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Santa Tecla Catacomb

Conservation of the Early Christian Fresco Paintings


Before restoration, the frescoes of the Cubiculum of Apostles were covered with thick layers of calcium deposits, which made it impossible to identify the scenes in the paintings. In 2006, the first stage of conservation was undertaken using traditional methods including scapels and micro-drills. However, these methods were not sufficient and additionally could put the frescoes at risk. Alternative methods were required.

After a series of investigations carried out in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, ICVBC CNR (National Council for Research)  and the University  Ca’ Foscari of Venice Department of Conservation, the laser system was selected as the best method to remove the calcium carbonate incrustations.  It was the first time this technology was applied in a hypogeum environment and resulted in spectacular outcomes.The oldest painted portrait of St. Paul was uncovered. On 22 June 2010 the publication about this important discovery was presented at a Vatican Press Conference.

 

Location: Rome, Italy
Year: 2009-2010

 


Main Contractor: Vatican State Office PCAS “Pontifical Commission for  Sacred Archaeology”, Rome.

 

Press release:
Adnkronos – 27 June 2009
Oggi Treviso – 29 June 2009
Corriere Della Sera – 23 June 2010
La Repubblica – 23 June 2010

Il Messaggero – 23 June 2010
Washington Post – 22 June 2010
The Guardian – 22 June 2010
Corriere TV – 22 June 2010
Fox News – 22 June 2010

 

The project is published in:
Ortolan, Alma. Il progetto di ricerca e l’intervento di restauro, in G. RAVASI, G. CARRU’, B. MAZZEI, A. VELLA, F. BISCONTI, S. SIANO, M. MASCALCHI, F. FRATINI, Il cubicolo degli apostoli nelle catacombe romane di Santa Tecla, Cronaca di un restauro. Città del Vaticano, Roma 2010, pp. 231-252.
Ortolan, Alma and Barbara Mazzei. Gli affreschi del doppio cubicolo “P” nelle catacombe di Santa Tecla in Roma -Progetto di restauro-, in Lo stato dell’arte 6: VI congresso nazionale IGIIC, Spoleto Rocca Albornoziana, 3-4 Ottobre 2008: volume degli atti IGIIC – Gruppo italiano, International Institute for Conservation. Italia. Firenze: Nardini Editore, 2008, pp. 775-781.