Nights of Art 2018: 20 April – 26 October 2018

On Friday 20 April the 2018 edition of the special night openings of the Vatican Museums will begin, offering until 26 October a unique experience in terms of atmosphere, artistic beauty and musical offerings, for visitors both Roman and otherwise.

From 7.00 p.m., for over six months for a total of 27 Fridays, the Pope’s Museums “double” their cultural offering with a new evening programme, greatly appreciated by the public, especially in the spring and summer season.

As in previous years, and again included in the price of the entry ticket, which may be booked online exclusively, an extensive concert programme will enrich the already special night opening, animating the splendid museum architecture with sound, song and dance.
So, not only art and history, but also a show, and why not enjoy the Happy Hour in the evocative Courtyard of the Pinecone for a refreshing break?






FRAGMENT OF A SARCOPHAGUS: Miracles happen every day

Each of the seven days of creation bears within it a multiplicity of miracles. At the center of it all, lies the remarkably complex creation of man himself—the receiver of God’s affectionate love and His most amazing miracle to boot. Though the relationship was sacrificed by the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God continues to unceasingly draw every man to Himself, and the promise of His Covenant with His people can never be severed. God’s covenantal love, or sacred family bond, is inherent within each biblical family.  God reveals to Noah that the covenant reaches beyond the family nucleus and “ is with [Noah] and with all his descendants after” (Genesis 9:9). Though others would not find favor with God and be swept away in the massive flood, Noah’s family mission is steadfast in guarding and communicating love.

The beginning of this perpetual covenantal story (which still, of course, continues today) is documented not only in the Bible, but makes its way into various early Christian artworks.  Interest in the figurative and visual arts of early Christianity reached its height in the 16thcentury, during the Catholic response to the Reformation and knowledge of early Church and her works became key. In the 18thcentury,Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) successfully organized a “Christian Museum” in the Vatican, housing those works that give us a glimpse in to the culture and faith of the early Christian communities in Rome. Established in 1852 under the papacy of Pius IX (1846-1870), the Commission for Sacred Archaeology insured the utmost protection for these rich archaeological pieces of Christian heritage. Two years later, in an effort to save precious pieces that were unearthed, Pius IX transferred the artifacts to the Lateran Palace in a collection he called “Pius.”  In 1963 the collection of Christian patrimony was moved to the Vatican, and became permanent residents of the “Pius Christian Museum.”  Every visitor upon entering the Museums can turn a corner and listen to the testimonies of Christian families and martyrs from the 2ndto 4thcenturies,etched in the stone sarcophagi in this collection.

This frontal sarcophagus piece is one of many that bears witness to the precious Christian artifacts, and the precious covenantal bond of God with His people is carved into them.  Here, Noah is seen sending out a dove to determine if, after forty days in the ark, the flood waters had subsided.  The dove touches the head of another figure, perhaps one of Noah’s sons, who carries a bastion that leads the eye into the next scene.  Three youths, refusing to worship false deities, sing the praises of the one true God afterthrown in the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Lifting up their hands in prayer, they sing of their transgressions and the miracle of still being showered in God’s mercy.  They are unconsumed by the flames.  Noah’s family is spared from the flood.  One miracle flows directly into another.  The images decorate the tombs of the faithful who bore witness to the miracles of God in their own lives.

The next miracle is how the Vatican restorers brought back to life this piece of heritage and faith.This sarcophagus is a sculptural piece that had undergone maintenance, restorations and perhaps reworked interventions over time. During the preliminary “autopsy” of the work, certain findings helped determine the present state of intervention and “readability” of the piece.  There was evidence of coherent deposits and stains, either from exposure to less than desirable conditions, or from the hand of a previous attempt at fixing the piece. Wax or paints were used to cover damages, and these exhibited deposits resultantly compromised the integrity of the carved surface.

Generally speaking the surfaces of sarcophagi often show widespread exfoliation phenomena andscratches. In the case of areas where dirt and deposits are more heavily encrusted, thus hindering the piece’s aesthetic integrity, the restorers have to remove these deposits using diversified laser technology.  Oftentimes,Japanese rice paper will be affixed to the surface with a paste made from natural ingredients, which serves to stabilize the rest of the work while the area that is being tackled undergoes some “bumps and bruises” during the restoration process.

An indispensable part of the procedure involved cleaning the stone surfaces while maintaining scrupulous attention to individual elements and adherence to the pre-restoration analysis performed with the help of the Diagnostic Survey Laboratory.  Great care was always taken in preserving and analyzing traces of polychrome and coatings, and special uses of material such as agar allowed for controlled, careful cleaning.

At first glance, one sees a piece of stone. A second look allows one to read through the miracles of the Bible on its surface.  In these scenes is the promise of God’s never-ending, miraculous love for all His people.  And the generosity of some of these people ensures that millions more can appreciate this piece of stone.  

