In order to maximize floor space below, they built the support towers farther apart than usual. The first scaffold floor blocked all views of the ceiling. They'd eventually add two more tiers as they worked at ever greater heights.

From there, the project had two goals: to carry out repairs and to make sure as much of the cathedral could remain in operation as possible, as often as possible. Acting under Valenzano's guidance, Fandango Productions, an event planning firm, was hired to hang white fabric that shrouded the scaffolding.

For seven months, the basilica's main floor became a hard-hat zone during the week. Cleanup teams spent Friday afternoons tidying up the place, and the basilica would celebrate Masses and host other events on weekends, including 10 weddings.

Janesh said that while it seemed odd not to be able to look up and see the ceiling, he and his wife, Jackie, still enjoyed attending Mass each week.

The cathedral's team kept things going on weekdays, if in scaled-down fashion. They showed visitors a 14-minute informational video in lieu of giving full tours and celebrated Mass in the undercroft, below the sanctuary.

Overhead, meanwhile, the Lewis team — familiar with the building's quirks from the prior restoration — was doing its creative best.

Where the cracks penetrated brick, engineers drilled holes through the masonry and laterally across each crack. They then ran a stainless-steel rod into each of the holes, filling any gaps with grout.

They found about 800 linear feet of lesser cracks "everywhere," Childs said — in the ceiling of the main dome and the two smaller domes, in the upper portions of walls, in arches and in all six barrel vaults. In most of these, they drilled ports and filled those with grout.

None of the cathedral's ceiling paintings were damaged.

A distinctive element of Latrobe's design were his "coffered florets" — a network of hundreds of recessed circles he set in the curved ceilings, filling each with a three-dimensional flower.

Remarkably, the quake cracked only three of those. Hayle & Howe, an ornamental plasterwork firm, removed and restored them.

Workers then painted the ceilings and everything else in the church except the pews, and repaired surface cracks in some stucco exterior. Crews finished dismantling scaffolds this week and made a final cleanup Thursday morning.

The archdiocese "made it clear from the beginning that Easter was the goal," Childs said. "It's a great feeling to make it."

Worshipers who came to Mass on Holy Thursday were happy to see the cathedral all cleaned up.

"It looks wonderful," said Sister Mary Judith Ring of Baltimore, a cathedral docent, as she stood before an entrance decorated with yellow ribbon. "For a while there, it was a mess. Now it looks as though it had never been damaged."

The Most Rev. William E. Lori, archbishop of Baltimore, sees a meaning beyond the structural restoration. Several workers involved in the project have told him it has strengthened their faith, and he called the basilica a holy place whose repair "is in its way a sign of the Resurrection. The symbolism is quite striking."

Lori will preside at both Easter Masses, at 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., with Valenzano serving as concelebrant. More than 750 of the attendees are expected to follow a long-standing tradition today, formally embracing the Catholic faith.

At the end of Mass, Lori will proclaim Valenzano a protonotary apostolic, a designation he called "a title of special closeness with the Holy Father and the apex of being a monsignor."

For his part, the 64-year-old monsignor said the restoration has blessed him with a sense of renewal that he hopes to spread far and wide.

"You know how people say you don't appreciate what you have until you've nearly lost it? It's true," he said. "I'm blessed to work at [the basilica], and I'm excited for the repairs. I'll never take it for granted again."

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