Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai: the conservation of the mosaic of the Transfiguration.

Roberto Nardi

CCA, Centro di Conservazione Archeologica – Roma


The mosaic of the Transfiguration in the basilica of the Monastery of St. Catherine’s in Sinai was done in the 6th century at the behest of the emperor Justinian. It has a rich chromatic range of glass paste, glass, gold and silver tesserae and tesserae in stone and it is a jewel of early Byzantine art. Over the centuries, it has suffered extensive damage due to earthquakes and intense visitation by pilgrims from all corners of the world.  Some of the signs of deterioration were detachment of the preparatory layer from the wall, bulges in the mosaic surface, and lacunae (gaps) in the tesselatum. The area of Christ was so badly decayed that the mosaic was close to collapse, as an article of Kurt Weizman on the National Geographic reported in 1964. These problems led the monastic community to undertake a delicate program of consolidating and conserving the mosaic, and the CCA, Center for Archaeological Conservation, Rome, was asked to do the restoration. 
 The actual work began in 2005, thanks to financing from the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, following a project plan the CCA developed in 2001 for the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The mosaic will be open to the public during Spring 2012.

Roberto Nardi
Short Bio

Roberto Nardi received a first degree in archaeology from the University of Rome and than one in conservation of archaeological materials at the Central Restoration Institute, Rome. In 1982 he founded the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica (CCA), a private company carrying out public commissions in the field of conservation of ancient monuments and archaeological sites. CCA is based in a convent located north of Rome where training course are held. He has directed more than 50 projects or training courses in 14 countries, including the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Temple of Vespasian in the Roman Forum, the mosaic at Saint Catherine’s in the Sinai and the wall paintings at the Madrasa Amiriya in Yemen that in 2007 received the Aga Kahn Award for Islamic Architecture. He has published 80 technical articles. Roberto Nardi is president of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics and Kress Lecturer at the American Institute of Archaeology for 2010/2011.