Miracles do happen every day…especially when you are one of them.

Experiencing The Sistine Chapel like Never Before

Giudizio Universale: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel

a must-see in Rome, available only for a limited time!
Sara Savoldello’s Testament To The Time In The Theatre
On March 12th at the Auditorium Conciliazione in Rome, all the Vatican employees were invited to the preview of the “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” a beautiful show with brilliant special effects, 4k projections, dancers, acrobats, produced by Marco Balich, a director and producer famed for organizing ceremonies at the Olympic games.

I went to the show with my son Francesco, 11 years old, and had a great afternoon enjoying the company of many colleagues who brought their relatives to the show. It was like being inside an Art History Book: page after page: all the life of Michelangelo as a sculptor before and a painter afterwards, every scene was in 4D so scenes as the water, rain, wind, light and dark were so vivid and real. We were surrounded by images we could nearly touch.. It has been an incredible experience and enjoyed seeing all my colleagues with their nose up in the air absorbing all the colors of the frescoes.

“The Vatican Museums offered their expertise to ensure the accuracy of the presentation. Experts from the Vatican helped recreate the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and offered critical perspective on the relationships between Michelangelo and Popes Julius II and Clement VII; as well as explaining the process of papal conclaves!

An incredible sound systemand music by Sting made my son dance and sing while hopping happily outside the theatre!
(Courtesy of Vatican News)

Touching Art in the Vatican Museums



Imagine you cannot see, but want to experience the beauty of the Vatican Museums. Someone might be able to describe the pieces to you, but would it not be great to be able to actually touch them? Or what if you could sense a three dimensional piece of art like an ancient sarcophagus or marble statue? On Friday, February 2nd, I witnessed a very emotional scene, as I saw several blind people run their hands across a statue of Christ the Good Shepherd, and several other works of “touching art” on display in the Pius Christian Museum. Thanks to the Italian International Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts and their generous donors, several replicas of sarcophagi, and other replica statues are now on display in the museums. They not only look just like the originals, but they also are made of a marble composite that even gives them the same feel of the coldness and hardness of marble to the touch of the hand. February 2ndinaugurated some new additions to the ongoing “Touching Art” collection on display in various parts of the Vatican Museums. These new pieces, also include braille signage and an accessible display that was designed with input from the visually impaired themselves.

Father Kevin Lixey L.C.

International Director



“Touching Art in the Vatican Museums is a beautiful art access project, supported by the Italian & International Vatican Patrons … The curators have designed a series of special tactile displays that now are part of the most important collection of Early Christian sculptures in the world! On Friday February 4th 2018 an incredible group of visually impaired individuals came to the Museums to explore Touching Art and give their feedback…Thank you to all who participated in this project!”

Amy Gallant Sullivan (left)
Sabrina Zappia (right)
from the Italian & International Chapter


Bramante Courtyard

Historical Note

At the request of Pope Julius II, Architect Donato Bramante began his great project in 1504 to construct a theatrical space with a dramatic façade and staircase upon the available terrain within the villa on Vatican Hill. His design was intended to integrate nature, provide access to the most beloved antique statues, and offer a serene walk throughout the rest of the palace. Over time, modifications altered Bramante’s original design, such as when the medieval palace next to St. Peter’s needed to connect to the Villa Belvedere atop the hill. Today, the Courtyard’s four façades are still among those that have remained quintessential in defining renaissance architecture, and are at last being restored according to techniques used at the time of their conception and construction. The most distinctive section the Courtyard, the Wall of the Nicchione, is part of the northern façade of the Bramante Courtyard. Its construction commenced under the building direction of Pirro Ligorio at the request of Pope Pius IV (Medici 1560-65), and received its large hemispherical niche during the papacy of Clement IX (Albani, 1700-1721). It is here where the large, 4-meter high bronze Pinecone, originally located in the Campus Martiusand later in the atrium of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, stately resides in its niche, providing the alternative namesake, The Pinecone Courtyard.

State of preservation

Over the course of hundreds of years, the walls of the Bramante Courtyard exposed to all weather conditions suffered much damage aesthetically and integrally. One of the major previous attempts at restoring the courtyard was in 1957. Unfortunately, the walls were hardly renovated; instead, the entire surface area was painted over in a muted yellow hue to mask the damaged areas. Lamentably, the weakened areas became more feeble still. Different parts of the building suffered from fragmentation and falling debris, which, in turn, endangeres the six million visitors that every year walk through and nearby these famous architectural elements. For many years, the four sides were closed off with provisional barriers to protect the visitors, who resultantly could only view the architecture and sculptures from a distance.


Direct observation of the surface’s health confirmed that which was intuitive from ground level: the finishes on the upper areas of the edifice were subjected to greater stress due to erosion and serious drainage problems. The latter issues needed to be addressed simultaneously to protect the collections that would be vulnerable to leaks in the fragile roof.

