Light at the Top of the Stairs: One of the Most Famous Places of Worship in the World is Restored!

On Thursday, June 11, 2015 a group of restorers, patrons, and many other interested art and history lovers came together to celebrate the inauguration of the recently restored Chapel of St. Lorenzo, newly conserved thanks to support from the UK Patrons of the Vatican Museums. This is the second phase for the complete restoration of the Holy Stairs (1588-90) which began with the Getty Foundation in 2001. The Getty funded the preliminary study for the Sanctuary which was then followed by the first phase of restoration at the Chapel of St. Silvestro.  The project now continues thanks to funding from our UK Patrons of the Art. The glorious results of current restorations in the St. Lorenzo Chapel have redefined the spiritual experience of visiting this holy site.

It took 9 restorers 19 months of meticulous work to bring about the transformation in the St. Lorenzo Chapel and in the process they discovered details and images that had been obscured for hundreds of years. Cleaning unearthed important physical aspects like the Paul Bril landscapes and the splendid original decorations for St. Lorenzo’s large portrait while reviving the splendid colors originally from the time of Sixtus V, who commissioned the Sanctuary.

andscape fresco by the Flemish artist Paul Bril, whose possible self-portrait is portrayed in the lunette above the entrance to the Sancta Sanctorum at the Holy Stairs.

Landscape fresco by the Flemish artist, Paul Bril, whose possible self-portrait is portrayed in the lunette above the entrance to the Sancta Sanctorum at the Holy Stairs.

The Holy Stairs, brought to Rome from Jerusalem in 326 A.D. by Constantine’s mother, St. Helen, are said to be the same stairs upon which Jesus stood to be sentenced by Pontius Pilate. Pilgrims to this sacred spot traditionally mount the stairs (which are protected by wooden boards) on their knees in a physical act of penitence. At the culmination of this intense spiritual experience is the Sancta Sanctorum (Holiest of Holies). This was the first private chapel of the Popes (1277), itself a manifestation of faith and history for the Church.

On Thursday, Vatican Museums Deputy Director Arnold Nesselrath, Fathers Ottaviano D’Egidio and Francesco Guerra of the Passionists Congregation (who are responsible for the site) and our director Fr. Mark led a presentation to discuss the importance of this project and thank those who were instrumental in its completion. Details of the frescos, which were executed by some 30 painters headed by Cesare Nebbia and Giovanni Guerra, were revealed and the methods of restoration outlined by master Vatican restorer Paolo Violini in a dynamic powerpoint presentation.

Chiara Munzi uses special Japanese paper as she restores a fresco by Flemish master Paul Bril in the San Lorenzo Chapel adjacent to the Holy Stairs on Feb. 28 in Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Chiara Munzi uses special Japanese paper as she restores a fresco by Flemish master Paul Bril in the San Lorenzo Chapel adjacent to the Holy Stairs on Feb. 28 in Rome. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Restoration often includes revelatory moments that strengthen the bond between faith and art – the physical and the spiritual. In an article for the National Catholic Reporter in 2013, Fr. Mark remarked on the importance of conserving the Holy Stairs, “not just for its material beauty, but also for its power to help transform people’s lives. If it can bring solace to someone who’s suffering, if it can convince someone mired in a challenge, a difficulty, a weakness, that they can’t find the moral courage to overcome, and have a spiritual experience before the passion of Christ, for example,…well, there’s infinite value there.”

“The financial investment,” Fr. Mark went on to say, “the returns go beyond anything anyone could ever imagine and that’s what’s powerful, that’s what’s beautiful and that’s why the church cares about its art.”

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Check out our Instagram “vaticanpatrons” for more behind-the-scenes Patrons Office Photos!

The Chapel of San Lorenzo is a place that clearly speaks to this idea. A sacred destination that has the power to affect faith and reinforce a commitment in Christ and in life’s beauty. This kind of work is what makes the patrons so crucial and gives concrete meaning to our larger mission.

Again, we want to thank the patrons that made this possible as well as all our patrons who work toward the restorations of sacred art in the Vatican.

Chapel of St. Lorenzo after restoration.

