After decades of restoration, Rome’s Domitilla catacombs will open to the public later this year.
The Domitilla catacombs stretch nearly 7.5 miles and house 26,000 tombs, making them the largest catacombs in Rome. Professionals used laser technolgy to clear away nearly 1,600 years worth of grime from the frescoes.
One of the project’s leaders, Barbara Mazzei, said that until recently recovering the frescoes would have been impossible, considering they couldn’t be uncovered manually without destroying the art.
“When we started work, you couldn’t see anything—it was totally black. Different wavelengths and chromatic selection enabled us to burn away the black disfiguration without touching the colors beneath,” Mazzei told The Telegraph.
The catacombs hold important cultural and religious meaning to the city, and reveal the intricate connection between pagan mythology and early Christianity in Rome. Some of the frescoes depict the biblical stories such as Noah and the ark, while others show pagan symbolism with images of cupids. Many simply represent everyday life.
A small museum displaying statues, sarcophagi and other artifacts is expected to open this month as part of the exhibit while the ongoing restorations continue.