Extensive investigation went underway to determine the definitive color. Upon research and analysis of the original wall and plaster layers, it was found that Bramante’s façade was originally a Travertine white. Travertine is actually not a “color” but a “concept” of many layers of plaster bonded strategically together. Whereas the previous interventions in the 20th century were neither loyal to classical methods nor characteristically archival, the chosen restoration plan would faithful to the original architectural techniques of Bramante in the early 16th century. The exterior layers of plaster applied in the Travertine method would transmute into part of the original structure of the wall. This technique, combined with elimination of any synthetic materials would together facilitate that all inevitable future wear and aging would occur gracefully and uniformly, without buckling or cracking.

The fundamental goal of the restoration is to bring the Courtyard back to its original state as Bramante intended. This involves cleaning and removing residues of previous treatments, deep superficial consolidations and integration of the missing and degraded parts, removal of plaster, restoration to its original state, finishing the surface with mainly traditional materials, reconstructing the drainage lines and overhauling the roof, reclamation of the water systems, and installing a new lighting system.

Work began with three smaller “pilot” sections in order to confirm a more accurate cost analysis for the entire courtyard. At the conclusion of the pilot sections’ restoration, conservation went underway for the Wall of the Nicchione in September 2016. Restoring this section was not limited to the hemispherical niche, but rather includes all facades of the north face. In working on this labor-intensive section of over three thousand square meters, it was evident that in addition to the façade, the antique wooden structures also required much attention and conservation.

The fundamental goal of the restoration is to bring the Courtyard back to its original state as Bramante intended. This involves cleaning and removing residues of previous treatments, deepsuperficial consolidations and integration of the missing and degraded parts, removal of plaster, restoration to its original state, finishing the surface with mainly traditional materials, reconstructing the drainage lines and overhauling the roof, reclamation of the water systems, and installing a new lighting system.

Work began with three smaller “pilot” sections in order to confirm a more accurate cost analysis for the entire courtyard. At the conclusion of the pilot sections’ restoration, conservation went underway for the Wall of the Nicchione in September 2016. Restoring this section was not limited to the hemispherical niche, but rather includes all facades of the north face. In working on this labor-intensive section of over three thousand square meters, it was evident that in addition to the façade, the antique wooden structures also required much attention and conservation.

The repairs and consolidations executed in the pilot sections were analogous in nature to those in the entire surface. The extent of degradation in these sections confirmed the magnitude of work necessary for the whole. Also, the effort required to work on the pilot sites was congruent with and largely confirmed the preliminary cost and timing estimates for the entire Courtyard.

To date the entire surface area of the Wall of the Nicchione is reinforced and consolidated. And completion of applying the travertine technique will continue over the entire surface area. In the same manner of the Wall of the Nicchione, restoration will proceed similarly for the other three walls: the Ancient Library Gallery, the Braccio Nuovo, and the Chiaramonti Gallery.

The restoration project of the Bramante Courtyard will not only return the courtyard walls to its original travertine cream color, but it also focuses also on recovering the original spirit of the overall design that the Architect Donato Bramante had in mind. He intended one of the wings of the Bramante’s courtyard to be one long rooftop terrace for the Pope to stroll with a commanding view of both the wonderful cityscape of ancient Rome but also the Vatican gardens. This project seeks to restore its crowning jewel: the restoration of the antique portal of the Etruscan Museum that opened up to the rooftop terrace passageway that once connected the Belvedere Villa with the Apostolic Palace.

There is still about three years of work estimated for the rest of the courtyard, at the end of which will involve completely new lighting and security systems. The project also envisages a revised layout for the entire courtyard, beginning with a trial implementation with the north face following its restoration. In particular, the location of the on-site Egyptian statues and monuments will be modified, after the new lighting systems are in place. These renovations and modifications will ensure that for years to come, the millions of museumgoers will be able to safely enjoy and fully savor the pulchritude of the Courtyard and that of the collections lying there within.


West wall side Library  € 1.075.000,00

East wall side Chiaramonti  € 1.725.000,00

South wall side Braccio Nuovo  € 858.408,00




The Vatican Gardens

A place of delight and repose, of spiritual meditation and contact with nature, the Vatican Gardens occupy almost half of the 44 acres that constitute the Vatican City State. Meandering through the gardens means passing through a history of almost eight centuries told via plants, shrubs, sculptures and fountains which bear testimony to the varying tastes of different Pontiffs who, over time, have added their own personal modifications and changes to the visage of “Vatican nature”. Although profoundly transformed after changes following the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Church and State, the Vatican Gardens’ history dates back to the time of Pope Nicolas II (1277-1280). On one of the Vatican hills, he planted a viridarium, a walled area of greenery styled according to medieval use. It was comprised of medicinal herbs, and could have very well been one of the first botanical gardens in Italy. From this primary nucleus, other foliage was eventually added to accompany the ornamental plants and citrus trees. The area developed into a larger garden enhanced by multiple architects, such as Donato Bramante, who also conceived the Belvedere Courtyard during the pontificate of Julius II.


