One of the jewels in the Vatican Museums will reopen to the public after a $2.4 million makeover to make it earthquake resistant.
The Braccio Nuovo Gallery, located inside the vast museums complex,
is filled with stunning marble busts and statues dating back to the
height of the Roman Empire.
Built between 1816 and 1822, the gallery has been closed for seven years but officially reopened Thursday, Dec. 22nd.
Using the latest technology, the museums’ top experts have restored
the gallery, adding special measures designed to protect its precious
stuccos and marble treasures from earthquakes in a country that has been
hit hard by three devastating quakes about 100 miles north of Rome this
“We have made the structure secure,” said Micol Forti, curator of the museums’ 19th-and 20th-century art.
“This was a very fragile structure because this gallery was built in a
short period of about five years when the Vatican was especially poor
after the Napoleon period,” she said.
The art pieces were brought together for display at the museums by
the famous sculptor Antonio Canova during the pontificate of Pope Pius
The restoration, which was funded by American and European museum
patrons, involved 80 professionals, including architects, decorators,
art restorers and engineers as well as scientists from the museums’
It was a massive undertaking and one that not only involved
collaboration across different arts specialties but private firms as
“We are very proud of this,” Forti said. “We have worked very hard.
We are very happy with the collaboration of our institutions and are
very happy with the results.”
About 140 sculptures will go on display, including portraits of gods,
sculptures of Roman emperors and their wives, friezes and sarcophagi
inside the 230-foot-long gallery.
Ancient black and white mosaics were restored in the floors and more
than 1,000 rosettes and pieces of stucco were removed and later
reattached with five lynchpins apiece to make them more secure in case
of a quake.
“Every rosette, every piece of stucco has been removed, cleaned and
reattached. We have used a new system where every rosette now has five
hooks attached to it,” Forti said. “Every bust you can see has been
reattached at the base.”
The gallery features two gilded bronze peacocks, which may have come
from the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoleum; the statue of Nile; and a
Roman copy of a first-century Hellenistic statue originally found in the
Temple of Isis, near the Pantheon.