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The baldachin, or canopy, has stood over the tomb of St Peter since 1634 (CNS/Lola Gomez)

The nearly 400-year-old sculpted canopy towering over the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica will be surrounded by scaffolding for most of 2024 as it is washed, repaired and restored. Source: CNS.

Standing nearly 29 meters tall, the baldachin, designed by Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini, has stood over the tomb of St Peter since 1634. And for all that time it has gathered dust, cracks and rust despite regular cleanings.

As a result, “we can’t not intervene” to restore the structure, said Alberto Capitanucci, the head engineer of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for basilica maintenance.

Mr Capitanucci told a news conference on January 11 that the procedure will follow that of the baldachin’s last recorded restoration in 1758, only using an independent scaffolding structure that was not previously possible to build.

The restoration process will begin after February 12 and the scaffolding will be installed around the baldachin before Holy Week, Mr Capitanucci said. The entire restoration process is expected to last about 10 months and papal liturgical ceremonies will continue to take place at the altar.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, said the restoration will take place ahead of the Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year.

The first step will be to photograph the entire baldachin, followed by a deep cleaning to remove accumulated dust and dirt particles. Restorers will then treat the metal components of the structure to remove rust and apply surface protection, clean its marble base and use an acrylic resin to fill cracks in the baldachin’s wooden pieces.

The project is expected to cost 700,000 euro (about $1.15 million) and will be funded by the US-based Knights of Columbus.


Canopy over main altar of St Peter’s Basilica to undergo restoration (By Justin McLellan, CNS via USCCB)