The restoration of the Nativity mosaic is about to terminate the transept. After being consolidated, the magical moment of cleaning comes about. We can see the extreme difference between the first mosaic, apparition of Christ to Thomas, which has already been cleaned, and the second which is being cleaned today. The scene is the ascension of Jesus to Heaven. The damage occurred throughout the centuries due to dust and smoke, mostly faded the original colour under an opaque coat, so that the ensemble today has no colour and can hardly be read.
The technique used by the restorers of the company Piacenti is the same. They start by spraying some solvent, add a layer of tissue paper, on top of which some abundant conditioning gel is applied. Layer after layer, the compress covers the whole mosaic.
Usual waiting time is 45 minutes, so that the solvent can properly react. Then the compress is taken away, water is sprayed, the nit is brushed and dried with a sponge, so that the wall where the mosaic is remains dry.
Here comes the wonderful Gospel scene: Mary at the centre, looking far away, with her hands slightly lifted. Two angels at her side, the angels who in the Gospel tell the Apostles: «Men of Galilee, why are you looking at the sky? Jesus, who went to Heaven, will be back in the same way in which he went up above ». The angels look at the Apostles, with the eyes of those who want to be heard. The Apostles in fact, five on the right hand side and six at the left, are still scrutinizing the sky with their arms lifted. Only someone, after hearing the angels, is lowering his eyes, which are in shock for what he has seen. Among the Apostles we can recognize Thomas, because he has the same dress of the previous scene. On the right there is Peter, holding a reel in his hand. The last one on the right hand side, with long hair, should be John.
Amazing finishing touches, including the feet. All the feet perfectly portrayed, with the ankles and top inside the footwear, partake the same movement of the eyes towards the same point. The angels’ feet are slightly different, a bit more lifted, but concrete and ‘incarnated’, as the Incarnation mystery suggests. The Virgin Mary’s feet are an exception, as they are not bare, but inside red shoes, declaring her royal status.
From the bottom let’s go to the top, to Jesus ascending. The mosaic is unfortunately incomplete. Jesus should have dominated the centre. Now only two sides of the cloak remain, and at the centre a medal with mother-of-pearl. We cannot see Jesus, or maybe we can see him in the eyes of the Apostles and in the sweet look Mary has.
This is the ensemble of the left transept, as it is nowadays, still covered by all the scaffolding, while it is waiting for the final touch and the reconstruction of the missing parts which will not be a mosaic, but simply filled with mortar with the same colours of the mosaic, so that the general impression will be given without any addition which would imply an alteration.