Conservation of Roman Mosaics and Mural Paintings

Description:

PROJECT: 2011, 2014 -2015 wall paintings

PROJECT OUTCOMES: 2012-2017

The conservation team of NI Stobi and the project volunteers with funding from the Balkan Heritage foundation successfully conserved and restored two of the floor mosaics from the Theodosian Palace of Stobi in 2012 and 2013. The years 2014 and 2015 saw  the conservation and restoration of the mosaics from the narthex of the Episcopal Basilica which is considered to be the oldest and most important Early Christian monument in the Republic of North Macedonia. Both of these projects were made possible by the participation of volunteers who along with the specialists were involved in all stages of the conservation – restoration processes, including preparation of detailed technical and photo documentation, condition assessment, etc. Following the restoration of the mosaics from the narthex of the Episcopal Basilica (100 sq m ) and the two mosaics from the Theodosian Palace (40 sq m), they were successfully re-laid in their original position in the buildings and thus presented to the public.

In 2016 and 2017 the efforts were focused on in situ conservation of mosaics from the atrium and triclinium of the Episcopal residence (so called “Casino”). Mosaics from this palace had severe damage due to the lack of maintenance in the past decades. Various problems such as detached layers of the mosaics, vegetation growth under the tessellatum, cracks, lacunae, missing or detached tesserae, degraded mortar, degradation of the previous interventions etc. were detected on these mosaics. In the course of 2016 and 2017 conservation work, precise technical and photo documentation was created for the first time, followed by conservation activities that included detailed mechanical and chemical cleaning of the mosaic surface and bedding layers, edge repairs, filling of the lacunae, injecting with liquid mortar, re-setting of tesserae, grouting, consolidation of mosaic structure and consolidation of tesserae. Protective measures that were undertaken on these mosaics (30 m 2) strengthened their durability and improved their visual appearance.

CURRENT CONSERVATION PROJECT: 2018-present

In 2018-2019 the conservation activities  were focused on the mosaic floor in Room 1 of the House of Parthenius. The first conservation treatment of this mosaic was performed in the 1930’s and until 2018, the mosaic was covered with sand, and never properly documented. The different work stages included mechanical cleaning of the mosaic surface, removing the old and deteriorated cement repairs, stabilizing and consolidating the mosaic structure, injecting of liquid mortar, replacing destroyed nucleus, filling the lacunae, edge repairs, and resetting tesserae. All the processes were followed up with new technical and photo documentation using photogrammetry.

After two seasons of in situ conservation of the mosaic, almost the entire surface was stabilized with all the above-mentioned techniques. It is necessary to continue the good practices until this project is completed and the mosaic is on display to the public. Conservation and restoration work on this mosaic will continue in 2022.

There is an affiliated Balkan Heritage Field School to this project.

More about the site: The first historic records to mention Stobi are by the Roman historian Titus Livy (ca. 197 BCE). According to Livy, Stobi became an important center for salt trading after the Roman conquests of Macedonia and the establishment of Pax Romana. In 69 CE, Emperor Vespasian granted Stobi the rank of municipium and the right to mint its own coins. Stobi was not only an important salt trading center but also strategically located at the crossroads of the ancient roads that ran along the two rivers Axios and Erigon. The first road connected the North and the South of the Balkans as it does today, while the second to the southwest connected Stobi with Via Egnatia near Heraclea Lyncestis and to the northeast it continued to Serdica.

This commercial and strategic position brought Stobi long-term prosperity, especially in the period between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. Several monumental buildings in the city are dated to this period: the Theatre, the first City Wall, Porta Heraclea, Public Building with Arches (most likely the Stobi library), Casa Romana, the Synagogue, as well as the water supply system. In 267 CE the city suffered Goths and Herules raids. At the end of the 3rd century Stobi was devastated by an earthquake, later rebuilt, but following a different urban plan. Most of the ruins visible today belong to buildings dated to this period.

In the 4th century CE, Stobi became an important Christian center and the seat of powerful bishops. In the 5th– 6th centuries, Stobi was the capital city of the Roman province Macedonia Secunda, but suffered from the raids of Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars and Slavs. The constant threat of barbarian raids, as well as certain climatic changes lead to the gradual abandonment of the city in the second half of the 6th century CE. Some records mention a small Slav community that settled and lived there in later centuries. The last historical reference regarding Stobi describes the victory of the Byzantine troops over Stobi’s local militia during the 11th century CE.

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