Astile Cross

The Astile Cross is part of a collection of thirty-seven objects – including processional and altar crosses, altar cards, chalices, monstrances, incense boat, holy water fonts – contributed to Carlo Barocchi’s generous personal gift to Pope Benedict XVI.

Sold by the Pope to the Vatican Museums in June 2007, the precious silvers enrich the collection of the Decorative Arts Department. From the moment of the acquisition, the department prepared an inventory, accurate photographic campaign and the revision of the conservation status of all the artifacts, including a structural verification, cleaning and restoration interventions.

The processional cross in embossed silver and gilded copper (Tuscan silversmith, XV century?), with crucifix in silver fusion (XVIII century) and polylobed elements without decoration, is one of the ancient liturgical furnishings of the Carlo and Lucia Barocchi Collection (Florence).

The Washington Patrons adopted this project in 2020 at a cost of $12,700.

The Intervention

The objective of the restoration targeted the removal of the dark areas that cover the greater part of the work. In particular, these areas cover the light of the small model of the realization of Christ finely realized by expert hands.

After the preliminary documentation of the cross, restorers moved on to the disassembly of all constituent elements. In order to do this, it was necessary to remove the old metal pins that held the parts together. Restorers then used polar solvents, such as acetone and ethyl alcohol, to remove the old protective layer and the layer of organic substances.

They removed the brown patina, probably composed of silver sulfides, by means of complexing agents and a mechanical action with micronized calcium carbonate and demineralized water. The degree of hardness of this product prevented in-depth action and therefore fully respected the patina of the silver. The laser welder (Mark-uno 7500) restored the detached parts. At the end of the cleaning process, all the parts were thoroughly rinsed with demineralized water. Then a dehydration process took place and the usual procedures followed.

At the end of the restoration intervention, there was an application of protective film (ZAPON in acetone 30% p/p) to keep the surface’s tone, light, and brightness as long as possible.

In the substitution of the old pins in metal, removed during the phases of the disassembly of the work, the laboratory realized through 3D software that the new pins are from two elements. After being molded in castable resin, the pins are of copper alloy casting.

This new assemblage system is important because it does not require a deconstruction of the cross, which will be helpful for eventual new restoration interventions in the future.

Constructed elements of the cross
Front of the cross after the restoration