Unfortunately the French invasion of 1798 severely destroyed a major part of the gardens. In the following century, after some first attempts at ruralizing the area, Gregory XVI reinstated the care of the gardens. He redesigned the secret garden of Paul III (currently the square courtyard of the Pinacoteca), established greenhouses and dispersed within the woods various sculptures and marble fixtures according the latest fashion of the English garden. One example was an area under the holm-oak woods defined in an antique document as “a spot, or rather, the English gardens” wherein lied a peculiarity – a “kind of temple constructed out of the ruins”. This capricious pastiche was created from pieces of other monuments, some of which have since disappeared. It actually consisted of a statue of Apollo strumming his lyre and resting on a pedestal, which subsequently leaned on a marble slab from a monument dating from the time of the first Vatican Council in 1885. In 1935, the conglomeration was dismantled and used as ornamentation in various zones of the garden. The 1929 Treaty brought radical transformations. The newly formed Vatican City State necessitated interior restructuring, including that of the garden area. Architect Giuseppe Momo alongside botanist Giovanni Nicolini managed in four years to overhaul the garden’s physiognomy into what is visible today. However, the changes are ongoing. There are almost 550 pieces of ancient monuments, gifts to the pontificate, Marian statues, and other sculptures being used to furnish and embellish the natural environment. The gardens continue to give testimony to a rich history as a capable team of gardeners, still adhering to the schema set by Momo and Nicolini, labor unceasingly to enrich the space materially and spiritually. Also thanks to the continual addition of Catholic devotional pieces gifted to the Pontificate, every embellishment helps the gardens to keep growing as one of the most striking areas of the Vatican.


The important initiative to restore the works that adorn the gardens started in the second half of 2014 with a pilot site (named Cascatelle, or small waterfalls). Accurate planning, in turn, warranted the subdivision of the entire garden’s vast lot of territory in order to better organize the operators and restorers. Over the course of time many pieces were restored such as the “temple” in ruin with the ancient statue of Apollo, which eventually resided in the area known as “the Holm Oaks”. This section, arranged and ornamented in the 1900’s according to the romantic style, was bejeweled with archeological finds from the Museums, dismembered monuments, antique sarcophagi, Roman statues, and caprices from the turn of the century sculpted in an antique style. Other examples such as this include the darling pastique now in the Madonna della Guardia (Madonna of the Guard), which displays an elegant female bust emerging from a seashell. An important advance in faith formation was the restoration of the Grotto of Lourdes. This section is an authentic representation of the famous French sanctuary of Massabielle where the Madonna appeared to the fourteen year-old Bernadette Soubirous. The grotto was a gift to Pope Leo XIII in 1902 from the Bishop of Tarbes with the original altar of the Grotto di Lourdes inside. Dear to the pontiffs who celebrate Mass here on special occasions, the pilgrimage destination is also a place where a compelling candlelit procession concludes at the end of the May. The faithful process through the gardens on a “Marian” pilgrimage route dotted along the way with images of Our Lady, and conclude at the Grotto in the presence of the Holy Father.

The demanding restoration of the gardens is estimated to last about another two years, a period in which work will commence in important zones such as Eliporto (the helicopter landing), Torre San Giovanni (The Tower of St. John XXIII), and the Fontana di Aquilone (Fountain of the Eagle). Also included in the projects is the Giardino Quadrato (Rectangular Garden) of antique origin. This section enlivens every visitor’s gaze spanning from the Pinacoteca, and then meeting up with the gardens of the Casina of Pius IV, a fascinating example of 16th century Roman architecture and now the seat of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. The gardens of the Casina were even once bedecked with medicinal herbs intended to help care for the pontiff. The pilot section of Cascatelle was paramount in developing innovative procedures and conservation methodologies. In particular, essential oil solutions were employed (i.e. oregano, rosemary, licorice) for biocide treatments with very low environmental impact. So much positive feedback was received for this new experimentation that it was decided to organize a study day regarding the technologies, wherein field experts were invited to share and learn about the important findings from the process.



Accessing Vatican City is possible by rail at a little station along a 300-meter line of track (the shortest in the world) that merges from outside a tunnel in the Gardens’ hillside. Completed by Giuseppe Momo in 1931, the railway links the Vatican Gardens with the enchanting flora of Castel Gandalfo, the summer papal residence. The marble bases and fragments of friezes in this darling area relay messages of both change and charm. They not only mark post-Lateran treaty transportation developments, but also denote where popes and dignitaries of the past and now special guests can depart for a revelatory escape. This area of the Vatican City State was completed as well by Giuseppe Momo in 1931. Here the train from the Vatican can access the Roman territory directly from the Vatican City State trough a giant gate. Several green areas around this location have marble bases and fragments of friezes and statues that need to be restored and preserved.

