Finally, two years and one hefty £8.5 million conservation project later, the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall in Greenwich – sometimes called ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’ – has reopened to the public.
The Hall, tucked away inside a building designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is covered from floor to ceiling in exquisite works painted between 1707 and 1726 by Sir James Thornhill. They’re considered to be some of the greatest Baroque decor ever created in England.
In October 2016, the Hall was closed for the biggest ever makeover in its history after the beautiful 300-year-old murals began to suffer from smoke and dirt damage, and heat and humidity began to fracture the varnish layers.
Now every inch of the 40,000-sq ft decorated surface has been cleaned and conserved to unearth the full vibrancy of Thornhill’s work.
As well as a new lease of life for the Painted Hall, the redevelopment has also transformed the King William Undercroft below, which is now home to a new shop and café. There’s also a brand new gallery space where you can see how Thornhill created the Painted Hall and meet the many characters shown on the ceiling.
You’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of the foundations of Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s former royal home, uncovered during the renovation.
If you want to be one of the first to ogle at all the fancy restored art, head down to the grand opening this weekend. See members of the Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe Sea Cadets perform at 9.30am in the grounds on Saturday (March 23) before the official cutting of the ribbon. Listen to piano and orchestral recitals, browse craft stalls and visit a Sipsmiths Gin pop-up on the Peyps Lawn over the weekend. Who needs the Vatican City, eh?
Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, SE10 9NN. Cutty Sark DLR. Grand opening: Sat Mar 23-Sun Mar 24. Entry to Painted Hall £12. Free to visit the Undercroft, visitor centre, chapel and grounds.
Images: © James Brittain
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