Discovery News reports, "The Vatican already announced the discovery of St.Paul’s icon last June, to mark the end of the Pauline year. But the portrait was part of a larger fresco that also included the full-face depictions of the other three apostles."
“Using a new laser technology, we have been able to burn off some rather thick deposits of white calcium without damaging the extraordinary colors of the frescoes,” said Barbara Mazzei, director of the two year restoration project."
The paintings of Andrew and John are the oldest known to exist. Images of St. Paul and St. Peter were discovered nearby. Vatican experts believe that other images of St. Peter are older, but the images of Paul, Andrew, and John are believed to be the oldest in existence.
Guardianco.uk shares the project leader's observations. "John's young face is familiar, but this is the most youthful portrayal of Andrew ever seen, very different from the old man with grey hair and wrinkles we know from medieval painting," said project leader Barbara Mazzei."
The images of Andrew and John are more intimate than the classical portraits from Christian history. John is very young with full lips and a slender face. Even with the paint faded and discolored by time, his eyes are expressive. Similarly, Andrew's picture is of a young, wide eyed man with a piercing gaze. They present very personal images of the apostles.
CNA says,Previously, the Vatican had reported the archaeologists' discovery of the oldest known image of St. Paul while doing routine restoration work. On Tuesday, the Vatican team said Paul's image was part of a ceiling painting that included the full-face icons of the other three apostles.
"The paintings of Andrew and John are undoubtedly the oldest ever," Bisconti commented. "Some showing Peter have been found that date to the middle of the fourth century although this is the first time that the apostle is not shown in a group but singly, in an icon."
Barbara Mazzei, chief restorer at the site, said the discovery is evidence that the devotion to the apostles began in early Christianity. She said restorers have been able to uncover the image with the help of a new and sophisticated laser technology that peels off the thick calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the colors underneath, according to ANSA.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the discovery of the icons, President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi said, "we ought to proceed in a manner that (recognizes) all artworks of this kind have the capacity to speak to the contemporary culture, making their voices resound with their values and all of their beauty."
Vatican Radio reported that the laser technology also uncovered an image of Christ the Teacher.
The catacombs of St. Tecla were discovered by chance in the 1950s during excavations for the construction of an office building.
Images' courtesy: Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology
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