Photo courtesy Dan LaValley
Pope Francis – please if you have time with all that you have to do add this to your ‘To Reform’ list about the way the Vatican Museum including the Sistine Chapel is operated. Your museum is, in the words of my stepdaughter, a ‘Shit Show.’ Harsh words for an even harsher environment, one that we will never return to unless the people in charge make some very radical changes.
First of all, there is no limit to attendance. What if 20,000 people show up and want to go into these hallowed halls? No problem. Rake in the cash and shove them in. Push them along. Shout at them in the stupendous Sistine Chapel. ‘No photo! No video! Shhhh!’ as oblivious shell-shocked tourists mill about trying to regain some sanity after the long swim upstream through the museums other rooms. Move faster. Do not even think about lingering to admire the incredible Raffaele rooms. That interesting desk? Keep going, keep moving. Keep shuffling along with the river of rude humanity who hold their iPads aloft like they are some kind of holy link between earth and heaven. This place reeks and it is not of history. It reeks of the breath and garlic-infused body odor of your neighbor who is bearing down on you from all sides. You cannot escape. All signs point to the ‘Capella Sistina,’ but it is miles away along hard stone floors it seems and you just struggle to keep from going mad with the crush of the crowd all around you. No one cares to stop and admire the tapestry room, or the map room, or the Borgia Apartments. Everyone is focused on two things – the Sistine and getting OUT.
This terrible situation does not have to be so terrible. Replace greed with sanity. Require advance bookings for everyone, no exceptions. Allow only so many into the museums at any one time. Do not allow your guards to shout at people. Do not allow those who are there to help to glare at them. Do not make them feel like they just threw $30 down the toilet on an experience that is more nightmare than transcendent.
Pope Francis, you have done wonders for the Catholic Church in your short time as Pope. But there is a large and festering problem in your backyard which needs attention. Turn things around at the Vatican Museums and perhaps, just maybe, the next time we bring guests there we will not witness them flee and skip the Basilica built on top of the bones of St. Peter. Run for the exit, just to get away from the crowds, escape and thereby they are skipping the reason they came all this way in the first place.
Thank you Pope Francis.