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UK Sistine Chapel” reopens in London after renovation

An elaborate London hall, nicknamed by some as the “Sistine Chapel of the United Kingdom” because of its baroque interior and ceiling, is reopening its doors after a two-year conservation project.

The Painted Room of the former 17th century Royal Naval College in Greenwich is decorated with the work of British artist James Thornhill, which began in 1707 and ended in 1726.

Conservation director Will Palin said the work, which represents English naval skill, monarchs and mythological figures, had been cleaned and paint remains restored during the £8.5 million ($11 million) project.

“It was very stressful when the scaffolding was lowered because there was a time when it would look different from when we started,” he told Reuters Wednesday.

“But that moment with the illuminated ceiling and the colors you could see and the vibration, the richness of the painting revealed, was very moving, I felt quite (…) excited,” he added.

The executive director of Old Royal Naval College, Angela McConville, said the comparison with the Vatican Sistine Chapel, where thousands of people line up to see Michelangelo’s frescoes, was made “because (the hall) is the most significant painted interior in the United Kingdom.

“They are 3,710 square meters of baroque decorative painting (…) an extraordinary achievement (…) of international importance,” McConvill said.

“What Thornhill has created is a cast of characters. He wants to illustrate a number of things that are happening in Britain at the time. It’s an epic statement of the nation’s cultural, naval and maritime achievements,” he added.

The Naval College’s Painted Room designed by Sir Christopher Wren will reopen to the public Saturday.

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