Chapel of St. Lorenzo after restoration.

Other articles on this event:

Arte Magazine: http://www.artemagazine.it/arte-classica-e-moderna/90726/roma-torna-a-splendere-la-cappella-di-san-lorenzo/

The National Catholic Reporter:http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/stairway-heaven-vatican-backs-effort-restore-holy-stairs-shrine

Mary Angela Schroth Shares Highlights from the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale, which takes place every two years, is considered to be the most important and prestigious event on the international contemporary arts calendar and the oldest and largest established biennale in the world. Mary Angela Schroth of the Patrons Office was there for the opening on May 6, 2015. Here are her impressions.

For the first time in history, a non European has been asked to direct the Biennale in Venice: Okwui Enwezor is a star in the art world. Born in Nigeria, an academic background in sociology, he has been a major figure now for the last 20 years, curating various biennales and exhibitions throughout the world including Germany’s Dokumenta. Entitled “All the world’s futures,” Okwui has chosen more than 100 artists to participate in his main exhibition, and more than a third are from Africa, even more from outside the eurocentric construct. The Biennale also hosts pavilions from 89 countries, as well as another 44 collateral exhibitions so it is indeed the Olympics of Art.

For the second time, Commissioner Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Curator Micol Forti (who heads the modern and contemporary department of our Vatican Museums), have organized the Vatican Pavilion and it is a testament to both art and faith. Forti and her team have chosen 3 young artists from three diverse areas of the world: Monika Bravo from Colombia, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva from Macedonia, and Màrio Macilau from Mozambique. The biblical theme is: “In the Beginning there was the Word…the Word became flesh,” with an additional reference to the story of the Good Samaritan. All these aspects are part of Pope Francis’ mission but also that of Cardinal Ravasi to underline the importance of contemporary art and faith in our world today. All three artists are experimental and ground-breaking but the best works are by Macilau, dramatic and stark black and white large photographs mounted in a stunning architectural context designed by the artist and recounting the tragedy of children living on the streets of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city and one of the poorest areas in the world. But with the art of Macilau we see a new beauty and a new hope for humanity through the creative image.

www.labiennale.org

From left pavilion curator Micol Forti, Pontifical Council for Culture President Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta attend a press conference at the Vatican to present the Holy See pavilion "In Principio ...la Parola si fece carne" (In the Beginning … the Word became flesh) participating in to the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale of Arts. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis).

From left pavilion curator Micol Forti, Pontifical Council for Culture President Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta attend a press conference at the Vatican to present the Holy See pavilion “In Principio …la Parola si fece carne” (In the Beginning … the Word became flesh) participating in to the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale of Arts. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis).

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Haruspex (detail), 2015, organic materials Photo Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, © Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Courtesy the artist

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Haruspex (detail), 2015, organic materials Photo Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, © Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Courtesy the artist.

Mário Macilau, A Fish Story, photograph from the series Growing on darkness/ Crescendo na escuridão, 2012-2015 Pigmented inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton paper (es. 1/2), 133 x 200 cm Photo Mário Macilau © Mário Macilau, Courtesy Cataldo Colella

Mário Macilau, A Fish Story, photograph from the series Growing on darkness/ Crescendo na escuridão, 2012-2015 Pigmented inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton paper. Photo Mário Macilau © Mário Macilau, Courtesy Cataldo Colella.

Monika Bravo, part of the installation ARCHE-TYPES. The sound of the word is beyond sense, 2015, LD monitor, transparent elements, painted wood panel, projection, media player, 440 x 230 cm, photo Monika Bravo © Monika Bravo, Courtesy the artist.

Monika Bravo, part of the installation ARCHE-TYPES. The sound of the word is beyond sense, 2015, LD monitor, transparent elements, painted wood panel, projection, media player, 440 x 230 cm, photo Monika Bravo © Monika Bravo, Courtesy the artist.

