Work on transepts reveals mosaics hidden for centuries: Ascension of Christ with Mary, the apostles and angels, the incredulity of Saint Thomas, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and fragments of the transfiguration scene. Artist’s name appears on a 12th century mosaic.
Bethlehem (AsiaNews/LPJ) – Restoration work at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem continues to offer new surprises.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem website provides an update, pictures included, of what is the first scientific restoration in the history of the basilica.
The Piacenti Restoration Centre has concluded the restoration of the roof, windows, the wooden door in the narthex, and the mosaics of the walls in the nave and the transepts. The most significant discoveries are in the two transepts.
The northern transept shows two Post-Resurrection scenes. The first represents the Ascension of Christ in which the Virgin Mary, the apostles and two angels can be seen. The second represents the Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Jn, 20:19-31).
After centuries of neglect and iconoclasm, the southern transept shows Christ’s triumphal entry into the City of Jerusalem and the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. Unfortunately, in the latter one can only see Saint James kneeling on his knees and the feet of the prophet Moses.
Two inscriptions in the mosaic above the chorus of the Basilica bear the name of the artist in Greek and Latin from 800 years ago.
The Greek inscriptions reads: “This work was brought to completion by the monk Ephram, the painter of history and mosaic master craftsman, during the rule of the great emperor Manuel Porphyrogenitus Comnenus, and in the days of Amaury, king of Jerusalem, and in the time of the bishop of Bethlehem, Raoul, in the year 1169”.
Now the restorers have started on the architraves above the columns of the nave. They will then work on the columns, covered with paintings, but in very critical conditions.