December 15, 2012. (Romereports.com)
On the right hand side of Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major, there's a true treasure
, that's often described as another Sistine Chapel. It dates back to the 16th century when for years, the original paintings were covered
. Then in 1870, Pius IX ordered the frescoes to be covered with lighter colors. It's a practice that experts say was quite common during that time period. ROBERTO BORDIN
“The Pope intervened with the decoration. He called for everything that was white or black, to be changed to a golden color. Things were made simpler with this change. Back then it was something done when improvements were needed.”
Now those who come and visit the Basilica, can admire what was actually hidden behind in its very walls. More than 25,000 square feet that show a painting technique that combines light and dark shades.
“In the last 150 years, we have mostly tempera paintings. Almost the entire surface, almost 70 percent is covered with colors that were added in the 1800's. This process was quite common, but in this case it was more of a re-elaboration.”
The restoration is led by the director of the Vatican Museums. In fact, in the last five years, the process has involved more than ten specialists. At first, the frescoes were analyzed in the lab to identify its original source. Experts say the result is truly a visual treat.
“What we see now, so this blue and yellow tone and this historical lighting was changed. So it was followed by other green, yellow and red tones. The walls were completely covered by another type of red, which had made the fresco lose its unique shine.”
The Basilica of Saint Mary Major is a historical relic from the 5th century. It's the only one, out of Rome's four Papal basilicas that still has its original Paleo-Christian floor plan. With its stunning mosaics and impressive proportions, it has truly survived the test of time, making it a true testimony of sacred art in Rome.