Mid-1800s painting uncovered in Tonawanda chapel

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Swiatek Studios, of Buffalo, is among the most experienced for church restoration and conservation, most recently working to restore St. Mary of the Angels Church in Olean, before it was honored as a basilica.

As a result, their crews often come across some interesting finds.

But if what they found in the town of Tonawanda recently isn’t the most interesting, it could be the oldest.

Michael Mammana works to restore some of the area’s old buildings and churches.

He and the crew were working to restore the St. John Neumann Shrine in Tonawanda when they came across what he described as a real treasure.

When it came to restoring the alter area, they noticed one of the ceiling works had been covered with a canvas painting.

When they peeled back the canvas, trying their best not to tear the original work, they found what they believe is one of the oldest paintings in the Buffalo diocese, dating back to when the structure was built in the mid-1800s. The painting is of St. John the Baptis, and is mostly monochrome, but with great depth and detail.

Needless to say, they were shocked.

“It’s exhilarating, you know,” Mammana said. “There’s an immediate excitement about it. Someone calls out, everyone will run over, and then you discover what’s there and then you begin to assess the value to the church or the building, the state of disrepair that it’s in and whether it’s in a position that it can be conserved and restored.”

Mammana said he believes it is. And it’ll be worth it. He said it will take at least 80 hours to clean the painting as delicately as possible, get the work down to close to its original version and then work to restore it to its full glory.

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