BY V1VIANE HEWITT IN ROME MICHELANGELO'S MOST demanding fresco, the Universal Judgment, is to be on view to the public next Easter after four years of restoration work.
The vivid colours of the 180 metre fresco on the chapel's altar wall have been brought back to their original life with a simple sponge, distilled water and a mild chemical solution.
The announcement came this week as speculation mounted that in the future, the Vatican was planning to organise conclaves, not in the Sistine but in a new building currently under construction in Piazza Santa Marta in the Vatican City.
The new building will incorporate a multi-purpose conference centre which some sources in the Vatican were suggesting would be the new voting venue in the next conclave. It is known that a lobby of Vatican officials has been pushing for the past year for the Sistine to become a pontifical chapel once more, used for private papal masses.
This would mean a reduction in the huge flow of tourists to the chapel, which is considered one of the world's major tourist attractions and draws upwards of two million visitors a year.
It was first used for a conclave during Leo XIII's reign, a century ago, when the Vatican lost its Quirinal Palace, the historical voting venue in the city of Rome, to the state.
Vatican sources have said that the project for the new building envisages some kind of private passageway from it to the Apostolic Palace where the Sistine Chapel is located. Voting cardinals would be able to transfer each day from the new hostel to the Chapel without being observed.