Santo Stefano Church, Martellago (VE)

Restoration to preserve the ceiling and altars and install a new lighting system

Martellago (Venice), Italy, 2012 - 2014
End use: Parish Church
Assignment: Complete
Client: Parish of Santo Stefano with the support of the Santo Stefano Bank

In 1770 the prelate Giovanni Antonio Giordani ordered the demolition of the preexisting church and commissioned the architects Pietro Cecchia from Venice and Andrea Zorzi from Treviso to build a new one. The new church was consecrated on 21 September 1777. Between 1778 and 1780, Giovan Battista Canal painted the central nave with frescos that depicted the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen and, at the same time, Domenico Fossati framed this central fresco with luxurious and original decorations.
The surface of this fresco, which covered the greater part of the ceiling, was almost black due to dust and smoke deposits. In some areas the pigmented layer was raised, separated from the rendering of cocciopesto (fragments of earthenware or brick mixed with lime and sand). It also had several shiny reflecting parts, pin screws mechanically inserted in the centring and several small abrasions where the surface has been washed in the past.
Our studio was allocated the restoration project and its lead operations. The intervention extended across the entire surface area of the central nave (approximately 400 m² ) and the presbytery (approx. 100 m²). The treatment began with two cleaning stages, which used soft brushes and then rubber sponges, followed by a washing process with distilled water and ammonium carbonate.

There were also interventions of timely consolidation (through adhesive injections), followed by plastering and reconstruction of the missing fragments.
Pictorial integrations using modern techniques that allowed later reversible interventions were carried out and the attic structure was cleaned and underwent woodworm treatment.

Research on the new lighting system for the fresco painting followed 3 main objectives:
1) to safeguard the fresco while saving on expenses;
2) to accentuate the chromatic definition of the fresco;
3) to place emphasis upon the various periods in the story depicted by the artist.

Led light sources that reduce infrared radiation were chosen in order to attain these objectives. The lights eliminate ultraviolet radiation while cutting electricity and maintenance costs.Various tests were carried out to establish that colour temperature at 3,200 K is the best solution for the fresco’s chromatism. Restorers worked with illuminators of the same kind to ensure that their intervention would conform to the type of light used once the project was terminated.

Diffused light illuminators that “muted” the view have been replaced by spotlights (25° and 48° rays - concentrated light). The nave has been illuminated with the same type of light sources as those chosen for the fresco.


See the documentary on the restoration works

Santo Stefano Church, Martellago (VE) - interior | Studio C and CSanto Stefano Church, Martellago (VE)  - restoration | Studio C and CSanto Stefano Church, Martellago (VE)  - restoration | Studio C and CSanto Stefano Church, Martellago (VE)  - fresco, detail | Studio C and C