For Your Ultimate Cool File

This is beyond “Too Cool”.

From CNS:

Medieval crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica ‘resurrected’ from obscurity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — His toes curl in pain, his veins bulge from exertion, his bony chest heaves in the last throes of death.

The newly restored 14th-century wooden crucified Christ “has been resurrected” from obscurity — once caked over with dark paint and left forgotten behind an elevator shaft, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“We have discovered a hidden treasure under the dust of many centuries,” he told reporters at a Vatican news conference Oct. 28.

The oldest crucifix in the basilica’s possession, [!!] it was made by an unknown sculptor of “exceptional artistic talent” and technical skill sometime in the early 1300s, and hung in the original fourth-century basilica of St. Peter, built by the Emperor Constantine, said Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, secretary of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for physical care and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The 7-foot-long torso and legs were made in one piece from a solid trunk of seasoned walnut, he said. The arms — spanning nearly 6 and a half feet — and head were carved separately but came from the same already centuries’ old tree.

Antique prints and a rich trail of archival material track the crucifix’s condition and its various locations inside the old basilica and its transfer to the new basilica when it was completed in 1620. The documents show that no matter where it was positioned, it was a popular and much-venerated piece of work, the bishop said.

It even managed to survive the Sack of Rome in 1527 and desecration when the basilica was turned into a “horse stable” and the Christ figure was dressed in the uniform of the invading mercenaries, he said.

Though made of strong solid wood, he said, termites feasting on it for 700 years caused considerable damage, leaving bore holes peppering the face and body and excavating large areas by the armpits.

Early restorers filled the gaping holes with wads of cloth, reinforced weakened areas with canvas wrappings and stucco, and hid dirt, discoloration and black termite burrows with dark “bronze-colored” paint, the bishop said.

Moved in 1749 to make way for Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece, the Pieta, the progressively darkening statue was gradually moved further and further away from the main area of the basilica, eventually ending up in closed chapel.

Even worse, Bishop Lanzani said, Pope Pius XI had an elevator put in the closed chapel to connect the basilica with the papal residence above in the apostolic palace.

“Darkened and confined in a neglected spot and nearly unreachable, it was forgotten by many and was in some way taken away from the devotion of the faithful,” he said.

[…]

No more!

Read the rest there.

Now if someone wanted to write a “thriller” about things behind closed doors in the Vatican…

Another shot.

Imagine the lost treasure still to be found… and still to be made for future generations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to For Your Ultimate Cool File

  1. Kathleen10 says:

    He’s beautiful, what an incredible thing this is! It’s hard to imagine he could be lost anywhere. He looks wonderfully restored.

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    I find this to be a very moving crucifix, in the same league as the ones by Cimabue, Giotto, and the maker of the San Damiano crucifix. I cannot think of another crucifix that shows Christ’s teeth, which adds so much realism. I can see why this work was so popular.

    Be sure to read the whole CNS article, to see details about the state-of-the-art technology used in the obviously-successful restoration.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you – what a history!

    (Perhaps a mixture of thriller and Don Camillo apocrypha?)

  4. Legisperitus says:

    Perhaps the coolest discovery in the Basilica since the bones of St. Peter themselves!

  5. Orlando says:

    Amazing. Can anyone recommend a great book on the Emperor Constantine? I like to learn more of this towering figure. Thanks!

  6. The Astronomer says:

    Now if someone wanted to write a “thriller” about things behind closed doors in the Vatican…

    Already in the works for seven months, Father. Prologue and first four completed chapters due to my agent by Friday, 11/04.

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Orlando,

    Not an informed answer, but, I’m always meaning to try some of the sources: New Advent has, in its “Fathers” section, Eusebius’s Life of Constantine and Oration in Praise of Constantine (as well as an oration attributed to Constantine listed under Eusebius).

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