(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 11.01.2024).- Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, announced in a press conference on Thursday morning, January 11, that one of the symbols of Saint Peter’s Basilica, specifically Bernini’s canopy in the interior of the great church and over Saint Peter’s tomb, will be restored.
Cardinal Gambetti stressed that it’s the first systematic and complete restoration 250 years after the last restoration and 400 years after the beginning of the works for the embellishment of the canopy.
The provisional works and construction during the months of work will not hinder papal celebrations taking place at the main altar. In Cardinal Gambetti’s words, “as happened during the construction of the Basilica, the Holy Mass will be able to continue being celebrated at Peter’s tomb. For this reason, I thank in advance the Office for Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the Prefecture of the Papal Household, the Governorate’s florist, the Dicastery for Communication and all those who will do everything possible to find the most appropriate solutions for the improved unfolding of these celebrations, and I’m thinking especially of the Holy Week and Easter Rites.”
The necessary money for the restoration — 700,000 euros — comes from the Knights of Columbus and is in continuity with the appraisal project and new lighting of the Vatican Necropolis, also supported by them.
In fact, present at the press conference was the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Mr Patrick Kelly, who said: “It’s an honour for me to be here today, representing more than two million members of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights are proud to form part of this project, and we are grateful for the privilege to serve the Church in this way.”
In regard to the reason the Knights of Columbus were making this investment, Kelly answered: “Well, in the first place, it’s Bernini’s canopy! It’s a unique masterpiece of sacred art, immediately recognizable and impressive. However, and if that was not enough, this project is in perfect consonance with our mission and our history of service to the Church and, in particular, to the Successors of Peter.”
Engineer Alberto Capitanucci talked about the actual state of the canopy, saying: “The examination of the canopy’s state of conservation, in the measure possible, seems to exclude an important deterioration of the metal, but, instead, one cannot fail to point out the presence of heavy dark patinas due to fatty substances and the atmospheric particles now incrusted in the patinas. A similar state is observed in the elements of the tombstones, with particles adhered to the surfaces, incrustations of marble in the process of detachment and grey patinas due to the oxidation of the protective agents applied.”
And he added: “The wooden roofing, analyzed thanks to the refined campaign of photographic prospection through drones that was completed recently, shows a wide disconnection of the plank system that covers the cornice and, evident where the elements have already been detached, are the accumulations of particulate and semi-coherent waste. The Canopy’s “heaven,” with the radiant Holy Spirit, shows numerous disconnections and detachments of the roof boarding, and the polychromed and golden surfaces are full of generalized stratification and adhesive lifts.”
The now known as Bernini’s canopy was ordered to be made by Pope Urban VIII in 1624. The work was entrusted to young Gianlorenzo Bernini who at the time was only 27 years old. However, other collaborators took part in the work, including architect Francesco Borromini.
The result is a 28.74 meters monument, weighing 63,000 kilograms (63 tons). The canopy’s restoration is taking place in the context of the preparations for the Jubilee of the Year 2025. The plan is that the restoration works be completed by early December 2024.