Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the papal basilica of St Peter's in the Vatican, yesterday presented the results of the recently-completed restoration of the Valerii Mausoleum, one of the most important monuments of the Roman necropolis located under the Vatican Basilica. The mausoleum, which dates from the 2nd century AD and is famous for its stucco decorations, is located in the middle of the route through the old necropolis that leads to the tomb of St. Peter. 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 specialising 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 hermae. Finally, the monument was enclosed within a glass cover, so it may be viewed without affecting the delicate balance of the internal microclimate, which is constantly monitored by a high-precision computerised system. New illumination, using fibre optic cables, makes it possible to admire the coloured surfaces, frescoed to imitate polychrome marble, and the white stucco decorations, modelled to replicate marble statues. The restoration work was made possible thanks the help of the "Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra". Present at the press conference alongside Cardinal Comastri were Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, delegate of the Fabric of St. Peter's; Maria Cristina Carlo Stella, bureau chief of the Fabric; Pietro Zander, head of conservation for the Vatican necropolis; Adele Cecchini, restorer, and Hans-Albert Courtial, president of the "Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra". Source: VIS
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