Past Meets the Present! Sistine Chapel Installs LED Lighting

A few years back I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of Rome and see some of the iconic places I’ve always dreamed of visiting such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and even the Trevi Fountain. Each attraction was stunning in its own way, but the one place that absolutely stopped me in my tracks was the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Walking into the large hall, which was covered in gorgeous frescoes, left me in absolute awe. I do, however, remember thinking I wished I was able to see the frescoes a bit clearer, for many of the original colors within the murals were obscured by shadow and poor quality lighting.

But it just so happens I was not the only person who felt this way. In fact, just this past year the Sistine Chapel installed LED lighting thanks to an EU research project called LED4ART. Before the LED installation, the Sistine Chapel used natural light, but that was quickly put to a halt when conservators realized that the UV light was damaging the artwork. Soon after, a standard lighting system was put in place, but this too was not sufficient enough because it was casting an unnatural tinge to the frescoes. Now with the new LED installation, the 16th century artwork of the Sistine Chapel can be rightfully appreciated. The installation includes 7,000 LED fixtures, and because each lamp can be assigned a different color, various sections of the ceiling could be assigned a specific color to highlight and enhance the overall viewing experience.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of using LED lighting, protecting and preserving the artwork was another major factor behind the new installation. The new fixtures will in no way damage the artwork and was even thoroughly tested in labs to see the effects of the installation over the next 50 years. The LED lighting is also expected to lessen the Vatican’s electricity bill by more than 80%, and this is a major plus, considering the Vatican is visited by over 6 million people a year.

Overall it’s great to see the past working with the present to create a better future. The new LED installations will not only be more aesthetically appealing to the millions of visitors, but it will also benefit the longevity and preservation of the priceless frescoes. Hopefully this trend of using LED lighting will continue to grow and prosper.