Vatican unveils restored papal chapel featuring Michelangelo murals


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Work on the Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace was not so much a restoration as a restitution of the pope's prayer space, said the director of the Vatican Museums.

Containing the last two murals Michelangelo ever painted, the private papal chapel had been under scaffolding for more than five years; it was presented to reporters June 30.

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to inaugurate the chapel July 4 with an evening prayer service in the presence of four dozen members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

The patrons -- laypeople from the United States, England and Ireland -- fully covered the almost $4.6 million it took to clean and restore the chapel's artwork, refurnish it and install a sophisticated new LED lighting system.

The chapel -- named after Pope Paul III, who commissioned its construction in 1537 -- has side walls that feature Michelangelo's paintings of the crucifixion of St. Peter and the conversion of St. Paul.

Traditionally the private chapel has been reserved for the pope's celebration of early morning Mass with special guests and for the adoration of the Eucharist during the day by people who work in the Apostolic Palace.