Closed to the public for years, the spectacular Roman catacombs are on the verge of reopening thanks to painstaking and decades-long restoration efforts.

1,600-year-old frescoes decorate the catacombs, which comprise of nearly 26,000 tombs stretching across 7.5 miles. However, the frescoes had been completely obscured by dirt and grime that had accumulated over the centuries.

To restore the artwork, experts used state-of-the-art laser technology which allowed them to remove the contaminants without harming the paint. It was a painfully slow process, working millimeter by millimeter, layer by layer, through the years.

“When we started work, you couldn’t see anything – it was totally black. Different wavelengths and chromatic selection enabled us to burn away the black disfiguration without touching the colors beneath,” explained Barbara Mazzei, the project’s lead archaeologist.

Cleaning the frescoes by hand was not an option, as even the slightest human touch would still cause damage.

Ancient yet newly revealed frescoes depict both pagan and early Christian images. They provide important context for historians tracing the religious and intellectual traditions that shaped ancient Rome.

A small museum is scheduled to open this month, with the restored areas of the catacombs anticipated to open to the public before the end of the year.

A great way to visit the Eternal City is via cruise ship – Viking Ocean Cruises offers a fabulous 12-night Mediterranean Odyssey with departures in 2017 and 2018 that would allow a visit to the catacombs.

Talk to your Stellar Travel advisor today to learn more about Viking Cruises.

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