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Vatican restoration uncovers work of Renaissance master

Rich legacy rediscovered

Art restorers working in the sumptuous 500-year old apartments of Pope Alexander VI have rediscovered a Renaissance artist who left his mark on the pontificate of a controversial pope. The Religion News Service has the story.

The 15th-century master painted frescoes in numerous Italian churches, but his works on the apartments of the controversial Spanish Pope, formerly known as Rodrigo Borgia, are being restored to their former glory.

Pope Alexander, who was elected in 1492, gave Bernardino di Betto, better known as “Pinturicchio,” two years to decorate his private apartments, where he greeted heads of state and partied with his mistresses at a time when popes were not always celibate.

He asked the artist to paint the walls of his luxurious apartments to reflect his intellectual interests.

King Charles VIII of France, a contemporary of Alexander’s, was reportedly disarmed by the rooms’ splendour when he made a visit.

When Alexander died in 1503, the rooms were sealed off by his successor, Pope Pius III, effectively closing the door on one of the more controversial pontificates. The apartments remained closed for more than 400 years.

But Maria Ludmila Pustka, the Vatican’s chief restorer, said the Pope is often misrepresented by modern media and film.

“Alexander was a very important, unique character for the political history of that time,” Ms Pustka said. “He was an outsider, a Spaniard from Valencia and he brought a great openness to the Holy See. This Pope really deserves more detailed analysis as he brought great innovation at a cultural and philosophical level.”

Pinturicchio and his apprentices set to work on the apartments just as an Italian named Christopher Columbus was exploring a continent on the other side of the Atlantic.

Photo: Art restorer Stefania Culesanti puts the finishing touches on red robe in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican Museums (RNS)

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Vatican restoration uncovers work of Renaissance master

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