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viernes, 2 de julio de 2010

Oldest Apostle Images Revealed by Laser

The Apostle John

Photograph by Pier Paolo Cito, AP

A newfound painting of the Apostle John (pictured in an underground Roman tomb on Tuesday) is among the oldest known depictions of some of the original 12 Christian Apostles, experts say.

The Santa Tecla catacombs—situated beneath an office building in Rome's Ostiense area—contain fourth-century-A.D. paintings of the Apostles Paul, Peter, John, and Andrew, who were early followers of Jesus Christ.

The ancient art was revealed by lasers that burned off inches of calcium carbonate, which had accumulated on the paintings over the centuries in the humid chamber, according to Italian news reports.

The two-year restoration effort cost the Vatican—which maintains the catacombs—some $73,400 (60,000 Euros).

Catacomb Painting

Photograph by Pier Paolo Cito, AP

Paintings adorn the walls and ceiling of a Roman tomb (pictured Tuesday) where the oldest known icons of the Apostles were recently discovered.

Experts believe the Apostle depictions were painted to watch over the remains of a devout Roman noblewoman buried in the tomb, according to Italian news reports.

Early Christians—as well as other faiths—buried their dead in extensive networks of catacombs outside Rome.

Catacomb Fresco

Photograph by Pier Paolo Cito, AP

Catacomb archaeological superintendent Fabrizio Bisconti describes frescoes found in the Santa Tecla catacombs on Tuesday.

In 2009 the Vatican announced that the oldest known icon of the Apostle Paul had been found on the catacomb's ceiling.

New laser-restoration efforts have revealed that Paul's image is part of a larger work that also includes the Apostles Peter, John, and Andrew—as well as Christ himself, depicted as the Good Shepherd, according to Italian news reports.

Restorers also discovered more artwork, including the frescoes.
"I think the way they're positioned indicates a devotional dimension," Bernard P. Prusak, chair of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said in an interview.

The Good Shepherd

Photograph by Pier Paolo Cito, AP

An image of Christ as the Good Shepherd (pictured Tuesday) centers a square painting that also features iconic likenesses of four Apostles at its corners.

Villanova's Prusak noted that these four Apostles represent a rather odd grouping because they're not closely associated in the Gospels. But there's no doubt why Peter and Paul were included.

"The two important figures for Rome were Peter and Paul, who were both said to have died in Rome," he explained, "so [their images in the tomb] is a clear connection to the city."

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