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Photo: Dezeen magazine.
The translucent walls are made of Pentelic marble. So lovely!

You may recall reading about the Greek Orthodox church near the World Trade Center in New York City that was ruined on September 11, 2001. Fortunately, 9/11 was not the end of the story for that church. Tom Ravenscroft reports at Dezeen about Santiago Calatrava’s new illuminated wonder.

“The St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which replaces a church destroyed in the 9/11 attack, has officially opened at the World Trade Center site in New York.

“Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the building replaces a 19th-century church that was destroyed on 11 September 2001. … The church is located alongside the 9/11 memorial that stands on the site of the former twin towers.

“It was designed by Calatrava to be a ‘sanctuary for worship’ but also a reminder of the impact of the terrorist attacks. …

“Said Calatrava, ‘I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward. [Architecture] can have an intrinsic symbolic value, which is not written or expressed in a specific way but in an abstract and synthetic manner, sending a message and thus leaving a lasting legacy.’

“Built on top of the World Trade Center Vehicle Security Center, the church is raised around 25 feet above (seven metres) above street level and was designed to be a beacon.

“Informed by Byzantine architecture and the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul in particular, the church is arranged around a central drum-shaped form that is topped by a dome.

“The walls of this central section were made from thin sheets of Pentelic marble so that the building can be illuminated at night.

” ‘This Shrine will be a place for everyone who comes to the sacred ground at the World Trade Center, a place for them to imagine and envision a world where mercy is inevitable, reconciliation is desirable, and forgiveness is possible,’ said Ioannis Lambriniadis archbishop elpidophoros of America.

” ‘We will stand here for the centuries to come, as a light on the hill, a shining beacon to the world of what is possible in the human spirit, if we will only allow our light to shine before all people, as the light of this Shrine for the nation will illuminate every night sky to come in our magnificent city.’

“Surrounding the central domed spaces are four stone-clad towers that give the building an overall square shape.

“The entrance to the church, which faces a large open plaza, was placed between two of these towers and leads directly to the main series of liturgical spaces.

“The altar directly faces the entrance, while the two side niches were completed with translucent arched windows. Above the main space, the domed is surrounded by 40 translucent windows divided by 40 stone ribs, reminiscent of the Hagia Sofia.

“Alongside the main liturgical spaces, several community rooms and offices were placed on the upper floors of the towers.

“To mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last year, Dezeen explored how the site was rebuilt and the numerous buildings created on the site including the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which was also designed by Calatrava.”

More at Dezeen, here. Lots of beautiful photos by Alan Karchmer. No firewall.

The New York Times and many other publications reported on the reopening of the church, now a national landmark. From the article by Jane Margolies: “Olga Pavlakos grew up going to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Lower Manhattan. She was baptized there. Her parents were married there. She has memories of her father, who worked in restaurants, volunteering there on Sundays, and of celebrating Epiphany every January, when parishioners would walk to the Hudson River, toss a gold cross into the frigid water and watch divers plunge in to retrieve it. …

“Her connection to St. Nicholas can be traced to her grandparents, who left Greece in the early 1900s and settled in Lower Manhattan, then a bustling immigrant community. Residents there scraped together money and bought a tavern on Cedar Street that they converted to a place of worship, eventually adding a bell at the top.

“These original parishioners, who had arrived by boat, named their church after the patron saint of seafarers — a saint who fed the hungry and clothed the needy and inspired the character of Santa Claus. … The tiny church was obliterated during the terrorist attacks.

“Twenty-one long and difficult years later, St. Nicholas has reopened. But it is no longer a humble church, exclusively for its parishioners. Its mission is larger, as is its splendor.

“St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine, as it’s now called, has become a destination for all. It offers a bereavement center that will serve as a place for meditation and prayer for people of any faith. … The new church is a prominent expression of Orthodox Christianity in the city, and it is a source of great pride for the Greek American community.

“For the few remaining longtime parishioners of St. Nicholas, there is relief that their beloved church has finally reopened. But now, their intimate community hub is a global destination, and some wonder about the future of their once tight-knit parish.” More at the Times here.

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Photo: ArtTrav.
The Medici Chapel in Florence recently got a new kind of cleaning. This is the “before” shot of Michelangelo’s sculptures of Dusk and Dawn. See the New York Times for how they look today.

How do you clean a masterpiece? Carefully, My Friends. Especially if much of the damage was caused by the decomposing body of a long-dead Medici.

Jason Horowitz reports at the New York Times that you may also want to keep any strange method of cleaning a secret until after it actually succeeds.

“As early as 1595, descriptions of stains and discoloration began to appear in accounts of a sarcophagus in the graceful chapel Michelangelo created as the final resting place of the Medicis. In the ensuing centuries, plasters used to incessantly copy the masterpieces he sculpted atop the tombs left discoloring residues. His ornate white walls dimmed.

“Nearly a decade of restorations removed most of the blemishes, but the grime on the tomb and other stubborn stains required special, and clandestine, attention. … Restorers and scientists quietly unleashed microbes with good taste and an enormous appetite on the marbles, intentionally turning the chapel into a bacterial smorgasbord.

“ ‘It was top secret,’ said Daniela Manna, one of the art restorers. …

“ [A team headed by] Monica Bietti, former director of the Medici Chapel’s Museum … used bacteria that fed on glue, oil and apparently [a dead Medici’s] phosphates as a bioweapon against centuries of stains.

“In November 2019, the museum brought in Italy’s National Research Council, which used infrared spectroscopy that revealed calcite, silicate and other, more organic, remnants on the sculptures and two tombs that face one another across the New Sacristy.

“That provided a key blueprint for Anna Rosa Sprocati, a biologist at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, to choose the most appropriate bacteria from a collection of nearly 1,000 strains, usually used to break down petroleum in oil spills or to reduce the toxicity of heavy metals. …

“Then the restoration team tested the most promising eight strains behind the altar, on a small rectangle palette spotted with rows of squares like a tiny marble bingo board. All of the ones selected, she said, were nonhazardous and without spores.

“ ‘It’s better for our health,’ said Manna, after crawling out from under the sarcophagus. ‘For the environment, and the works of art.’ …

“In February 2020 Covid hit, closing the museum in March and interrupting the project. … The bacteria strains got back to the Medici Chapel, which had reopened with reduced hours, in mid-October. Wearing white lab coats, blue gloves and anti-Covid surgical masks, Sprocati and the restorers spread gels with the SH7 bacteria — from soil contaminated by heavy metals at a mineral site in Sardinia — on the sullied sarcophagus of Lorenzo di Piero, Duke of Urbino, buried with his assassinated son Alessandro.

“ ‘It ate the whole night,’ said Marina Vincenti, another of the restorers. …

“In 2016, [she had] attended a conference held by Sprocati and her biologists. (‘An introduction to the world of microorganisms,’ Sprocati called it.) They showed how bacteria had cleaned up some resin residues on Baroque masterpiece frescoes in the Carracci Gallery at Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Strains isolated from mine drainage waters in Sardinia eliminated corrosive iron stains in the gallery’s Carrara marble.

“When it came time to clean the Michelangelos, Vincenti pushed for a bacterial assist.

“ ‘I said, “OK,” said [Paola D’Agostino, who runs the Bargello Museums]. ‘ “But let’s do a test first.” ‘

“The bacteria passed the exam and did the job.”

More at the Times, here.

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