Vatican Limiting Number of Visitors Over Safety Concerns

Local tour guides say at least 10 people faint per day in the museums' enormous crowds.

The Vatican is stepping in to reduce crowds and keep visitors safe. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

The Vatican is considering cutting back on the number of people it allows to visit its holy buildings amid safety concerns for those visitors.

In an exclusive story, The Guardian learned from Vatican tour guides that “at least” 10 people per day faint while trying to squeeze themselves through the massive crowds of museum-goers. Officials at the Sistine Chapel in particular are fearful that overcrowding could lead to a dangerous stampede.

More than six million people journey to the Vatican’s museums and galleries each year. During the busy summer months, more than 30,000 people can pack into the museums every day.

Tour guides who requested to remain anonymous told the news site that several people pass out every day while pressing themselves against each other to catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling, while others suffer physical injuries and panic attacks while trapped in the densely-packed crowds—especially during the peak summer season when temperatures can exceed 100 degrees F inside.

“The situation is slowly getting back to normal as the high season is over, but from March to October, it is hellish,” said one of the guides.“Safety is the main problem, because when inside you feel completely trapped, you can barely see your feet. Crowds are one of the most dangerous things.”

In response, Pope Francis’ director of the museums, Barbara Jatta, is working towards determining a daily cap of visitors.

“Together with the Vatican governorate, we are strongly working towards fixing the right number from 2019” Jatta said.

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