Shining a light on St. Paul: Archaeological site renovated

Missing columns are brought to life by rings of cloth threads at an archaeological site adjacent to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the walls is pictured in Rome Sept. 6. The site contains the remains of structures from late antiquity and the medieval period that were built near the shrine to St. Paul. Unearthed between 2007-2009, the site has recently been upgraded with better lighting and cosmetic changes to improve the appearance. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Turning an archaeological discovery into an appealing, informative site for tourists takes more than just digging interesting remains and ruins out of the dirt.

That's why experts from the Vatican Museums and the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology turned to a string of outside professionals to help spiff up a site unearthed near the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls 11 years ago.

Before the remake, "it looked like a parking garage," Carolina De Camillis, an architect and lighting designer, told guests at the new unveiling in mid-July.

Located underneath a bookstore and cafe next to the basilica, the 13,000-square-foot (1,200-square-meter) archaeological site was surrounded by concrete walls, polystyrene insulation ceiling panels and electrical cables draping every which way, she said.

Her job, she said, was to see "what light could do to bring focus onto the site" while others worked on making the concrete surroundings less distracting.

Giorgio Filippi, an archaeologist and expert in ancient inscriptions at the Vatican Museums, said the dig, which ran from 2007 to 2009, had revealed the remains of "a series of extraordinary buildings," including the only bell tower from the early medieval period remaining in Rome.

They found evidence of what is most likely one of a number of houses for the poor that Pope Symmachus had built near the basilicas of St. Paul and St. Peter and the church of St. Lawrence in the sixth century as well as the marble bases of what had been columns supporting almost 2.5 miles of paved and covered walkways and porticoes to provide shade and rain protection to the throngs of pilgrims visiting the tomb of St. Paul.

A large lead pipe which brought fresh water to the residence for the poor was excavated and restored showing an inscription that the plumbing pertained to the complex of "Sancti Pauli" and remains of a brick kiln are testament to the ongoing construction at the once expanding complex.

The walls of an eighth-century monastery were found together with a well and a corridor that may have been the hallway of a dormitory. Right outside the monastery there had been vegetable gardens, an orchard and a small vineyard.

"The new archaeological site opens a window onto the medieval period at St. Paul's and, more generally, medieval Rome," said Lucrezia Spera and Umberto Utro in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in late June.

The purpose of the buildings and how the land was used show how the early church handled and cared for the deluge of visitors and the poor who flocked to the city's Christian shrines, they said in an article appearing before the site was reopened to the public June 28 -- the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The remodeled site also reveals fresh details of the extensive and intense popular devotion to St. Paul throughout history.

In ancient times, the bustling neighborhood that sprouted up around the shrine grew so crowded with buildings and shops that the sixth-century historian Procopius said marauders would find the place "difficult to attack."

When the site was first opened to the public in 2013, visitors followed a narrow, elevated metal walkway through a poorly lit area.

The original staging always was meant to be temporary, Utro said at the event. To revamp the site and better protect it from the elements, the museums eventually enlisted the help of architects and designers from Rome's La Sapienza University, its school of architectural heritage and the Higher Institute for Conservation and Restoration.

The squeaking metal walkway was replaced with spacious wooden platforms. The white walls, ceiling and support columns were colored a dark gray, so they could let the white and light colors of the ruins pop out more, and wires and cables were encased in dark channels.

The same kind of contrasting effect and "a clear sense of space" were made by covering the ground around the ruins with different colored pebbles, said Paolo Monesi, the architect.

The missing columns of the portico were brought to life, he said, by a circular ring of cloth threads hanging from the ceiling down to the marble base with light beaming down from a recessed lighting fixture to make the threads glow and give the illusion of a solid, textured column.

"You don't need a lot of light, just the right balance between shadow and light," De Camillis said.

To make sense of the ruins and wall fragments, the museums had a professional illustrator produce full-color renditions of what the area could have looked like during the entire medieval period.

The large detailed images show the evolution of the area -- from busy construction and expansion in the fifth to eighth centuries to its gradual decline after the 10th century.

The reopening of the archaeological site, Utro said, "is now another step in the history of this small, but wonderful place."

- - -

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Nation
Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

World
Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

World
Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

World
After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

Nation
DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

World
Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

Nation
What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

World
'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

World
Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Nation
Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...