His toes curl in pain, his veins bulge from exertion, his bony chest heaves in the last throes of death. The newly restored 14th-century wooden crucified Christ “has been resurrected” from obscurity — once caked over with dark paint and left forgotten behind an elevator shaft, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica. “We have discovered a hidden treasure under the dust of many centuries,” he told reporters at a Vatican news conference Oct. 28. The oldest crucifix in the basilica’s possession, it was made by an unknown sculptor of “exceptional artistic talent” and technical skill sometime in the early 1300s, and hung in the original fourth-century basilica of St. Peter, built by the Emperor Constantine, said Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, secretary of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for physical care and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica. The 7-foot-long torso and legs were made in one piece from a solid trunk of seasoned walnut, he said. The arms — spanning nearly 6 and a half feet — and head were carved separately but came from the same already centuries’ old tree.
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Photo: Paul Haring/CNS