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Scientists crack mystery of the luckless apostles of Paris

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By Agence France Presse

Having lost their heads, been pulled from their plinths, smashed and even buried, things are at last looking up for some of the unluckiest statues in Christendom.

Heritage Curator of the Centre for Research and Restoration of Museums of France (C2RMF) Alexandre Gérard examines polychrome stone statues belonging to the Museum of Cluny, the "apostles of the Sainte Chapelle" before their restoration in Paris. (AFP photo) Manila Bulletin

Heritage Curator of the Centre for Research and Restoration of Museums of France (C2RMF) Alexandre Gérard examines polychrome stone statues belonging to the Museum of Cluny, the “apostles of the Sainte Chapelle” before their restoration in Paris. (AFP photo) Manila Bulletin

 

For five centuries the 12 apostles looked down on the adoring hordes who marvelled at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, arguably the greatest Gothic edifice ever build.

Standing between its spectacular stained glass windows — one of the wonders of the medieval world — they could have been forgiven for feeling smug having survived the Reformation without a scratch.

But the statues were caught in the whirlwind of not just one French revolution but two, and since then history has been less than kind.

Until now that is.

A team of French scientists are at last revealing their original colours and forms from 1248 when they first stood guard over one of the most revered of Christian relics, the crown of thorns that Christ reputedly wore on the cross.

French king Louis IX built the staggeringly beautiful private chapel to house the relics after buying them from the cash-strapped Latins who sacked Constantinople in 1204 and began stripping the Byzantine capital of its treasures.

The crusader king, who was later made a saint, also acquired parts of the True Cross and the Holy Lance for the chapel, which backed onto his royal palace.

Six of the most heavily damaged of the apostle statues are now being analyzed by the French museums’ restoration and research center, known as C2RMF, at its laboratories underneath the Louvre.

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