By Robin Gomes
The Vatican Museums reopened to visitors on Monday in conformity with Italian and Vatican health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This re-opening comes after the third closure since the outbreak of the pandemic in Italy in early 2020.
The first closure came on March 9, after Italy began grappling with record numbers of infections and deaths. The government imposed a nationwide on March 9, with the Vatican Museums closing that day. However, the Museums were accessible through virtual tours offered free on its website. They reopened on June 1, 2020, but had to shut down again on November 6. After opening again on Feb. 1, the doors closed for the third time on March 15, to contain the third wave of infections.
Measures against pandemic
Barbara Jatta, the Director of Vatican Museums, hopes the third reopening will be the final one. Speaking to Vatican Radio's Alessandro Di Bussolo, she explained the security measures and a new feature in the Museums.
“We reopen with a specific theme – security,” she told Vatican Radio, adding they are ensuring the security of visitors with measures to “beat the pandemic”, such as thermal scanners, online booking only and managing the flow of visitors to avoid crowding.
The 7-kilometer-long museums of galleries, halls and corridors are ventilated with windows open to courtyards and gardens. “And so really, the security of our visitors is for sure one of our goals.”
Jatta also pointed out that during this third closure, they have been enhancing their online digital services and security system, and carrying out several maintenance works.
She said the third reopening has a new feature entitled, “Dante in the Vatican Museums”, which aims to honour the memory of the great 14th-century Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, whose 7th death centenary is being observed this year.
Jatta said that with the Dante digital online exhibition visitors can go around with their mobile devices and come to know how significant Dante is in the Vatican collections.
“The Divine poet,” she said, “has many focusing [points] in our collection. The Room of the Segnatura, which contains Raphael’s most famous frescoes, she explained, Dante is depicted twice: once in the Parnassus and the other in the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament with the theologians.
“So it's really a joy today to open again the Vatican Museums.”
Hope in the future
Jatta lamented the difficult times for all, including the Museums, which suffered an 80 percent dip in footfall.
“But fortunately, we had the support of the ‘Patrons of the Arts', who have helped us to partially overcome this moment.” She said all need to look to the future with hope and have a deep desire to restart.