Five hundred years after they were first painted, several frescoes adorning the walls of a chapel in Rome said to house the "Holy Stairs" climbed by Jesus when he was brought before Pointius Pilate have appeared in their original colours. The 13-month long restoration of the Chapel of St. Sylvester in Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran was unveiled Tuesday at a ceremony presided by the director of the Vatican Museums, Francesco Buranelli.
"The hardest work was to recover the 'biacca' used to revive the colours of paintings covered in soot from candlesmoke," explained Francesco China of the Studio 3 workshop that carried out the restoration.
Work on the Chapel of St. Sylvester represents the second phase of a restoration programme for the whole of the Sancta Sanctorum that houses the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs).
The wooden steps that encase white marble steps, are, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the staircase once leading to Pilate's headquarters in Jerusalem where the Roman governor famously "washed his hands" from Jesus' case.
As the story goes, the steps were brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine I, the first Christian emperor. In 1589, Pope Sixtus V relocated the steps to the Sancta Sanctorum purposely built by the architect Domenico Fontana.
The Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation, Rome's provincial authorities and the Selex Communications company are jointly co-ordinating the project and at Tuesday's ceremony the three partners were represented by Getty's director, Deborah Marrow, Rome provincial president Enrico Gasbarra, and Selex's CEO, Maurizio Tucci.
Anyone know whether these stairs have been dated/tested?