DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN July 23-25, 1999 vol. 10, no. 137
NEWS & VIEWS
TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS RECOVERY OF ASSISI FRESCOES
Tiny Video Projectors Will Project Images of Destroyed Paintings
ASSISI, JUL 22 (ZENIT).- Thanks to technology, the magnificent frescoes of the immortal painter Cimabue that decorated the vault of the Upper Basilica of Assisi and were completely destroyed by the September 26, 1997, earthquake, will soon be enjoyed once again. Tiny video projectors, to be placed on either side of the vault, will project slides of the destroyed frescoes, showing images of the paintings that for eight centuries welcomed pilgrims to Assisi.
At present, much restoration work is being carried out in both the Upper and Lower Basilicas. Both are covered with frescoes by great Pre-Renaissance and Renaissance masters. The work should be completed for the inauguration of the Holy Year on Christmas Eve, 1999.
The Lower Basilica, which has works by Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and other great Gothic painters, was not as severely damaged as the Upper. In the Upper Basilica, 28 frescoes by Giotto and his disciples depicting St. Francis' life, suffered cracks and chips in the plaster that have been completely restored. What seems impossible to recover, however, are Cimabue's St. Matthew, portraits of the Doctors of the Church, and the star-studded blue heavens that decorated the vault's ceiling.
The technicians have not given up hope of reconstructing the lost frescoes, however. As with a puzzle, they hope to piece together the thousands of fragments found, although they estimate that 25% of the paintings are irrecoverable. In the best of cases, pilgrims will see totally fragmented frescoes with painted areas covering the missing sections.
Because the restoration of the frescoes will take longer than initially estimated, the idea of the video cameras seemed at least an immediate solution.
The above decision unleashed a larger debate between those who wanted to leave the marks of the earthquake as evidence, including the bricks of the vault without plaster, and those who wanted to forget it and restore the Basilicas to their original state. The use of slides resolved the issue in the immediate sense.
The Basilica has now been made earthquake proof, thanks to almost 20
miles of steel tubeing that supports the foundations, walls, roofs and
30,000 bricks fired in the original manner, which replace those that
crumbled. The possibility that new tremors will damage these monuments
to universal art is now virtually out of the question.
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NEWS & VIEWS