The crypt below St. Peter’s basilica, which houses tombs from the first centuries of the Church and some Roman families, has had its largest mausoleum refurbished, Cardinal Angelo Comastri announced today.
Cardinal Comastri, who is the archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican, presented the results of the recently-completed restoration of the Valerii Mausoleum at a press conference this morning.
The mausoleum, which dates from the 2nd century A.D. and is famous for its stucco decorations, can be found as one walks through the middle of the necropolis toward the tomb of St. Peter.
According to a Vatican press release, the stuccowork was in need of restoration because it had been damaged by the instability of the microclimate in the necropolis and by earlier restoration using inappropriate materials.
The operation, which lasted ten months and was undertaken by a team of experts specializing in underground restorations, was carried out using scalpels, mini drills and, for the most delicate areas, laser equipment. Furthermore, by studying stucco fragments conserved in the storerooms of the Fabric of St. Peter's, it was also possible to recompose three of the four-sided Greek columns known as hermae.
The Valerii family mausoleum has been covered within a glass case to allow viewing while maintaining a proper internal microclimate, which is constantly monitored by a high-precision computerized system. New illumination, using fiber optic cables, makes it possible to admire the colored surfaces, frescoed to imitate polychrome marble, and the white stucco decorations, modeled to replicate marble statues.
The restoration work was made possible with help from the "Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra."