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Restoration Project of the Saint’s Chapel

Published on the 09/11/10

Restoration Project of the Saint’s Chapel

Previous studies

The conservation and restoration works carried out in Francis Borgia’s private chapel were focused on recovering the original mural paintings from the 16 century. The ceiling of the chapel, made of marble and ceramics, has also been restored. The chapel is decorated both with mural paintings and with architectural elements such as the altar, made of marble. The decoration of the chapel is the result of the combination between the mural paintings and the ceiling covered with marble and tiles from Manises. The chapel also preserves the original alabaster window and a sample of the original floor decorated with ceramics. The original floor of the chapel was replaced by the Jesuits with a beautiful marquetry made of exotic woods brought by the same Jesuits.

The aspect of the chapel before the restoration                                                                                               Overview of the Restoration

Although the room is not very large, measuring 5.92 m. long, 2.48 m. wide and 2.31 m. high, a mention should be made about the high state of deterioration suffered by the works, especially the murals, strongly intervened in the restoration of the Jesuits at the end of the nineteenth century, and the metallic elements made of bronze , with an alteration caused by oxidation and darkening of their patina, and the total blackening of some of them from the candle smoke, especially those near the altar of the chapel.

Although this part of the building and, in particular, the chapel, dates from the late fifteen century and beginning of the sixteen century, it draws the attention the fact that the only original element of the time in the chapel is the cycle of murals representing the mysteries of the rosary. A major restoration of the chapel was made when the Jesuits acquired the building and this led to a complete alteration of the original concept of the chapel.


Today the chapel has been completely remodeled with respect to the original structure of the sixteenth century, as it has undergone several changes and interventions at different times:

1st Sixteen century. Francis Borgia has his chapel built in the shape of a coffin.

2nd From 1550, when Francis Borgia goes to Rome, until the end of the nineteenth century.

3rd From 1894 until nowadays; with the arrival of the Society of Jesus, the palace undergoes a massive restoration, including the saint’s chapel.

The only visible remnants of the sixteenth century are the mural paintings representing the mysteries of the rosary made in black and white grisaille and a small sample of the old floor covered with Gothic tiles.

On March 27, 1894 the restoration of the chapel was carried out under the direction D. Joaquín Arnau. Earlier that same month, day 4, Joaquín Arnau himself wrote to P. Federico Cervas, briefly informing the main actions to be carried out in the chapel. According to Arnau, the original architectural layout nor could or wanted to be touched, maintaining the original shape of a coffin that it had since its construction. From that time until the remodeling directed by Arnau in 1894, few interventions can be detailed in the room, with the exception of certain treaties (Osuna files) that talk about improvement works carried out in the first quarter of the nineteenth century:

- In 1816, "the ceiling was covered and the vault was whitened ... but without touching anything else. The reason was the smoke from the lamp that had blackened it”.

In 1826: "the altar of the chapel was raised" by means of an overlying platform. The work cost about 200 reales. The decorative scheme of the room was designed by M. Coronas, giving instructions to the craftsmen to put the following materials that will eventually cover the room:

- The metals would be gold and bronze and they were made in the workshops of Mr. Vallmitjana from Barcelona

- The marbles were fabricated and installed by the marble expert Mr. Liern from Valencia, and red marble was used for decoration, mottled green and Valencia cream for the huge plates of the slanted ceiling, called by Cervos and Solà "straw-colored marbles), and black marble from Portugal for the lining of the socket-skirting board.

- As for the tiles of the ceiling, Cervós and Solá do not give other information than “tiles with a metallic reflection”

- According to Cervos and Sola, they had to cover the original paving made of tiles by a beautiful marquetry made of exotic woods. “To do this we used a variety of beautiful woods shipped from the Philippines by Father Juan Ricart, according to the design made by M. Coronas, On May 29, 1895 as the new altar was made of marble and metals, adorned in the center with a picture that represents the image of the saint, the work recovered from the old altar of the early seventeenth century, and according to a legend, painted by one of the daughters of Saint Francis Borgia”.

The work was funded by the Honorable Mr. Joaquin Rovira, Count of Rótova, as appointed by Cervos and Solà, and according to the inscription on a large grey marble plaque placed at the entrance of the chapel, made by Vicente Agustí. This information is also proved by the coat of arms represented on the ledge located above the door of the chapel. Despite the difficulties, the professionalism and safety of the intervention are guaranteed as it has been based on the current legislation criteria concerning the protection and safeguarding of Historical and Artistic Heritage of Valencia.

Restoration Process

Once all the previous studies on the paintings were made, both documenting and testing of mechanical cleaning, chemical cleaning, consolidation, and reactions of mortars, the restorers proceeded to the intervention of the paintings.

The restoration of the chapel was complete and included the mural paintings, the bronze items located in different parts of the room, the marble ceiling, the altar, the side walls and the baseboard, the ceramics of the ceiling, the wooden floor made of exotic woods.

The process of chromatic reintegration of the mural paintings

This phase was necessary because in some areas the original painting had disappeared.

The works of restoration carried out on the grisaille of the sixteenth century have been those which were more complex. Some repainting had to be eliminated and also a thick layer of varnish which had been applied in an intervention from the late nineteenth century and which which obscured the real tone of the paintings.

The process of chemical cleaning of the ceramics

Estas cerámicas policromadas se encuentran insertadas en el artesonado.

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