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Who restores the Vatican's massive art collection?

2013-10-13

From Etruscan art to priceless frescoes and everything in between, the Vatican has hundreds of thousands of art pieces in its collection. But all this beauty comes with responsibility, especially when it comes to restoring this massive collection. 

FR. MARK HAYDU 
International Director of the Patrons of the Arts
"They can be tapestries, they can be in glass, they can be in gold and silver, they can be in liturgical elements, they can be frescoes, painting on woods and canvas.” 

But restoring priceless art isn't cheap. That's where Patrons of the Arts come in to help. It's a group of people who donate funds to the Vatican museum. Donors can even choose what specific project they fund. 

FR. MARK HAYDU 
International Director of the Patrons of the Arts 
"They may be into Etruscan art. They might be very devoted to the Virgin Mary. They might have a grandmother whose name is Anne. If I have a painting of St. Anne, I may ask them.” 

From restoring the Holy Stairs to the famous Raphael rooms, Patrons of the Arts can make a direct contribution. Father Mark Haydu says that working on art project is kind of like working on a patient. You have to look at its history, and consult with experts before taking action. 

FR. MARK HAYDU 
International Director of the Patrons of the Arts
"We will bring in the photographic department to take pictures before and after, we do the scientific research lab to do tests on pigments, to do ultrasounds to see if they are cracks inside or any developing.” 

Patrons of the Arts has about 2,000 members in 24 chapters in Europe and the U.S. Membership costs range from a few hundred dollars to $1,000. Of course, the price of restoring a specific project varies. The Vatican works on an average of about 150 restorations a year. But the list of projects is never really checked off. 

FR. MARK HAYDU 
International Director of the Patrons of the Arts
"Hundreds of thousands of pieces in the Vatican collection and if a restoration can last 60, 80 to 100 years you can just do the math.” 

Not all projects are that lengthy. Some take just a few weeks. But when it comes down to it, it's about much more than just restoring art. Father Haydu says it's about preserving the powerful religious message, that inspired the piece in first place, for generations to come. 


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