After two and a half years of restoration, the covers have been removed from the fašade of St Peter's Basicilica, revealing delicately coloured marble that has entranced some experts but dismayed others.
    The Vatican issued a statement denying that its restorers had "touched up" the fašade to transform it into what the Italian press dubbed "a technicolour St Peter's for the millennium".
    The $A8 million cleaning job involved removing centuries of grime that had accumulated since the fašade, which was designed by Carlo Maderno, was erected in the early 17th century.
    Restorers said that they had had been surprised to find "tints", ranging from green to pink and ochre, in addition to white Travertine marble. The colours had been hidden by layers of pollution.
    However, critics claimed that the colouring was not part of Maderno's original design and had been added in the 18th century. Carlo Bertelli, a noted art expert, told Corriere della Sera newspaper that he believed the restorers had gone further and "augmented" the colours, "destroying the great building's unity and integrity".
    The restored basilica is to be blessed by the Pope in a televised ceremony on 30 September.
    Times 11:45am 21/9/99

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