The Transfiguration of Jesus

On the right transept, there are two more mosaics: the first portrays a reduced aspect of the transfiguration, on the right an almost complete drawing of the entrance in Jerusalem.
Let’s stop at the transfiguration: by comparing it with other mosaic of the same time with similar characteristics, we are certain that the Apostle sitting down is James. We can only see him, but by his position, by the ray of light enlightening him, we can imagine all the rest. Frame and colour are amazing. The Apostle is sitting down, not as if he was resting: on the other hand, he looks almost amazed, carried away by the vision he is having. His eyes blinded by the wonder coming from Jesus’ face who, as the Gospel tells us, was shining like the sun. Attracted and pushed away at the same time, with one hand and bare leg he touches the earth, as if he did not want to lose touch with reality; the other hand is lifted, with the fingers suggesting the faith in the Trinity and Incarnation, as if it was not enough for him to see but also wanted to touch the vision in front of him.
Details are amazing as usual, like the ray of light coming from Christ, made with silver pieces. Above the apostle are the two feet of Elijah, next to Christ ‘s feet as he rests on a mountain. On the sides of shrubs, green on the left, red on the right, they do rethink the real Tabor, but they are transfigured, partakers also of vision, with flowers made from large mother of pearl tiles. The leg and the feet are perfect and the footwear is of a lightness which is almost imperceptible. Completing the fragment there are a close and valuable red outline on the right, and on the other hand at the bottom there is a side much more often with a predominance of green.

But this is what we see today after the cleaning, in the morning the vision was much less attractive, covered with the opaque layer deposited over the centuries. The restorers as they were preparing, watching their mosaic already consolidated, waiting for the magic hit. And meanwhile they took away the mapping of fixed adhesive tiles, peeling some residue of plaster remained here and there. They seemed to caress the mosaic that has already cost them weeks and weeks of patient work, and now waiting for the final touch. Ready solvents, the absorbent roll, the gel and the operation start. Everything as planned: sprayed with the solvent, paper, coating with gel, wait time, and the miracle is accomplished: by removing the paper the new creature appears already, it is sprayed with water, brushed vigorously and sees off the dirt in the interstices, dries briskly with the towel. The restorers show smug dirt soaked and the mosaic, shot after shot, shines again. For those who love the basilica and its mosaics, for those who have studied them previously, they will have moments of a unique intensity. Please do not be scared by the gaps that offend James’ face: they will be filled with engraved and colored plaster with pigments that will make it a whole with the rest of the mosaic.