The intonaco surfaces of the cloister  

Conservation treatment

The primary objective of treating the intonaco surfaces is to guarantee their conservation fully respecting the somewhat indistinct traces of their historical past. Muñoz’s intonaco surfaces, in actual fact, though devoid of decorations, are not totally neutral surfaces, but are full of historical and figurative elements that demand respect and rational intervention. Not only are they endowed with that patina of time that represents an irreplaceable sign of their authenticity, but they themselves contain testimonies of the history of the cloister. For example, it is possible to see where the arches were filled in or identify numerous traces that reveal a history of second thoughts and alterations concerning the museological arrangement of the archaeological fragments, a job that was most probably done by Muñoz himself who re-organized the collection little by little as he went along. Besides this, Muñoz also integrated the new intonaco surfaces with structural episodes of the past, also these representing irreplaceable evidence of the transformations undergone by the cloister.

Bearing this in mind, with the exception of the south perimeter wall, whose case calls for diverse treatment, the conservation options for all the surfaces have been examined and the consensus has been to maintain Muñoz’s paint layer.

This choice has been integrated with the other equally important one of respecting the authenticity, and to avoid as far as possible the removal and remounting of the archaeological fragments that will be restored in situ.

Therefore the cleaning and consolidation of the surfaces will be carried out, removing only certain incoherent cement fillings of recent origin. Particular attention however must be paid to the consolidation of the gypsum-based mortar used to attach many of the fragments, for which suitable resins will have to be used.

The second objective of this operation is to restore figurative unity to the overall image of the cloister, presently threatened by decay.

The treatment must not however be seen as a non-critical renovation of the image obtained by Muñoz, but should rather correspond to a combination of that left by Muñoz himself, of natural ageing and of the present operation that will involve selecting and respecting the so-called "patina of time", protecting it from phenomena of deterioration.

The latter have in the first place produced lacunae that go from the loss of the paint layer to that of the intonaco support; or patches with distinct forms that represent elements of conflict with the surface into which they have been inserted (for example, the re-plastering of the conduit troughs for the electrical system).

In the first case, re-integration of the lacunae in the mortar and the paint layer will be carried out. The latter will be done with a first layer of lime-wash colors plus fixative with a successive coat in watercolors. Any re-integration must adapt itself to the context, given the very variable characteristics of the latter from one point to the next, but must also be distinguishable on closer examination. The patches deemed inappropriate will be covered using the same system.

The final result must ensure that the image assumes the chromatic tones typical of historic surfaces in its entirety. This result, apart from being aesthetically positive, enjoys the advantage that differences in color, which will inevitably occur on the surfaces in the future, will easily be re-absorbed within the overall image. For this reason, the support will be made with a mortar similar in color to the paint layer, so that if it should be exposed in the event of losses in the paint layer itself, also caused by anthropical damage that is inevitable in a area open to the public, it will not introduce new ‘elements of conflict’ into the context.

The intonaco of the south perimeter side requires more drastic treatment not only due to its precarious state of conservation, but above all to the high quantity of salts present in the masonry. In this case it has been deemed necessary to remove the affected parts of intonaco and consequently the archaeological fragments that are mounted on them. The masonry will then have to be treated and the intonaco and paint layer re-applied with the same procedures adopted for the lacunae; the archaeological pieces will then be remounted in their original positions.

Particular attention will have to be given to the conservation of the traces of the more ancient collocations of fragments that will be consolidated and treated on the surface with ethyl silicate.

In order to plan the treatment program, cleaning, consolidation and re-integration tests have been carried out, to try to establish the correct chromatic equilibrium, also in relation to the cleaning of the fragments.


The treatments foreseen are as follows:

  1. Removal of the archaeological fragments in cases where the supports can no longer guarantee their function; at the present moment there are 17 pieces in this state attached to the south wall and 1 on the west wall.

  2. Consolidation of detachments in depth of traces of previous collocations of fragments, with injections of pre-mixed hydraulic mortar (P.L.M.-A or P.L.M.-AL).

  3. Cleaning and consolidation with ethyl silicate of traces of previous collocations of fragments.
  4. Removal of the parts of affected intonaco that have lost every trace of their original form and have no independent historical significance.
  5. Removal of the cement fillings of recent origin.
  6. Removal a secco of dust and incoherent deposits, to be carried out with soft brushes and poultices of demineralized water.
  7. Intonaco rendering of the lacunae including those resulting from the removal of affected parts, to be carried out with lime and pozzolana based mortar with inert aggregates, able to create a similar color to that of the paint layer.
  8. Sealing of cracks with a suitable lime and pozzolana based mortar, both as support to the injections to consolidate the intonaco and vault structures, and to avoid water infiltration (cf. consolidation project).
  9. Consolidation of detachments in depth with injections of pre-mixed hydraulic mortar (P.L.M.-A or P.L.M.-AL).
  10. Pictorial re-integration with lime-wash colors plus fixative where lacunae are present in the paint layer, evaluating each specific case according to its surrounding characteristics.
  11. Watercolor coating with stable pigments to be applied to both the new and old paint layer, where the latter contains elements that sharply conflict with the historical and aesthetic figurative unity. The extent of the above-mentioned operation can only be evaluated once the above listed operations have been completed.
  12. Application of a fixative to re-integrations of the paint layer of the external intonaco surfaces.

For the floral decoration in the north-east corner, today covered by the restoration color tone, the removal of a lateral portion of the latter is proposed in order to verify the state of conservation of the underlying pigments and gain further information for their eventual treatment.











© 1999 Coordination Monica Morbidelli
© 1999 Altair 4 Multimedia
© 1999 All the material on this site is under the copyright of the Augustinian Community of
the Monastery of Ss. Quattro Coronati





Fig. 5 - West wall: before cleaning test (detail).


Fig. 6 - West wall: after cleaning test (detail).

Fig. 7 - West wall: after re-integration test (detail).