The restoration of the mosaics and the façade of Torcello Basilica has been completed

Admire the Basilica of Torcello in all its renewed splendor following the completion of the restoration works that begun last October

From 06 February 2019 to 31 October 2019

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Since Wednesday, February 6, 2019 the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta has been shining again! The restoration works, which begun on October 15 and were carried out on the counter-façade with the splendid mosaic of the Last Judgment and the façade of the basilica, have been completed. It was a forward-looking undertaking that included a combined effort on the inside and outside of the facade, with the coordination of the work of the mosaic makers, led by Giovanni Cucco, and the restorers of the Silvio Pierobon firm from Belluno. By the end of February, the scaffolding will be removed altogether, after they had in recent months partly covered the beauty of these two areas of the Basilica so appreciated by visitors!

The restoration work of Torcello Basilica in Venice became necessary due to the continuous water leaks that had damaged both the façade structure and the underlying mosaic: the tomographic surveys carried out before the start of the works, a sort of CT scan intended to produce a complete picture of the damages and offer an indication on the best way for the ensuing actions, revealed that the mortar used during the last restoration, carried out in 1930s, had deteriorated and lost consistency.

The initial Torcello mosaics restoration works included injections of low-pressure hydraulic lime to preserve the mosaics. After the 28 days required by law for these consolidating injections to harden, another tomography was performed which showed a 78% improvement on the resistance of the masonry to loads and stresses, providing the mosaic, initially attached to an ultimately crumbling structure, with a much stronger support.

Even the upper part of the façade, whose thickness presented a change of the masonry from 90 to 65 cm, was subjected to works aimed at sealing the wall to eradicate the problem of water leaks that for decades had seeped into the attachment between the two levels of masonry and caused mold to grow.

The Torcello Basilica in Venice renovation was subsequently directed at the door of the Basilica and the marble slabs of the counter-façade: as for the former, where further damage was recorded after the floods at the end of October, parts of decayed wood were replaced with Cadore seasoned larch wood sections. The latter, originally positioned under the mosaic, where wall dampness from sea water in the ground was highest, have been restored thanks to immersion in deionized water to expel the salt deposits. Once dried, they will be hung again on their copper and lead hooks.

 

The mosaic of the Last Judgment

It is also worthwhile delving into the mosaic of the Last Judgement (Torcello) restoration. This is a majestic masterpiece placed on the counter-façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta. Built between the 11th and 12th centuries, this beautiful large mosaic showed strong evidence of disrepair despite the last restoration dating back only about forty years. Giovanni Cucco, a mosaic artist who has worked in Venice for several years and is hailed as one of the greatest experts in the field, and his team worked to strengthen the mosaic tiles that were about to become detached as well as the structure supporting them, which was rapidly deteriorating due to water leakage from the external façade and the micromovements of the wall.

The panels requiring the highest attention were the lower ones, the 5th – with depictions of bishops, martyrs, priests and women on the left and lucifer holding the antichrist and sinners on the right; the 4th, highly deteriorated in the upper part; the 3rd in its section depicting the Christ in a mandorla and the faces of the apostles, and finally the 2nd with Abraham and the Christ in the centre. Some parts placed above the rear window with the Virgin were also very damaged.

As a first step it was necessary to consolidate the internal layers that tie the mosaic to the wall, in particular the arriccio, a mixture of lime, marble and straw dust, which had detached from the wall and the finishing mortar to which the mosaic were attached. Then the actual conservation work got underway: by making micro holes between the mosaic tiles, a solution of water and alcohol was injected to clean the layers behind the mosaic, thus removing the dirt residues. Subsequently, micro acrylic liquid emulsions were performed in areas where water could not easily seep in, while a denser acrylic resin was used to fill the mostly empty parts. In some areas it was decided to also use lime and marble powder in order to create a stronger binder to join the inner layers that had separated.

At the end of the restoration works in the Torcello Basilica in Venice, the mosaic was cleaned with water and neutral soap to free it from the layers of dust and limescale. During the restoration work the approximately 750 plastic rings placed over the mosaic tiles were also replaced, in order to protect the structure from possible detachments.

The recently completed Torcello Basilica in Venice renovation is part of a larger project, which also foresees works in the surrounding buildings, the baptistery and the church of Santa Fosca, which will be continued in the coming years.

 

Tickets to visit the Basilica of Torcello can be purchased online on our portal: discover this fascinating island of the Venetian lagoon and its countless treasures! Easily reachable from Venice by vaporetto, Torcello contains a unique combination of art, history and nature that is well worth a visit... Even more so now after the mosaics of the Last Judgement Torcello restoration!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff