Ancient Statues Torn Down, Smashed and Discarded During French Revolution Rescued by Scientists

'The Melancholic,' one of the Apostle statues kept in Paris's medieval history museum. ctj71081

It hasn't been a great few centuries for The Melancholic, The Philosopher, The Headless One and nine more Paris apostles. From 1248, the 12 holy statues stood guard over the Sainte-Chapelle, one of the French capital's most beautiful churches. Then they fell foul of changing times: Torn down during not one but two revolutions (in 1789 and 1830), they lost their color, and in some cases, body parts and even heads.

While six of the statues were later repainted and restored in 1840, six others were judged to be so far beyond repair that they were transferred to the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages. Now, in a laboratory deep beneath the world-famous Louvre, a team of scientists is working to restore the forlorn figures to their original glory, according to

Alexandra Gérard, director of sculptures at the French museum's restoration and research center under the Louvre, told AFP that researchers were seeking to uncover how the statues were first made and determine the colors in which they were originally painted.

"The statues in the Sainte-Chapelle now are very highly colored like its stained glass," said curator Damien Berne. "However, it seems that in the 13th century they had a very different chromatic range." Berne added that they have been more subtle to ensure they "stood out" from the church's legendary stained-glass windows.

The Melancholic, whose downcast expression gives him a distinct aspect of deep sadness, may not have always been so miserable. Researchers think his head might have been reinstalled incorrrectly after it was knocked off from his shoulders.

The Cluny Museum hopes to have the statues cleaned and installed in its own gallery by 2020.

King Louis IX of France bought the apostles from the Latin Empire, a crusader state responsible for the 1204 sacking of Constantinople, which was strapped for cash at the time. They originated in the Byzantine empire.

Louis constructed the Sainte-Chappelle to house the religious treasures he had obtained, including pieces of the "true cross" and the "holy lance."