TOTAL COST € 67.300,00



Surrounded by beauty from all angles, this area of the Gardens is flanked by the Cascatelle, the Fountain of the Eagle, and watched over by the Madonna of the Guard. The charming section is situated in the English Style Garden area just at the edge of the French garden. It is dotted with several fountains, statues, and marble bases bearing a variety of representations such as the papal coat of arms, aquatic scenes, and allegorical imagery. This beautiful area of the Vatican Gardens is situated in the English Style Garden area just at the edge of the French area where the entrance of the aisle to the grotto of Lourdes id located. It is composed by several fountains with the coat of arm of the Popes, statues and marble bases.

TOTAL COST € 210.800,00



This area of the Vatican Gardens comprises the Vatican Governorate in which is the seat of the leader of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, the legislative body of Vatican City. The building built by Giuseppe Momo in the 1930’s is set amid a rainbow of cactuses along the back street, the St. Joseph Fountain, and surrounded by flowers that are even arranged into the current papal coat of arms at its entranceway. Among the pieces needing restoration in this section are other papal coats of arms in stone: those of Pius IX, Pius XI, John XXIII, as well as an inscription of Gregory XVI. This area of the Vatican Gardens comprises the Vatican Governorate Building which was built by Giuseppe Momo in the ‘30s and it is presently the see of the Office of His Eminence Cardinal Bertello. This area presents also a wonderful rocky wall with cactuses along the main back street.

TOTAL COST € 58.700,00


Giardino Quadrato – Adopted by the Belgium Chapter 

The large quadratic section of the Gardens is rich in history, with the essence of its citrus trees leaving a vestige of times past. Its legacy told in flourishing vegetation greatly precedes that of its neighboring twentieth century painting gallery. Here was once the secret garden of Paul III, a Pope who saw the Church through changes during the Reformation, convened the Council of Trent, approved the religious order of the Jesuits, and significantly supported the arts during his pontificate. This historical Garden decorates the squared plaza in front of our painting gallery. A large fountain is located in its centre and millions of tourists walk among the orange trees displayed in the terracotta large vases every day. Here the guides explain the Sistine Chapel to the groups every morning. This garden was wonderfully decorated under Pope Paul III with flowers and orange and lemon trees all over its space. Its historical relevance is momentous.

TOTAL COST € 54.600,00


Ethiopian College

Continuing the gentle climb to the highest level of the Gardens one discovers the flower-filled Ethiopian College. Surrounded by magnolias and araucaria trees, the building was commissioned by Pope Pius XI in order to provide Ethiopian seminarians a place to further their studies. In this section various marble fragments need restoration, including a travertine kiosk with a statue of St. Teresa, the coat of arms of Pius XI, and the exquisite Triton and Mermaid fountains in the rose garden, from where an intimate and stunning view of the city is possible.

TOTAL COST € 93.800,00


Fontana Aquilone

The most majestic fountain in the gardens is the 17th century Fountain of the Eagle, responsible for the namesake of this section. Its impressive hydraulic devices delight visitors as they shoot in an improvisational way, and its “water music” ranging from a light sprinkle to a roar of thunder offers a harmonious respite from the heat. There are over 40 stone pieces and fragments that need attention here. The most notable is the monument to St. Peter that previously stood in the courtyard of the Vatican Museums and was originally destined to reside on Rome’s Janiculum hill to commemoratethe First Vatican Council.

TOTAL COST € 386.500,00


Casina Pius IV – Adopted by The Ohio Chapter

In the most ancient part of the Gardens lies the stunning “Casina Pio IV,” taking its name from Pope Pius IV, who saw its building to completion. This garden area was originally dedicated to herbal plantswith healing properties for the Pope. There are many architectural fragments in need of restoration residing in this space used as a splendid retreat spot on a given midsummer afternoon. Although it served as a papal hunting lodge when wildlife still roamed the Vatican, the Casina is now the current site of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

TOTAL COST € 114.100,00

Climate Control and Illumination of Borgia Apartments

In the year 1492, as Christopher Columbus was sailing from Spain on his first voyage to discover The New World, the recently elected Spanish Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), commissioned Pinturicchio to decorate the Papal Apartments in the Apostolic Palace. The Borgia Apartment occupied the entire first floor of the Apostolic Palace that now forms part of the Vatican Museums. Generous contributions from our Florida, Michigan, Philadelphia and Canada Patrons have already enabled the restoration of frescoes and embellishments in the Borgia Apartments through the advancements of science combined with the delicacy of the human touch. Now, to sustain the health of the precious artwork on their walls and ensure that they can be appreciated for generations, it is imperative to maintain proper lighting and climate control in the Apartments.

