The fourth mosaic of the transept that remains to be seen has as a subject the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is perhaps the best preserved of the four, and is particularly attractive for the joyous scene, with Jesus riding the donkey, in the background the city that awaits him, the notables who come to the meeting on the door, children on top cut branches of trees and at the bottom they hung up clothes to signify the festive welcome to the mild king approaching. Jesus at the centre with his majestic face, his lively eyes strengthened by mother of pearl tiles inside the halo, the blessing hand symbolizing the Trinity, and the two feet do not astride the back of the donkey, but they are both on the side as a sign of dignity. Peter is next to him, on the floor, who should lead the donkey, but he seems entranced by what is happening instead. This is the mosaic that we see after the restoration treatment of the PIACENTI Company. Only a few weeks ago it was very different, and the aisle people could only see this dark spot where only some experts could decipher. After the consolidation comes a light cleaning, and the mosaic comes back to life in less than an hour, as if by magic, and while removing the absorbent paper towel, all the details slowly come back to life.
Starting from the top we see the palm, with the little boy on top ripping branches and throwing them down to the other children. There is a whole series of branches that flutter down. On the right side the city appears, with its towers and its cupolas surrounded by walls. Inside the door the representatives of the city come out as a sign of hospitality towards Jesus.
The trunk of the palm continues downwards, with another child in the middle, and beside him two full-bodied bunches of dates. Next to the palm there is Peter. We can distinguish between the two because the first has no halo and the second does. Peter can also be recognized because he looks similar in other mosaics around here.
Jesus is sitting, in a majestic and humble way with his deep eyes, on the donkey, which stands at the centre. On the worktable, restorers have nailed the image of the entrance in Jerusalem which is located in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo. There are many things in common. First, the general provision, from which we learn that the apostles were on the left, and here they are not because the mosaic has not been preserved. But the arrangement of the rest is very similar. The comparison helps us to highlight some attractive details.
Starting again from the top, we see that the palm looks more like an olive tree in its leaves, while the fruit and trunk it looks like a palm in both. This means that date palms were also known here, in the Holy Land while usually they are not very common.
On the right side, there is in our mosaic the cross towering unexpectedly over the city, and this suggests us that the city is not the Jerusalem of Jesus but that of the Crusaders, also for the presence of open-cone dome in which we recognize the Basilica of the Resurrection. People welcoming Jesus are the notables: we can see it from the very expensive clothes. There is a lady who holds her son on her shoulders. We can also spot that they are notables from their footwear, which are not simple sandals like the ones worn by Jesus, but they are expensive boots. These same boots are worn by children who spread their clothes in the presence of Jesus. While those of the Palatine chapel by removing their clothes remain naked, these instead keep some gold clothing items. The children climbing trees are not of the same social status: they are barefoot and dressed very modestly.
Another pleasant difference in Jesus is the position of his hands: the right hand is blessing in both the mosaics, while in our mosaic, the other hand does not hold the roll, but it is gently resting on the donkey’s rump, as if to pet him. Our donkey has much more vivid colours, in the design of the anatomy, in the head raised that seems to forget the grass while it prefers to join the celebration.
Together with the palm and its branches, nature and landscape are also present on the left with a green shrub, further down with the mountains that are under the feet of the donkey. Also at the bottom, children seem to run on green bushes, and the scene is surrounded by decorative phytomorphic spirals, a scene which is remotely inspired by a series of branches and geometric shapes. The bright red and bright green gold tiles are enriched with precious rounded mother-of-pearls.