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Gates of Paradise restored to former glory

travel Updated: Jun 12, 2012 14:11 IST
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The Renaissance bronze and gold doors of the Florence Baptistry -- a masterpiece known as the "Gates of Paradise" -- will be unveiled in September after a 27-year restoration, officials said on Thursday.

Culture Minister Lorenzo Ornaghi made the long-awaited announcement, saying the priceless doors now restored to their former glory will be displayed in the Florence Cathedral museum and not hang in their former place in the baptistry.

"Hidden away in 1943 during World War II and damaged by the flood of 1966, the doors were replaced by a copy in 1990," the museum said in a statement.

The doors are 5.2 metres (16.7 feet) by 3.1 metres and are 11 centimetres thick and were built between 1426 and 1456 by the artist Lorenzo Ghiberti.

The story goes that when the work was unveiled, Michelangelo was so struck by the beauty of the doors that he named them the "Gates of Paradise".

The doors are divided up into 10 panels, each with a story from the Old Testament. Each panel is itself surrounded by a border with 48 tiny images including a self-portrait of the artist and representations of the prophets.

Administrators said that the doors will be kept in a transparent display case to keep the humidity low so as to avoid the formation of various salts that could damage the thin covering of gold on the different panels.