Basilica of The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Constructed in 1787, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (also known as Conewago Chapel) is the oldest Catholic Church built of stone in the United States.
Historically the interior of the Basilica was enveloped in rich trompe l’oeil ornament and fine figurative artwork including several by famed muralist Franz Stecher. The basilica underwent many renovations and multiple post-historic painting campaigns which covered historic artwork on the walls and ceilings. Trompe l’oeil of lesser quality was introduced on the ceiling in place of the historic; the sanctuary transepts and nave walls were once highly decorated with trompe l’oeil festoons, marbles, and ornament but later concealed with beige paint; mural backgrounds were also painted out, resulting in a discordant relationship between artwork and architecture.
The first step in re-establishing the relationship between the art and architecture, and more importantly the relationship of both to the liturgy, was conserving extant historic murals. The first phase for conservation treatment includes three altar paintings. EverGreene conservators documented conditions, and performed extensive conservation testing to determine the most appropriate intervention methodology. Surface cleaning, varnish removal, consolidation of delaminating paint, canvas repairs, and in-painting were performed in coordination with repairs to the altars, re-gilding of frames, and marbleizing. These conserved and restored murals and altars are legible, fitting, and poised to last for generations to come.