Making the Inaccessible Accessible and ‘Re-Building’ Cluniac Heritage

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Hi there! My name is Zoilo Perrino and I’m a Building Engineer. In these studies I had my first contacts with laser scanning and photogrammetry, starting mostly from my topography classes. I was immediately attracted to these tools, since, as I am passionate about heritage, they allowed me to combine both disciplines: arts and technology. Since 2015, I gradually improved my knowledge thanks to taking a class with Pablo Serrano Basterra and Pablo Aparicio, a going more in depth with a postgraduate course from the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit / CSIC), and not forgetting the enormous resources of knowledge provided by the online 3D community.

I am a member of the Cluny Iberica Association, part of the Fédération Européenne des Sites Clunisiens, with which I collaborate, generating a 3D digital archive of places and romanesque elements associated with the cluniac order. Among other projects and initiatives, the Fédération develops the online platform Clunypedia, a place where you can consult all the cluniac sites and their heritage, some of them digitized, such as the exceptional set of capitals of the Moissac cloister.


For this purpose, I have digitized romanesque elements mainly in Spain, but also in France, Switzerland and Italy, reaching a virtual collection of more than 100 3D models, putting them in context and making them available to everyone.

Cluny Ibérica by Zoilo on Sketchfab

I have as a special objective those elements that are nowadays outside their place of origin or inaccessible by any circumstance, trying to provide them with the maximum accessibility possible. For security and conservation reasons, it is not possible to access this fantastic medieval tower, but here we have at least its partial virtual tour:

I also prioritize those sites and objects at risk of deterioration, such as the capitals of this ancient monastery of San Salvador de Nogal de las Huertas, recently restored thanks to the activities that the Association undertook and the support of the local administration:

San Salvador de Nogal de las Huertas by Zoilo on Sketchfab


Additionally, I work with some archaeological sites, like Dessobriga, Intercatia and Poza de la Sal, among others, doing some works of virtual reconstruction and anastylosis:

And I like experimenting with visualizations to help understand the context and modern reality of a site:

I also love to do scans just for fun or personal challenge, as it helps to improve and expand my techniques and workflows. Don’t hesitate to experiment with whatever, wherever, whenever you can.


I usually work with DSLRs, Nikon and Sony equipment. Most of the objects, due to their situation or circumstances at the time, have to be scanned with ambient light and, when I can, I use a basic set of photography lights, occasionally with a polarizing sheets and filter when it’s necessary to avoid reflections on shiny objects.

Scanning at the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid.

Scanning a shiny object.

I process the sets with Agisoft and/or RealityCapture, depending on the subject and the final goal. After a little decimation (a progressive simplification in RC), if necessary, and cleaning, usually in Blender, then I re-import the model to Agisoft/RealityCapture and texturize it. If heavy optimization is necessary, I use ZBrush, sometimes Instant Meshes or just Blender, and bake the textures with xNormal.

3D print, AR & Looking ahead

Since last year, I put my focus on the next logical step for me: 3D printing.

I learned it as taught by Néstor F. Marqués and Pablo Aparicio, among other online sources. Like I said before, I have a special interest in giving greater visibility to elements or places that are difficult to access or in need of conservation. After creating the virtual version, 3D printing allows the physical replication of those elements.

For example, one of my first virtualization works was a romanesque capital, recently discovered and with only one of its faces accessible. For this scan, I had to use a combination of different sets of photographs from a DSLR camera, a compact camera, and a GoPro due to the lack of space between the piece and the walls (less than 20 cm in some places).

Today you can see the virtual version, available to everyone, and a 1:1 scale replica next to the original that allows you to contemplate the entire sculpture after almost 400 years hidden.

In the same building, another hidden piece was recently re-discovered, unique in the world: the top of a romanesque tomb from the latter part of the eleventh century. Again, physically reproduced from the photogrammetric 3D model.

Combined with VR and AR technologies, I think that all of these technological possibilities are a ‘big jump’ for the heritage world that we are living right now. We can use models at museums or schools as teaching aids, but also in other fields, like videogames or cinema. Today we have to depend on items that allow us to physically see what is not there, but it seems like relatively soon we won’t need any device in our hands or on our head to do that.

Zoilo’s Website


About the author

Zoilo Perrino

Building engineer and passionate about art and history

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