Italian Museum Cleans Michelangelo Statues With Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Italian Museum Cleans Michelangelo Statues With Flesh-Eating Bacteria

( – Over 500 years ago, Michelangelo constructed a “statue-lined mausoleum” in Italy for the Medici family. And through that time, the marble accumulated various stubborn stains. But no one would have imagined that it would take the work of a team of biologists armed with flesh-eating bacteria to restore the tomb to its original beauty.

Seemingly unremovable damage to two statues in the tomb consisted of a combination of glue, plaster, and decayed human remains. The Duke of Florence Alessandro de’ Medici’s corpse leaked bodily fluids onto the statues after his untimely demise.

According to historian Catherine Fletcher, Medici’s lifeless body was “unceremoniously dumped” and left to melt over the sculpted marble following his assassination in 1537. After trying to clean the figures for years, the National Research Council in Italy hired a group of scientists in November 2019 to save the Medici family’s resting place.

They decided to combat the markings by enlisting help from an “opportunistic human pathogen” — the Serratia ficaria or SH7 bacteria. And this isn’t the first time scientists relied on bacteria to do their dirty work. This technique returned the marble relief called The Flight of Attila, featuring likenesses of Pope Leo and Attila in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to its original state as well, proving that even the smallest among us can solve big problems.

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