For the next few months, the best place in America to see rare Italian frescoes isn't New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. It's Lubbock, Texas. And part of the thanks belongs to ophthalmologist Donald May, who took a year off from his practice to help organize the logistics of bringing "Traditions and Renewal: Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums" to the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
The frescoes were painted between 1120 and 1130 at St. Nicola and St. Agnese in Carcere, Italy. The artwork was walled over in the 15th or 16th centuries and removed from its original locations around 1850.
Malcolm Neyland, a Roman Catholic priest in Texas, has spent 12 years working with the Vatican to bring the pieces to America for their first public showing in centuries. Lubbock is the only stop for the frescoes before they are returned to the Vatican museums.
For frescoes, artists apply paint to wet plaster. As the plaster dries, the pigments of the paint become part of the hardened plaster.
"The whole city is excited," said May, a member of St. John Lutheran Church, Princeton, Ill. "These are pieces of history. They are inspirational and breathtaking.
"We expect thousands of people to visit the exhibit every day. I'm just glad to be a small part of this historic event."
The 31 frescoes, which include a depiction of St. Catherine of Prophets, will be on display through Sept. 15 in Lubbock. Admission to the exhibit is free, but tickets are required. Call (866) 803-6873 for more information, or visit www.vaticanexhibit.org.
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