St Peter's Basilica reopens to tourists on Monday: Vatican

St Peter's Basilica reopens to tourists on Monday: Vatican

VATICAN CITY: St Peter's Basilica will reopen to visitors on Monday (May 18), after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Holy See said on Friday.

The Basilica, the largest Catholic church in the world, was disinfected on Friday, with a team of suited and masked cleaners spraying every surface of the 23,000 sq m church.

Pope Francis is not yet expected to lead any public religious ceremonies either in the basilica, which can accommodate 60,000 people, or in Saint Peter's Square, as the Vatican seeks to avoid crowds.

The Vatican State, an independent enclave in the heart of Rome, has applied the same anti-virus measures as Italy, where the official death toll from the virus stands at over 31,000.

The basilica has been closed for all religious ceremonies since Mar 10, when the Italian government imposed a nationwide lockdown, but individual worshippers were allowed access for private prayer.

Workers on Friday cleaned the sumptuous marble floors in the 16th-century building, wielding spray canisters on the giant doors to Bernini's famous bronze Baldachin.

Vatican health official Andrea Arcangeli said the spray used was "a solution based on dilute chlorine, dosed to avoid damaging precious surfaces and works of art".

The basilica, as well as three other papal basilicas, is expected to follow a recommendation from Italy's interior ministry limiting attendance at religious celebrations in enclosed places of worship to 200 people.

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Source: AFP/ga