My job as a security detail in the Sistine Chapel
I am as Italian as can be. I grew up in Testaccio and had a lovely childhood surrounded by beauty everywhere I turned. I think living in Italy spoils you. The food is rich with flavour and the people are nice and friendly. We have beauty everywhere – in our clothes, our homes and in our landscape. I had no wish to leave my homeland and I ended up working as a security detail in the Sistine Chapel.
If you’ve seen it or read about it, the Sistine Chapel is magnificent. Frescoes and paintings line every wall and no part of the chapel is left bare. There are decorations and paintings depicting Biblical passages and each is as exquisite as the next. But for me, there is nothing more brilliant than the Creation of Adam.
I come to work every day and I never get bored of the view that greets my eyes. How could I? Each day I notice a detail I may have missed the previous day and working here has given me an in depth knowledge of the history of the Basilica.
I see thousands of people stare up in awe every single day. The faces all different, brought together under this roof from all corners of the globe for the sole purpose of paying tribute to one of the world’s greatest artists. But there is one thing that really gets me. There are rules that clearly state that photography of any kind is not allowed in the Sistine chapel. Earlier it wasn’t so much of a problem as we could notice cameras which were bulkier. But now with sleep mobile phones having great resolution it is hard to catch every person.
What people don’t understand is flash harms the paint. The paintings are over 500 years old. Nothing survives so long without having drawbacks. The fact that it’s still visible for us to enjoy is a testament to the genius of the Masters. When a camera flash goes off, the light has an effect on the paint. Also, they must understand that to upkeep something of this scale is not cheap. The entrance fee to the Vatican is nominal when you think about the amount of art and sculptures that have to be maintained to preserve them.
Sometimes all I do is stare at them, and they look guiltily away. Other times I have to politely inform them and ensure that the pictures are deleted. After all, postcards and other memorabilia of the Sistine chapel are available in the gift shop. You may think this is a money making scheme, but one cannot expect to sustain and manage something of this magnitude without incurring massive costs.
Sometimes I get friendly tourists who want to know more. I may not be a qualified guide but I do know enough to tell them little stories or facts that otherwise may pass them by. Life is good for me here. I am just a simple man, with simple wants and a magnificent work place.