Restoration of the Vatican Gardens

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Although many of the degradation problems affecting the works were similar, the pieces displayed various levels of deterioration due to differences in placement (major or minor exposure to sunlight and rainfall), constituent materials, and the presence of previous restorations and/or the reassembly of fragments or parts of the works.

– General diagnosis of different pieces, conservation issues and more
thorough fieldwork that will further define how to subdivide these
costs over the course of the next years
– 4 month contracts for specialized restorations
– 2 month contracts for support workers
– All the infrastructure of the support above
– Transportation for the restorers and pieces
– Specific mechanical equipment for outdoor restoration
– The equipment for support of the graphic and photographic documentation
of the intervention
– The costs for diagnostics in the field and laboratory analysis
– The identification of the weather most appropriate for the works,
future restorations and the successive maintenance of the artifacts
– The invention of a definitive strategy for restoration of the artifacts
and archaeological pieces in the Vatican Gardens.

Thanks to your generosity, phase one of this project was pledged last year. A pilot restoration site has been set up, and the project is moving forward; five sections have since been adopted. In this year’s Wishbook, we present to you the following three sections of the Vatican Garden, statuary, and artifacts in need of restoration.

The Vatican gardens have been a place of quiet meditation and re- flection for the Popes, ever since 1279, when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the walls of his property, he planted an orchard, lawn, and garden. The gardens, “Palazzetto del Belvedere,” and courtyards of the Vatican Museums are located on the same ground where Nero’s Circus once stood, and where early Christians, including St. Peter, were martyred. According to tradition, St. Helena symbolically scattered earth brought from Golgotha on the Vatican Gardens to unite the blood of Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians who died under the persecution of Nero.

Today’s Vatican Gardens stretch across an area of nearly 58 acres that constitutes over half of Vatican territory. This oasis includes lush gardens filled with winding paths, vibrant flower beds and topiaries, green lawns, groves of massive oaks, and a 7.4 acre forest. There are also ancient fountains, sculptures, and grottoes dedicated to the Madonna, St. Joseph, St. Peter, and other saints.

The Gardens are complete with birds, fountains, flora, and fauna, and they epitomize the harmony and peace found in nature. They remind us of our original role as beings destined to coexist with God, nature, and one another. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed,” writes Genesis 2:8. These idyllic parks also make us think of our eternal home where all of creation will unite in the shared experience of paradise.

The Vatican grounds represent one of the most unique gardens in the world because the landscape was formed on hallowed ground and, thus, sewn with faith and hope. Many popes have prayed surrounded by this verdant haven. Pope John XXIII often reflected in the gardens as he prepared to lead the church through the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II often invited young people to pray the rosary with him at the Lourdes shrine atop the Vatican Gardens. The Gardens are also where Pope Benedict XVI prayed his daily rosary.

Restoration of the entire collection of artwork located within the Papal Gardens has never before been performed, making this a historic undertaking.

The Marble and the Metal Restoration Laboratories, together with the General Maintenance team of the Vatican, collaborated to assess the state of conservation of the Garden’s many artifacts. Then, representatives visited various gardens around Europe, including the gardens at Versailles, to learn more about different restoration methods and techniques. Simultaneously, an inventory and specific report was made for each of the over 600 pieces in the gardens in order to determine the following background information for each object: age of the artifact, constituent materials, former interventions of reassembly or the insertion of new stone parts, presence of metal pins, location within the Gardens, and degree of exposure to the elements. An unfortunate state of degradation affects a large number of the sculptures, and the general lack of maintenance is visible. The product of this careful study now fills a three volume work that advocates an urgent restoration project to conserve all of the artifacts in the Gardens.

 

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