Pinturrichio, assisted by the members of his workshop which included Benedetto Bonfigli, Pietro d’Andrea da Volterra and Antonio da Viterbo, first completed decorating this vast space in 1494, a mere 2 years following its inception. The overall effect of his ornamental scheme was a lushly detailed, illuminated manuscript that highlighted the intellectual interest of the papal court and the Borgia family. Many of the religious figures depicted on the walls were portraits of family members in the guise of saints and soldiers. After the death of Alexander VI, the subsequent popes preferred to live elsewhere and, over time, the apartments began to be used as residences for cardinals of the curia. Among these was Saint Charles Borromeo, who served as Secretary of State to his uncle, Pope Pius IV. Pinturicchio’s frescoes were repainted and restored in 1816, under Pius VII, when the Vatican Pinacoteca was housed here, and again in 1897, when Leo XIII opened it to the public (the rooms were also restored, and most of the floors reconstructed as copies of the original ceramic tiles, very few of which had survived). A subsequent restoration was carried out when the apartment was chosen to house part of the Collection of Modern Religious Art.

In order to not only appreciate the Apartments in their renewed state but also to preserve these testimonies of the “New World” for visitors of today, installing modern technologies of lighting and climate control is necessary. The thermo hygrometer shifts due to the changing of humidity, temperature, and heat are the major cause of deterioration in art collections. The high volume of people eager to appreciate these rooms and enter into Pintoricchio’s “new world” also warrants a climatization system essential. Any changes in temperature and/or humidity are foes of the frescoes, but with air conditioning systems, they will live in much better conditions.

A proper lighting system is essential to the preservation of the artworks because it prevents dangerous radiation that would harm the artwork. At the same this system helps to illuminate beauty of the works, thanks to exposing them to the proper electromagnetic spectrum. The correct lighting contributes to an evocative experience and enables the viewer to fully appreciate the works of art. The illumination and climatization efforts are proposed for the Room of the Mysteries, the Saints, the Liberal Arts, and the Creed in the Borgia Apartments.

The Room of the Mysteries

This was the last of the rooms decorated by Pinturicchio but the first to be restored. In part, it merits to begin here, because a large proportion of this room was completed by his assistants. The Mysteries of the Faith are depicted in the lunettes: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven. Several portraits of Pinturicchio’s contemporaries appear here. There is a splendid portrait of Alexander VI in the Resurrection, as a well as asoldier kneeling and holding a lance, most likely representing Cesare Borgia, the pope’s manservant. Eight tondi decorate the spandrels of the two vaults with the busts of the prophets, each identified on their frame: Micah, Joel, Jeremiah, Sophonias, Isaiah, Solomon, Malachi, David. Restoration and was completed in 2006 after a five-year renovation, thanks to the generosity of the Florida Patrons.

The Room of the Saints

The artist’s hand of Pinturicchio is most evident in this room, for which he planned out and executed most of the frescoes. The subjects depicted are: the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, Susannah and the elders, Events from the Life of St. Barbara, St. Catherine disputing, the Meeting of St. Anthony the Abbot and St. Paul the Hermit, and the Visitation. Scenes from the myth of Isis and Osiris are depicted in the spandrels of the vault, according to a “blueprint” by Antonio da Viterbo; their presence, together with that of the bull Apis, is an allusion to the Borgia family crest. On the large arch one finds scenes from the myth of Io and Argos. Several portraits of contemporaries are represented here: the papal architect, Antonio da Sangallo holding a square and Pinturicchio himself. Above the door leading to the Room of the Mysteries, there is a Madonna and Child in which the Madonna is possibly a portrait of Giulia Farnese. The restoration of the first half of this room was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Philadelphia Patrons and was completed in 2010. The conservation of the second half of this Sala was generously supported by the Michigan Patrons.

The Room of the Liberal Arts

This is the first of the rooms of the Borgia Apartment. It was Alexander VI’s study and he also used to dine here; his body was laid in this room when he died. The name of the room has its origins in the medieval concept of the Arts of the Trivium and of the Quadrivium, which made up the Liberal Arts. The Arts are represented in the lunettes as enthroned women, each identified by an inscription: Astronomy, Grammar, Dialectics, Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music. Some of the figures surrounding the Arts are portraits of contemporaries. The figure of Euclid, kneeling before Geometry and intent upon measuring with compasses, may be a portrait of Bramante. Only part of the work is by Pinturicchio, whose name appears on the base of Rhetoric’s throne. The rest can be attributed to Tiberio d’Assisi or to Pastura. The five octagons of the large central arch are 16th century additions or possibily previous restorative efforts. Depicted here is: Jacob takes leave of Laban; the Angels save Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; Justice, Trajan’s justice; Justice distributes gifts. The gilded stucco reliefs on the vault represent the pope’s coat-of-arms and devices. The 16th century fireplace, which was restored thanks to the Minnesota patrons, carved in “pietra serena” from a design by Sansovino, is the work of Simone Mosca. The marble friezes have been recreated by the Medici firm following the original drawings of the frieze made by the same firm in 1897. Tradition has it that this hearth once stood in Castel Sant’Angelo. The beautiful fireplace was masterfully restored thanks to the generosity of the Minnesota Patrons. Restoration of this room was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Canadian Patrons.

