BETHLEHEM (ChurchMilitant.com) – An Italian team is completing a restoration of mosaics from the Crusade-era in the Church of the Nativity located in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus Christ’s birth.
The work of restoring the mosaics involved cleaning off centuries of dirt and somewhat repositioning the mosaics. The church the mosaics reside in is traditionally considered to be located on the spot where Christ was born. Additionally, around 1.55 Million mosaic pieces were restored.
Despite the work that the team did to preserve as much as they could, only 1,400 square feet of mosaics actually remained out of the original 21,528 that originally adorned the walls of the church.
The mosaics are made of stone, mother of pearl and glass and gold leaf, and portray many different scenes in the life of Jesus and the Catholic Church, including the story of Doubting Thomas, the Assumption and Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Giammarco Piacenti, the CEO of the company that took on the restoration project in Jerusalem, said that this project is more than just a simple restoration.
“I think all the churches want to save this church because here Jesus was born, It is important for all Christianity. For my professional life, this occasion is incredible.”
Piacenti said the mosaic of the Doubting Thomas dates back to 1155 and on the piece are the names Ephraim and Basilius, whom restorers presume are the artists who created the mosaics.
At one point during the 3-year-restoration, the restorers cleared away a large amount of plaster from the wall which borders the roof in the main section of the church and discovered a seventh mosaic of a golden angel. This was in addition to the six they already knew existed. The angels’ arms were pointing to the grotto where it is traditionally believed that Jesus was born.
During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, the faces of the angels were disfigured with gunshots to the nose and the missing pieces have been replaced.
“They were shot in the nose to destroy, to kill them,” Piacenti explains. Islam is known for strongly prohibiting graven human images.
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