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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 01:07 GMT 02:07 UK
Assisi frescoes rise from the rubble
Frescoes line the walls of the basilica in Assisi
Frescoes line the walls of the basilica

A series of restored ceiling and wall fresco paintings are being unveiled at the medieval shrine of St Francis at Assisi in central Italy, five years after an earthquake seriously damaged them.

Four people were killed when part of the ceiling of the upper Basilica of St Francis collapsed in the 1997 earthquake, and a memorial service to them is being held as part of the ceremonies marking the restoration.

A fresco inside the basilica in Assisi
Giotto and Cimabue created the frescoes by painting on fresh plaster
The earthquake shattered some of the church's ancient fresco paintings into tens of thousands of tiny fragments.

New computer techniques have been used to solve what amounted to a huge jigsaw puzzle - the piecing together of hundreds of boxes of tiny plaster fragments carefully salvaged from the debris inside the basilica.

The work has involved art restorers, art historians, architects, graphic artists, chemists and physicists in a huge project which cost the Italian taxpayer more than $2m.

Monks still waiting

Two huge frescoes, painted by Giotto and Cimabue - Italian master painters of the late middle ages - have been brought back to life although there are still gaps where the plaster crumbled completely.

The roof of the basilica has been strengthened against possible future earthquakes.

But the 40 Franciscan monks who live inside the monastery adjoining the basilica are still waiting for restoration work to begin on their cells and refectory which also suffered damage.

They are even hoping to get a new lift installed for the first time inside their 700-year-old living quarters.

See also:

10 Sep 99 | Science/Nature
28 Nov 99 | Europe
28 Nov 99 | Europe
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