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Documentation and Restoration Project

The Santa Maria Antiqua Project, aiming at the conservation and enhancement of the monument and its precious wall paintings, was launched in 2001 thanks to the co-operation with the World Monuments Fund / Samuel H. Kress Foundation (New York) and the contribution of the Norwegian Foundation Sigval Bergesen d.y. og Hustru Nanki's almennyttige Stiftelse (Oslo).

The collaboration with the World Monuments Fund has continued in the following years in order to carry on with the project. Furthermore, various other Italian and International institutions have offered their collaboration such as ENEA (the Italian Institute for new technologies, energy and environment) - Rome, University of Tuscia - Viterbo and the Norwegian Institute of Rome.

This project has been divided into three main phases:

Phase I - Diagnostics and Project Design

The first phase took place between September 2001 and April 2002 and its main objective has been that of carrying out diagnostics and project design.

The main objectives have been:

  • documentation and assessment of the condition of the paintings and their techniques of execution;
  • development of a database of the monument;
  • Identification of conservation needs and development of an action plan;
  • emergency intervention on the most decayed painted surfaces;
  • promotion and fund-raising for the continuation of the project.

In this project phase, a thorough technical and scientific examination and a detailed graphic and photographic documentation was carried out in a pilot area, which includes the apse and the two adjacent walls.

This area shows a particularly advanced decay and a very complex stratigraphic situation. (the so-called palimpsestTerm normally used to indicate ancient manuscripts on parchment in which a new writing was superimposed on the old one, which has previously been scraped off. In this case it stand for the presence of different superimposed layers of painting from different periods, which are visible contemporaneously due to the partial loss of one or more of them). Results obtained in the pilot area (about 18% of the total painting surface in the church and the atrium), are an important reference for the evaluation of conservation issues in the whole monument.

In the remaining parts of the church and in the atrium, the condition of paintings and historic plasters was recorded by means of form sheets, which included a qualitative and quantitative analysis of decay phenomena.

Data collected during project phase I, allowed the development of a priority-based intervention strategy.

Photographic recording Topographic survey Thermographic measurements
False colour reconstruction of the IR-thermographic image taken from the apse Digital recording Sampling of soluble salts

Phase II - Priority Interventions

This phase was carried out between September 2002 and June 2004.

The main objectives have been:

Stabilization of wall paintings and historic plasters Injection of liquid mortar (grouting) Graphic documentation
Application of temporary protections (facings) Preparation of plaster specimens

Phase III - Completion and re-opening to the general public

This phase of the works is still ongoing. It was commenced in 2005 and it is scheduled to end during 2012.

The main objectives have been:

  • implementation of intervention for moisture control and the improvement of microclimatic conditions;
  • construction of new shelters in the atrium;
  • conservation-restoration of wall paintings and other architectural surfaces;
  • implementation of a visitors circulation system in the monument and the surrounding archaeological area and production of interpretational material.