Clean and Green: The Vatican, Essential Oils, and Painting with Milk

Clean and Green: The Vatican, Essential Oils, and Painting with Milk

VATICAN CITY – The world is full of technological advances, with new gadgets appearing on a daily basis. And while the Vatican gets behind proper use of modern technology (do you follow Pope Francis on Twitter?), some things are still old fashioned. For instance, for the past 500 years, the Vatican has used milk to paint the exterior walls of the Belvedere Palace.

Since 1484, staff at the Vatican have mixed milk with slaked lime to paint the walls of the palace. It’s a painting technique that has proven to age better than even the most modern paint selections out there.

The milk used to paint the walls is produced by cows who live at the papal summer house.

The walls aren’t the only thing in the Vatican that’s cleaned with good stewardship in mind. “Nearly 600 marble statues in and around the Vatican gardens are cleaned with a mixture of essential oils including lavender, oregano, and thyme, among others,” Nick Mafi writes at Architectural Digest.”Similar to the milk used on the walls, the oils are sourced from organic crops in Sicily.”

Outside the walls of the Vatican, the Vatican Museums and the Vatican City governor’s office are on the first year of a five year project to develop eco-friendly cleaning agents to clean and restore over 570 works of art that are displayed in the Vatican Gardens.

Art experts and biologists are involved in the project, and they’re studying how plants react to cleaning agents. They’re also studying how to use the essential oils extracted from the plants in various medicines. All of the process is being documented so that the Vatican can offer their findings to other cities to help preserve outdoor art.

During his papacy, Pope Francis often talks about the importance of being good stewards of the gifts God has given us. In Laudato Si’, he wrote, “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.”

Want to read more about what Pope Francis has to say about stewardship and the environment? Read about 26 Times Pope Francis Tells It Like It Is in Laudato Si’.