NO REPORTER NARRATION.
Rome's "Holy Stairs," which some Catholics believe were climbed by Jesus in Jerusalem, have been uncovered from a protective wooden casing for the first time in nearly three centuries and restored.
The 28 marble steps will remain bare temporarily for devout pilgrims to climb on their knees with direct contact with the stone until they are covered again in June.
According to tradition, the stairs, known as the "Scala Sancta," were part of Pontius Pilate's palace in Jerusalem and brought to Rome in 326 by St.
Helen, the mother of Roman emperor Constantine, after she converted to Christianity.
But some scientists believe the stairs are only part of a legend or a symbolic replica of the stairs of Pilate's palace.
Pilate was the Roman governor of the province of Judea who, according to the Bible, succumbed to demands by Jerusalem's Jewish leaders that Jesus be crucified.
Pope Innocent XIII ordered the stairs encased in wood in 1723 to protect them from damage from pilgrims. Under the wood, restorers found coins, photos, rosaries and small hand-written notes with prayers left over the years.
Frescoes from the 16th century on the ceiling and walls surrounding the staircase were also restored.
Tradition has it that an indulgence, or a reduction in the punishment undergone for sins, could be granted if a pilgrim ascended the staircase on their knees.
The restoration project took six years to complete and cost over 2 million euro (dollars).