Vatican getting ready to unveil completed restoration of Bernini colonnade

VATICAN CITY — In just a few months, walking under Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s colonnade to head to the Vatican post office will no longer feel like going through a dark, cramped New York City subway station.

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Restoration on the colonnade at the Vatican is set to wrap up at the beginning of 2014. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

For the past five years, large sections of the 17th-century colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s Square have been obscured by metal scaffolding and painted chipboard.

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Workers have reached the last section of Bernini’s colonnade in a five-year restoration project as seen in this Dec. 10, 2013 picture. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

But come January (or February… In Italy, they don’t like to nail it down too precisely), the colonnade will finally be unveiled in all its scrubbed down and spruced up glory. The project, which began in 2009, was supposed to take four years. One year behind schedule is almost a world record for Rome.

Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums told us today that the work was ready to wrap up. It cost a total of 5 million euro (almost $7 million) and required hundreds and hundreds of work-hours, he said.

WORK CONTINUES TO CLEAN COLONNADE AT VATICAN

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is in the background as men work on scaffolding on the colonnade at the Vatican in 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Workers sandblasted layers of dirt and grime, much of it pollution from the surrounding traffic, and carried out extensive restoration and detailed touch-ups.

WORKERS PREPARE TO FILL PITTED AREAS OF COLONNADE AT VATICAN

Workers preparing to fill pitted areas on the colonnade at the Vatican in 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The finished columns and 140 statues of saints along the top look gorgeous. Here’s a shot showing “before and after” the cleaning that CNS senior photographer Paul Haring took in 2011 and several other pictures showing the work-in-progress.

DIFFERENCE SEEN BETWEEN RESTORED AND UNTOUCHED AREAS OF COLONNADE

The difference between the restored on the right and the untouched areas on the left of the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square in 2011.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

MAN WATCHES POPE CELEBRATE EASTER MASS AT THE VATICAN

The decades of dirt and grime built up on the colonnade can be seen from this picture from Easter Mass at the Vatican in 2010. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

RESTORATION CONTINUES ON COLONNADE AT THE VATICAN

Looking much better as a worker sets up scaffolding on the colonnade at the Vatican in 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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Cleaned and restored columns of the colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s Square in 2013 with the Christmas tree in the background. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

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