Ahead of the Jubilee year 2025, the Knights of Columbus are supporting a ten-month restoration of the Baldacchino over the high altar in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis has authorized the first “systematic and complete” restoration of the Baldacchino of St Peter’s Basilica, almost 400 years after work began on Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baroque masterpiece.
The “challenging and necessary” restoration has “significant symbolic value,” the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti said at a press conference introducing the work, because the Baldacchino “marks with its magnificence the place of the Tomb of the Apostle Peter” under the high Altar.
A commitment to charity and unity
The restoration of the “instantly recognizable and impressive” Baldacchino is being supported by the Knights of Columbus, a global Catholic fraternal order founded by Blessed Fr Michael McGivney in 1882.
Also present at the press conference, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said the restoration of the “singular masterpiece of sacred art” corresponds with the Knights’ “mission and history of service to the Church and especially the Successors of St Peter.”
“Our commitment to this restoration reflects our enduring pledge to our key principles of charity and unity,” he said, adding, “In fact, few works of art express this unity more clearly and immediately.”
Looking ahead to the Jubilee
For his part, Cardinal Gambetti noted that the restoration is motivated by “a careful and dutiful concern for conservation,” and is expected to be completed in December 2024 in time for the opening of the Jubilee Year.
The Cardinal explained that the restoration of the Baldacchino “is characterized as particularly complex and articulated due to the importance of the documentation, of logistics, archival research, scientific investigations, the setup of scaffolding, the organization of the construction site in conjunction with the activities and the liturgical life of the basilica, and, of course, the importance of various interventions aimed at conservation.”
He added that papal liturgies will continue to take place during the restoration, with various Vatican offices collaborating to find the “most appropriate solutions for the regular conduct of the celebrations,” especially during Holy Week and Easter.
Plan of restoration
The restoration of the Baldacchino will be undertaken in three phases, beginning with provisional work and planning and continuing with preliminary and onsite diagnostics and documentation.
In the third phase, the work of restoration will focus on restoring the metal (bronze and iron) surfaces, the stone surfaces, and the wooden structures of the Baldacchino.
The project, expected to cost some 700,000 euros (approximately 768,000 USD), is being funded entirely by Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Gambetti said, “in a spirit of service to the Church and the Pope.”