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People admire the newly restored 13th-century frescoes of the Gothic Hall at the Santi Quattro Coronati monastery during their official presentation in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006. ((Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press))

A series of medieval frescoes painstakingly restored over nearly a decade was unveiled to the public in Rome Tuesday.

Visitors, including Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, were on hand to take a first glimpse at the 13th-century frescoes in the Santi Quattro Coronati monastery, which sits atop a hill in Rome.

The secluded area was formerly a closed community where the Augustinian nuns had maintained cloistered lives since the 16th century.

While the monastery is not usually open to the public, Rutelli said the area where thefrescoes are located will be opened in the spring so everyone can enjoy them.

A team of six experts carried out the restoration project, which began in 1997 and was financed completely by the Cultural Heritage Ministry.

The gothic hall where the frescoes are located has been referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages."

The frescoes' subjects range from the constellations, the seasons and the signs of the zodiac to images representing human virtues and vices, all portrayed in vibrant tones of red, blue, green and gold.

"The discovery of these incredible frescoes puts the entire history of medieval painting under a different perspective," Rutelli said Tuesday, referring to the lack of medieval art discovered in Rome dating from that period.

"This cycle of frescoes enables us to interpret Italian medieval painting in a whole new light."