May 2012

Gethsemane Basilica: the restoration works begin

Restoration works on the Gethsemane Basilica in Jerusalem have now begun. While the workers of the Custody’s Technical Office are putting up the scaffolding, wending their way through the tourists who since the early morning hours have been crowding into the church, Raed – one of the experts coordinating the restoration of the mosaics – is organizing the works.

Beneath the mosaic vaults of what has come to be known as the Church of all Nations, he explains how the restoration works will be carried out: “Mobile scaffolding will be used, and this will enable us to work on one part of the vault at a time. The initial activity will be documentation, to determine the parts of the mosaics that are most heavily damaged and to select the appropriate materials for the restoration, then will come the cleaning and the actual restoration itself”. It is not only the mosaics within the church that are being restored, but also those on the façade, which have also been heavily damaged. Raed continues: “This is the first time that a project of this type has been carried out on mosaics at Gethsemane which, after all, are relatively recent, dating from the 1920s. Restoration will probably also be carried out on mosaics from the Byzantine era, which are located on the floor of the church.

Rasmi, also a mosaicist, explains that “in addition to restoring the mosaics, the project provides for renovation of the roof, to stop the leaks of water that are damaging the mosaic vaults. The project’s engineers and architects are working on this, while we are taking care of the restoration of the mosaics”.

The Gethsemane Basilica project has been made possible thanks to the support of ATS pro Terra Sancta and financing from an Italian-Palestinian program called PMSP (Palestinian Municipalities Support Program) which provides for collaboration between an Italian municipality and a Palestinian entity. In this case, Rovereto is the Italian municipality supporting the project, while the Palestinian partner is the Mosaic Center of Jericho.

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