The Room of the Creed

The Room of the Creed, yet to be restored, has a ceiling decorated with complex geometric designs of the papal coat of arms and Borgia insignias. The figured decoration is comprised of twelve lunettes depicting pairs of apostles and prophets. They symbolize the concordance between the Old and New Testaments and are represented on a blue background, surrounded by sinuous scrolls with passages of Scripture. This room will be restored as the final stage of this cycle of four rooms after the completion of the restoration of the Room of Liberal Arts. We are looking for an interested sponsor among our patrons who can help us finish this final stage of an amazing restoration project. We look forward to having Patrons visit these restoration sites when they come to Rome and enjoy the master’s work in person, in the most famous apartments in the world. Thanks to the generosity of our many chapters who have supported these various rooms, the Renaissance will be brought back for us to marvel at today.



The Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs

One of the most important holy sites in Christianity, the Holy Stairs, or Scala Santa, are said to be the same steps in Jerusalem mounted by Christ before he was judged by Pontius Pilate. They were brought to Rome in 326 AD by St.Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine and placed near their current site on land donated to the Early Church by the Emperor. In 1277, when the Lateran was still the papal residence, the Sancta Sanctorum, or “Holiest of Holy Places” was constructed as the private chapel for the popes.

The chapel is not alone in the complex of the Holy Stairs. To its one side is the Chapel of St. Lawrence, dedicated to the martyr who believed that the suffering, blind, and crippled were treasures of the Church. On the other side resides the chapel of St. Sylvester, the pope to whom Constantine dedicated the Lateran area during his empire. These chapels are places filled with countless prayers,innumerable relics, and saintly frescoes.

Millions of pilgrims have since paid homage to this devotional site, and continue to do so today. In a disposition of sincere humility, one must ascend the stairs on their knees. Any visitor who witnesses the devotion with which the faithful ascend the Holy Stairs, remains in awe of the prayerful dedication to the Passion of Christ.

Building a properly enclosed structure around the Scala Santa was one of the major projects inaugurated by Pope Sixtus V in 1590 and eventually completed by architect Domenico Fontana. The Holy Pontiff also hired a team of forty artists to decorate the interior vaults and stairwells. Cesare Nebbia and Giovanni Guerra headed the multivariate group. Today, the stairs contain more than 1700 square meters of frescoes telling the story of the Old and New Testaments. Various saints and doctors of the church make their debut next to superb landscapes by Flemish master, Paul Brill.

These cycles were executed in a style that came to be known as the Late Mannerism movement, which was to influence the development of figurative painting in Rome for years to come.

The Passionist Fathers became custodians of this extra-territorial domain of the Holy See and took up plans to completely restore its chapels and frescoed walls that had suffered significant deterioration over the centuries.

After a major collaboration with the Getty Foundation in 2000 to restore the Chapel of Saint Sylvester, a campaign to “Save the Stairs” began in 2012, and responsibility for restoration was transferred completely into the hands of the Vatican Museums. Donations from the Patrons of the Arts raised partial funding for the project enabling 3/5 of the five phase enterprise to be restored. The blackened walls almost miraculously dissipated as the work of the nine-membered team elicited forth the dazzling colors of the 16th century frescoes.

This is a high-profile endeavor, especially in light of the originality and long history of the Sanctuary. The restorative genius of the Vatican team sponsored by the Patrons of the Arts has and will continue to enhance this space of spiritual fulfillment for its two million visitors each year.

The first three phases of restoration are completed. This includes the Chapel of San Sylvester, the Chapel of San Lorenzo, and the two side stairwells to both the right and the left of the Scala Santa. The vaulting of these two lateral stairwells, one decorated with scenes from the Old Testament and the outside one with the emblem of Pope Sixtus V, are now terminated together with the dome and the walls depicting two exceptional scenes of the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Creation of Eve at the top of the stairs.


Work will continue under the supervision of Maestro Paolo Violini until until the frescoes and walls are restored. The 9-member conservation team will be working with the utmost concentration to complete the last two phases of restoration. The main staircase of the Holy Stairs and the atrium will be finished contemporarily using the same care and experience gained during the completed previous phases. The result is a dramatic recuperation of the brilliant chromatics alongside the integrity of the plasterwork and decorative elements in these staircases. Removing that which was retouched in prior restorative attempts as well as innovative strategies to ensure future restorative maintenance will be part of the ongoing strategy. These efforts will allow a new reading of the original figurative scenes which were previously almost illegible. The entire sanctuary has begun to regain its original luminosity thanks to the vibrant colors of the various biblical scenes elicited forth from the concentrated minds and dexterous fingers of the restoration team.



