Saturday, November 21, 2009

6th Century Cross is restored by the Vatican

The Crux Vaticana, a cross given to the city of Rome by a Byzantine emperor in the 6th century, has been restored after two years of work. The jewel-encrusted golden cross is said to contain a piece of the cross carried by Jesus Christ.

The Papacy has been using the Crux Vaticana for nearly 1500 years during Easter and Christmas ceremonies at the Vatican, and over the centuries grime and wax have dulled its colour. An attempt at restoring the cross in the 19th century caused further corrosion.

According to Sante Guido, who restored the cross, the changes include replacing some of the gems (which had been added to it in previous centuries) on the cross with twelve pearls along with emeralds and sapphires.

Guido said to Associate Press, "It's the most important reliquary of the 'true cross' that we have. It's particularly important because it's the only reliquary that came from an emperor, so there are various levels of religious and historic significance."

Ioli Kalavrezou, a Byzantine art history professor at Harvard University, commented that this restoration will make the cross look more like its original state. "I can't say it's exactly as it would've been, but it comes much closer to what an object like that would've looked like," she said.

The Byzantine Emperor Justin II gave the Crux Vaticana to the people of Rome sometime between 565-578. The cross contains the following inscription written in Latin: "With the wood with which Christ conquered man's enemy, Justin gives his help to Rome and his wife offers the ornamentation."

The restoration was paid for by an anonymous donor. The Crux Vaticana will be on public display inside St. Peter's Basilica until April 12.