Three workers, May to July, worked to restore triptych

Three workers, May to July, worked to restore triptych

When the triptych painting of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ behind the altar of St. Patrick Church in Woodbury needed restoration after decades of wear, parish staff at Holy Angels Parish knew they needed a true Renaissance master to return it to its former glory.

Or, at least, someone whose heroes are Michaelangelo, Pontormo and Tiepolo.

Someone like Geoffrey Kostecki, the Massachusetts-based owner and master painter of Master Liturgical Design.

Last spring, Holy Angels Parish began searching for someone who could clean and repair the dirt and cracks the three-paneled masterpiece had accumulated over the past six decades. It is unknown when and by whom the triptych was put into place in St. Patrick Church, but Msgr. Joseph DiMauro, pastor, noted that artist John Squillace restored the original back in the 1950s.

The mural, depicting in three sections the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, is “very appropriate,” Msgr. DiMauro said. “It’s basic to our core belief.”

He knew he needed an expert to bring the colors and images back to their original splendor.

Enter Kostecki, who has worked as a restorationist for over 15 years. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Boston, and he studied art restoration at the University Lorenzo d’Medici in Florence, Italy.

In his work, his goal is to “bring back the lost knowledge of the great painters,” like Michaelangeo, Pontormo and Tiepolo.

From late May to early July, for 9-10 hours a day, Kostecki and his two assistants removed the accumulated dirt on the mural and repaired its cracks. Each color’s original hue was brought out, as well, and Kostecki used his brush to create more realistic, “vibrant and rounded” depictions of such figures as Jesus, the shepherd boy, and Mary and Joseph.

The three were working through a violent rainstorm on June 24 when the power went out. “Imagine climbing down a 40-foot ladder when it’s pitch black,” he joked.

During the triptych’s restoration, daily Masses were held at Holy Angels parish center on Green Avenue.

“This (painting) is very special to parishioners,” Msgr. DiMauro noted.

Especially, it seems, to Mary Tracy, a St. Patrick parishioner who paid for the entire restoration project.

Tracy, 91 years old, has been a parishioner since 1966.

Calling the Woodbury church “home,” Tracy said that “St. Patrick’s Church has always reminded me of the church I grew up in (as a child) in the coal regions of Centralia, Pennsylvania.”

Tracy, who uses a wheelchair, has yet to see the restored mural. But she remembers sitting in the front pew for every Sunday Mass and “always imagining that I was in each one of (the paintings). They were deteriorating, and my goal was to see them restored.”

“I’m going to see (the restored mural),” she said.

Kostecki believes that when Tracy and other worshippers gaze and reflect on the mural, they will see not his work, but God’s.

“I want to bring back the beauty, inspiration and influence that these paintings can have on the faithful,” he said.

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