Raise the Faithful- Scala Santa Restoration Project Appears on The Global Catholic Network

The Scala Santa are known to be the same steps that Jesus took to reach Pontius Pilate during his passion. Then, in the fourth century, it is reputed that the stairs were brought to Rome by St. Helena (the mother of Constantine). Since that time, pilgrims have visited the steps and climbed them on their knees. This obviously means a great deal of wear on these stone relics. Today they are protected by a casing of wood – but even so, recently, Mary Angela Schroth of the PAVM noted the wear and tear that the over 2 million penitents per year put on the stairwell and the surrounding chapel of San Lorenzo. In response, the Vatican Museums are coordinating a 10 year restoration project. As a part of this effort, the DC Chapter of the Vatican patrons recently invested in a laser that can clean stone, stucco, paintings, metal, and wood without damaging the precious artwork.

This labor of spiritual renewal, through a re reexamination of the relics of Christian history, is part of a pattern in current Church philosophy. “It’s an essential part of this new reform that’s going on right now in the church,” says Ms. Schroth in interview with EWTN News. Because the Holy Father has been an avid patron of the arts, it has meant renewed interest across the Catholic world. Pope Francis even attended an arts event this past October that raised awareness of the Patrons Office and our important restoration work.

With further Papal support, Schroth hopes the holy stairs inside the San Lorenzo Chapel will find the support they need to continue to “raise the faithful to a higher level” (no pun intended). Ms. Schroth is a keen advocate of how the arts are directly related to faith and eloquently pleaded her case in this interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdXWf2hR-lE

Patrons-of-the-Arts-of-the-Vatican-Museum-posing-with-Pope-Francis-at-Fundraiser-Oct.-19-2013-Photo-AP_LOsservatore-Romano

Pope Francis October 2013,(photo provided by Vatican News), poses with the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museum, a fundraising organization for restoring the Vatican’s artistic treasures, on the occasion of their audience, at the Clementine Hall.

 

Mary Angela Schroth

Mary Angela Schroth

La Scala Santa

 

DC Chapter Leader, CEM Martin

DC Chapter Leader, CEM Martin

North Carolina Chapter Summer Event

Have YOU ever climbed the Holy Stairs? The imperative of conserving the Scala Santa and Chapel of S. Lorenzo was the topic of  Mary Angela Schroth’s presentation on August 12th at St. Michael’s Church in Cary, NC.

Thank you to Douglas Brinkley, North Carolina Chapter Board Member, for sharing these pictures with us!

Dr. Schroth discussing the importance of renovating and maintaining the Scala Santa and Chapel S. Lorenzo

Dr. Schroth discussing the importance of renovating and maintaining the Scala Santa and Chapel S. Lorenzo

After Dr. Schroth’s compelling lecture, there was a dinner for the Board and invited guests at Herons in the Umstead Hotel + Spa in Cary.

After Dr. Schroth’s compelling lecture, there was a dinner for the Board and invited guests at Herons in the Umstead Hotel + Spa in Cary.

This was taken at the post presentation dinner at Herons at the Umstead Hotel + Spa and includes members of the Chapter Board and our guests. From left to right   1. Mr. Henry Zaytoun III, Financial Advisor 2. Mrs. Lenora Evans, Executive Director of the Frankie Lemmon Foundation. 3. Douglas Brinkley, Chapter Board Member. 4. Dr Sarah Schroth - Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. 5. Robert Shaw - Attorney and Chapter Board Member. 6. Dr. Mary Angela Schroth - Coordinator of the Scala Santa and Chapel of S. Lorenzo. 7. Mr. Bill Brown, Chief Conservator at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

This was taken at the post presentation dinner at Herons at the Umstead Hotel + Spa and includes members of the Chapter Board and our guests.
From left to right
1. Mr. Henry Zaytoun III, Financial Advisor
2. Mrs. Lenora Evans, Executive Director of the Frankie Lemmon Foundation.
3. Douglas Brinkley, Chapter Board Member.
4. Dr Sarah Schroth – Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
5. Robert Shaw – Attorney and Chapter Board Member.
6. Dr. Mary Angela Schroth – Coordinator of the Scala Santa and Chapel of S. Lorenzo.
7. Mr. Bill Brown, Chief Conservator at the North Carolina Museum of Art