Bacteria Help Restore Aging Art

Discovery News has the details:


Balancing the risks associated with restoring the world’s masterpieces and frescoes is an art in itself. But a mixed group of experts from Italy and Spain demonstrate that injecting a bit of life — in this case, bacteria — into a painting can work wonders in removing unwanted features a piece gathers over time.

With the help of experts in Italy, researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain used the method on a series of frescoes by the 17th century artist Antonio Palomino in the Church of Santos Juanes in the same city.

Frescoes lining the church’s walls were nearly destroyed after a 1936 fire and were later restored in the 1960s, according to one press release. But the previous restorers did not anticipate that the dried salt left on the walls from the fire would migrate to the paintings over the years, creating a white, grainy crust over the work. They also failed to remove an excess of hardened glue from where the murals were previously detached.

Seeing the salt layers and glue as threats to the art’s longevity, restoration specialists and scientists sought the help of a team in Italy that used bacteria to gently remove hardened glue from other works. While collaborating, they selected for a species of Pseudomonas bacteria capable of removing and breaking down the dried salt layer.

Other options to restore the frescoes would have required using chemicals to remove the unwanted layer or using physical means to scrape it off. It’s clear that both measures would increase the risk of further damage…

More here.


Religious Relic of St Anthony Stolen from Church – Update

In Long Beach. It is almost 800 years old:

Los Angeles — A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost items and missing persons for its speedy return.

 The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church’s namesake.

The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.

Magana said the relic is invaluable and deeply symbolic to his parish.

“It’s our history, so it’s irreplaceable,” Magana said. “It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic church.”

The church opened at 6 a.m., and when Magana turned to the relic during the 9 a.m. Mass, it had disappeared. Magana could hear his parishioners gasp when they realized it was gone, but he continued with the service and called police immediately afterward.

Long Beach police Lt. Paul Arcala said the relic is housed in a 16-inch tall reliquary case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side. He declined to describe it further because that might jeopardize the investigation.

The last time it was on view was eight years ago, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish. In Catholicism, relics are usually part of a saint’s body or clothes and revered as a physical connection to the saint.

While church members are upset that someone would steal a holy object, their faith is still strong…

There is more here.

This is police sketch of a person of interest sought in connection with the theft:

Hope they get it back!

UPDATE:   It’s back and the thieving scoundrel has been caught!

A surveillance video provided the break that led to the arrest of a Long Beach woman in connection with the theft a 780-year-old religious relic, police said Thursday night.

The video footage from a camera at a nearby business showed a woman walking to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on 6th Street during the early morning.

The relic of St. Anthony — a bone from his body — and the 16-inch case, or reliquary, that houses it were reported stolen Monday.

Police arrested Maria Solis, 41, Thursday on suspicion of grand theft and burglary, said Sgt. Rico Fernandez of the Long Beach Police Department.

He told The Times that investigators found other religious relics inside Solis’ apartment that may have been stolen from churches.

The priest at St. Anthony’s said Thursday night that the prayers of hundreds of people had been answered with the return of the relic, which was not damaged.

“St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, travelers and the poor,” Father Jose Magaña told The Times. “Now he is home.”

Police said they had not determined a motive for the theft. Solis was still being questioned by detectives Thursday night.

The above surveillance video brought a particular Scripture to mind:

… a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, (Prov 8:16) 

Bible Archaeology

Gamla – Nature, Archaeology and History

Israel Tour Guide, Shmuel Browns, has the informative and insightful post on Gamla:

Gamla is both a nature reserve and archaeological site making it a great place to visit…

The ancient city is situated on a steep hill (a horst like Masada) shaped like a camel’s hump, from which it derives its name (gamal means ‘camel’ in Hebrew). Jews inhabited it from the last quarter of the 2nd century BCE, and it was annexed to the Hasmonean state under Alexander Jannaeus in about 81BCE. Josephus Flavius, commander of the Galilee during the Jewish Revolt against Rome fortified Gamla as the main stronghold on the Golan. It’s fascinating to compare Gamla, a city and one of the first to stand against Vespasian’s legions with Masada, a fortress and the last to fall to the Romans…

Abandoned after its destruction, Gamla lay in ruins for almost 2000 years and was only identified in 1968 by Itzhaki Gal who was doing an archaeological survey of sites in the Golan after the Six Day War. It was excavated by Shemaryahu Gutmann (who did the original survey at Masada and who excavated there with Yigal Yadin) and Danny Syon for 14 seasons from 1976. The excavations uncovered 7.5 dunam, about 5% of the site, revealing a typical Jewish city…

Read the whole piece here.


Speaking of the War in Libya… NATO Refuses to Rule Out Bombing Roman Ruins

CNN reports:

NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there.

“We will strike military vehicles, military forces, military equipment or military infrastructure that threaten Libyan civilians as necessary,” a NATO official in Naples told CNN, declining to give his name in discussing internal NATO deliberations.

But he said the alliance could not verify rebel claims that Libya’s leader may be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna, a historic Roman city between the capital Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.

NATO will brief reporters on its mission in Libya Tuesday, a day after a top British military officer admitted that the bombing campaign was straining British resources…

I mentioned his comments here.

Things are coming loose, I think…