THANKS TO TECHNOLOGY, the magnificent frescoes of the immortal painter Cimabue, that decorated the vault of the Upper Basilica of Assisi and were completely destroyed by the 26 September 1997 earthquake, will soon be enjoyed once again. Tiny video projectors, to be placed on either side of the vault, will project slides of the destroyed frescoes.
At present, much restoration work is being carried out in both the Upper and Lower Basilicas. Both are covered with frescoes by great pre-Renaissance and Renaissance masters. The work should be completed for the inauguration of the Holy Year on Christmas Eve, 1999.
In the Upper Basilica, 28 frescoes by Giotto and his disciples depicting St Francis' life, suffered cracks and chips in the plaster that have been completely restored. What seems impossible to recover, however, are Cimabue's St Matthew, portraits of the Doctors of the Church, and the star-studded blue heavens that decorated the vault's ceiling.
But the technicians have not given up hope of reconstructing the lost frescoes. As with a puzzle, they hope to piece together the thousands of fragments found, although they estimate that 25% of the paintings are beyond recovery.
The Basilica has now been made earthquake proof, thanks to almost 20 miles of steel tubing that supports the foundations, walls and roofs, and the 30,000 bricks, fired in the original manner, which replaced those that crumbled.