New mosaic restored in Bethany

Giacomo Pizzi31 July 2020

Naame restores the 4th century mosaic, Ranan passes the protective material on the new mosaic made by the boys and girls of the Mosaic Centre, Raed checks the quality of the installation. A little further on, Adeel and Ahmad are in charge of the restoration of the tomb of Lazarus, Abu Ael of the remake of the new staircase leading to the church, the young Mustafà, the handyman, if necessary also prepares coffee for the team. Ayman, the architect responsible for the site, provides the last materials needed to complete the work. Osama, director of the Mosaic Centre and collaborator of Pro Terra Sancta, directs the work and checks that everything is working. The archaeological site of the monastery of the Custody of the Holy Land around the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany is a construction site in constant ferment. Despite the difficulties and delays caused by the blockades imposed by the pandemic, the boys managed to complete the mosaic paving in the corridor leading to the olive press hall. Red and black mosaic tiles follow what must have been the mosaic of the 4th century that belonged to the Byzantine church. Of the original mosaic, a few fragments remain along the left wall, a thin strip of tiles arranged next to each other to form a complex geometric design. The architect Osama Hamdan and his boys were able to reconstruct the design and continue the Byzantine mosaic work. “We have maintained the interweaving of the Byzantine mosaic using red and black stones. Where in the ancient mosaic there are white stone tiles we used a mortar of the same colour. In this way, explains Osama, the visitor can clearly see what the Byzantine flooring must have looked like, but he can distinguish the modern mosaic from the ancient one”.

Raed, one of the Mosaic Centre’s veterans with more than twenty years of work behind him, was responsible for the preparatory design. “It has been four months since we placed the first tile until the work was completed. One of the most complicated and rewarding work ever done”.

The restoration of the site is a choral work, everyone must carry out their job with care and commitment: only in this way can the final result become a masterpiece. Seeing the floor with all those coloured tiles makes a certain effect. It manages, at least in part, to make us understand the beauty and greatness that ancient Bethany must have had. The importance of this town, just a few kilometres from Jerusalem, lies in Jesus’ encounters with his friend Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.

During the celebration for the feast of Saint Martha on July 29th, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, after Holy Mass at the tomb of Lazarus and solemn mass in the Barluzzi Chapel, visited the archaeological site. They too were able to admire the progress of the “Betania Ospitatale” project, financed by the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICS). Father Michael, the guardian of the convent, was very proud of the changes in the site and hopes that the pilgrims will soon be able to visit Bethany again.

Like the tiles of the mosaics they produced, the guys at the Mosaic Centre worked side by side, carrying on the realization of the splendid mosaic in one of the hottest months in the Holy Land. The fruit of their efforts is a work of great value, which we hope will soon be admired by all the pilgrims who will visit Bethany.