
While the plan to place limits on tourists is not being considered for the short term, the Vatican may have no choice in the long term, Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci said.
“We might limit access, putting a cap on the number of visitors if tourism grows beyond the limits of reasonable tolerance,” he said.