  • COST FOR THE FOURTH PHASE: Holy Stairs, January ’18 – December ’18 = € 494.270,00

  • COST FOR THE FIFTH PHASE: Atrium, January ’19 – December ’19 = € 299.300,00

A huge good-bye to Ami!

Over the years, the Patrons Office of the Arts staff has welcomed a wide range of collaborators, from student interns to seasoned veterans, originating from North to South, from male to female.  Ami Badami is undoubtedly one of the more original and qualified in our short history and she will be greatly missed as her departure at the end of 2017 draws near.  We will all remember Ami as a creative thinker, with her innovative initiatives, her brilliant power of language, her outgoing personality. Her term with us has been appreciated by both staff and Patrons as well as our colleagues in the Museums.  In fact, her legacy with the Patrons will unfold in another capacity: from February 1st, 2018 Ami will collaborate as a guide in the Museum so many of you will continue to enjoy Ami’s guidance and relationship. Ami’s last year of fellowship in the patrons office was generously supported by Mr. Anthony Bastulli, of the Ohio patrons.

Thank you, Mr. Bastulli and good luck, Ami, in your future endeavors!

Many thanks to Anthony Bastulli of the Ohio Patrons Chapter for his generosity in funding Ami’s Fellowship for these past 12 months.

Two Raphael paintings unearthed at the Vatican after 500 years

Written by
Delia Gallagher, CNN


A detail of the discovered paintings. Credit: CNN

A 500-year-old mystery at the Vatican has just been solved. Two paintings by Renaissance master Raphael were discovered during the cleaning and restoration of a room inside the Vatican Museums.
Experts believe they are his last works before an early death, around the age of 37, in 1520: “It’s an amazing feeling,” said the Vatican’s chief restorer for the project, Fabio Piacentini.

“Knowing these were probably the last things he painted, you almost feel the real presence of the maestro.”

The two female figures, one depicting Justice and the other Friendship, were painted by Raphael around the year 1519, but he died before he could finish the rest of the room. After his death, other artists finished the wall and Raphael’s two paintings were forgotten.

The clues

In 1508, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the his private apartments. The artist completed three rooms, known today as the “Raphael rooms,” with famous frescoes like the School of Athens.
He then began plans for the fourth room, the largest in the apartment, a banquet hall called the Hall of Constantine. His plan was to paint the room using oil, rather than the traditional fresco technique.
An ancient book from 1550 by Giorgio Vasari, “Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects,” attests that Raphael began work on two figures in a new experiment with oil. That clue was the key to the discovery. When restorers began to clean the walls of the Hall of Constantine in 2017, they realized two female figures were painted in oil, while the rest of the room was painted using the fresco technique.
Ultra-violet and infrared photos confirmed scholars suspicions: these two paintings were not like the rest, the oil painting clearly showing through in the advanced technology. To the expert eye, it was clearly Raphael for other reasons as well.

The brushwork

Vatican restorer Fabio Piacentini says there is a confidence in the brushwork that is typical of Raphael: “The way the paintbrush moves,” Piacentini explains, “even the subtlety of the point of the brushes used to create the small wisps of hair.”
Raphael also created unusual shades of color, which began to show through during the cleaning, according to Piacentini. The fact that there is no sign on these two figures of a preparatory drawing underneath, such as a lesser painter might have used, is another sign of the maestro’s hand, he says.

A detail of the discovered paintings. Credit: CNN

The head of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, says restoring the Raphaels and the whole room will take them until at least the year 2022: “It’s one of the most important projects of the last decades – apart from the Sistine Chapel — done in the Vatican Museums,” she says.
Although it is unlikely that there are other hidden masterpieces on the walls of the Vatican, the Museum’s restorers and scholars always keep their eyes open: “That’s the beautiful thing of different projects,” Jatta says. “We are still searching…it never ends.”

The bill

The restoration of the two re-discovered Raphaels and the rest of the Hall of Constantine at the Vatican will take until 2022 to complete and cost 2.7 million euros — around $3.1 million.

The restoration team, the head restorer Fabio Piacentini, Romina Cometti, Fr. Daniel Hennessy and Fr. Kevin Lixey from the Office of The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums

Much of that expense, so far, has been covered by the New York chapter of the Vatican’s Patrons of the Art, says Vatican Museum Director, Barbara Jatta. The Patrons are a special group of donors, mainly from the United States, but also Europe and increasingly from Asia, who support art restoration at the Vatican.
“We produce a wish book every year,” says Barbara Jatta, “that means important projects that are going on; we share ideas with them.”
Individuals can become patrons of Vatican art for a $600 annual membership fee. They can then adopt special restoration projects from the Vatican Museums Wishbook and contribute to the restoration and safekeeping of the Vatican’s — and the world’s — art patrimony.
Watch the video above to find out more about the discovery