The Restoration of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem  book cover
1st Edition

The Restoration of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem

Edited By

Claudio Alessandri

ISBN 9781138488991
Published January 14, 2020 by CRC Press
460 Pages

USD $130.00

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Book Description

This book is a summary of the main restoration works carried out at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem that commenced in September 2013. Work on roof wooden structures, wall and floor mosaics, internal plasters, wooden architraves and painted columns of the naves, external wall surfaces and Narthex is all presented in a sequence of reports that accompany the reader up to the final interventions through accurate descriptions of historical and archaeological features, initial state of conservation and appropriate techniques of conservation and restoration.

Topics are treated with the methodological and linguistic rigor specific to each disciplinary sector involved even if, in the interest of making reading and comprehension easier, it was sometimes preferred to present only significant case studies, which are nevertheless representative of groups of wider and more complex problems. Through the reading of this work, the reader can simply fulfil his desire for knowledge and obtain answers to certain curiosities about the past history of the Church. At the same time, useful guidelines in dealing with conservation and restoration interventions at historic-architectural sites of similar complexity can be found.

The book is, therefore, addressed to a generic reader, interested in the history and conservation of one of the most representative examples of our heritage, but also, in light of its technical and scientific value, to university students, technicians, restorers, architects, structural engineers, archaeologists and historians.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity and C. Alessandri

2 The restoration site
Piacenti S.p.A., C.D.G. – Community Development Group and C. Alessandri
2.1 Team configuration
2.2 Preliminary on-site tests
2.3 Organization of the work site
2.4 Supply of materials and facilities

3 Roof and windows
3.1 Historical analysis
G. A. Fichera
3.2 Morphologic and structural characteristics of the roof
C. Alessandri, N. Macchioni, M. Mannucci, M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo
3.3 The scaffolding
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
3.4 State of conservation of the wooden structures
N . Macchioni, M. Mannucci , M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo
3.5 Wooden species and dating of the wooden structural components
M . Bernabei, J . Bontadi, N. Macchioni and M. Mannucci
3.6 Interventions on trusses, purlins and boards
C. Alessandri, V. Mallardo, M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo
3.7 Archaeological analysis
G. A. Fichera
3.8 Vulnerability analysis and seismic reinforcement
C. Alessandri, V. Mallardo and M. Martinelli
3.9 Old and new roof covering
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
3.10 Windows
S . Palanti
3.11 Maintenance
C. Alessandri, N. Macchioni, M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo

4 Mosaics
4.1 Historical analysis
M . Bacci
4.2 Materials and techniques
S . Sarmati, N. Santopuoli and E. Concina
4.3 Mosaics materials analysis
M . Verità, L. Lazzarini and P. Santopadre
4.4 The photogrammetric survey of the mosaics 216
G. Caratelli and C. Giorgi
4.5 State of conservation
S . Sarmati, N. Santopuoli and E. Concina
4.6 Interventions
S . Sarmati, N. Santopuoli and E. Concina
4.7 Floor mosaics – archaeological excavations
G.A. Fichera

5 Plasters
S. Sarmati and N. Santo Puoli
5.1 Material composition
5.2 State of conservation
5.3 Interventions

6 Paintings on columns
6.1 The figurative cycle
M . Bacci
6.2 State of conservation
S . Sarmati
6.3 Interventions
S . Sarmati

7 Exterior wall surfaces
7.1 Materials and their state of conservation
S . Sarmati and G. A. Fichera
7.2 Intervention techniques on stones and mortar joints
S . Sarmati

8 Wooden architraves
C. Alessandri, N. Macchioni, M. Mannucci, M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo
8.1 Internal geometry, material and technical characteristics
8.2 External decorations
8.3 State of conservation and past interventions
8.4 The new interventions
8.5 The problem of the corners
8.6 Maintenance

9 The narthex
9.1 Archaeological analysis and preliminary structural survey
C. Alessandri, G. A. Fichera and M. Martinelli
9.2 On-site material survey
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
9.3 Interventions of restoration inside the narthex
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
9.4 Interventions of structural consolidation
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
9.5 Numerical simulations and on-site tests
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli
9.6 The Armenian door
M . Bacci and S. Sarmati
9.7 Maintenance
C. Alessandri and M. Martinelli

10 Monitoring
C. Alessandri, N. Macchioni, M. Martinelli and B. Pizzo
10.1 Narthex
10.2 Church façade
10.3 Walls of the nave
10.4 Orthodox wall (south wall)
10.5 Corners
10.6 Columns
10.7 Wooden architraves
10.8 Roof wooden structures
10.9 Fire and micro-climate detection system

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Claudio Alessandri graduated in Architecture at the University of Florence, Italy in 1976. In 1983 he was appointed Assistant Professor in Mechanics of Solids & Structures at the same University. In 1991 he became Associate Professor and two years later he moved to the University of Ferrara where in 2011 he became Full Professor and later Head of the Architecture Department from 2003 to 2005. In the same years he was also Director of D.I.A.P.Re.M, a University Research Centre with experience and expertise in 3-D laser scanning, diagnostic analysis, conservation & restoration of monuments and sites, sustainability, management of territory & landscape. Since 2012 he is part of the Engineering Department Staff of the University of Ferrara. From 2010 to 2015 he was Deputy Rector of the University for matters regarding the University Real Estate assets. He was Visiting Professor at foreign Universities and Cultural Centres: PUCPR - Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Paranà – Brazil; TUD – Technische Universität Dresden – Germany; Shenzhen University – China; Birzeit and Al Quds Universities – Palestine¸ RIWAQ Center for Preservation of Historical Heritage – Ramallah, Palestine; Welfare Association – Jerusalem, Palestine. In 2010-2011, after previous work experiences with UNESCO in Palestine, he coordinated the International team appointed by the Palestine National Authority to survey and analyse the state of conservation of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The report delivered to the P.N.A. became the main reference for the restoration works started in 2013, of which he is still one of the main supervisors. Presently his main research fields are Computational Mechanics, Numerical Modelling and Structural Analysis for Heritage Preservation.


The purpose of this work as stated by Alessandri (Univ. of Ferrara) is "only to accompany the reader along a [conservational] path that began in ... 2009." This humble statement begins a 10-chapter technical tome encompassing detailed restoration analyses that follow "principles of restoration [informed by] various Charters of Restoration, ICOMOS [International Council on Monuments and Sites] and UNESCO documents." Enormous efforts were made to preserve the history and integrity of the Nativity Church structure. The book provides an overview of the restoration site, then focuses respectively on elements such as roof, windows, mosaics, plasters, painting, wall surfaces, wooden features, and the narthex. The authors cover original construction—including archaeology as applicable, restoration changes and why performed, detailed explanations of tests completed whether simple mortar analyses or complex seismic tests, and conclusions reached. The final chapter covers monitoring, from strain to thermal alterations. Illustrated by black-and-white and color photographs, schematics, drawings, and more, this well-written book communicates a thorough understanding of the techniques and tools used, affording a full account of the restoration, supported by a helpful index. Aside from its intrinsic interest, the book is a great companion to Correction of Differential Settlements in Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral and Sagrario Church, by Ovando-Shelley and Santoyo.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Students in two-year technical programs. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.

L.B. Allsopp (Arizona State University) in CHOICE, March 2021, Vol. 58, No. 7

Among the many contributions of this important book to our knowledge of the Church of the Nativity, it is important to recognize that new archaeological investigations along with the extensive conservation and restoration work made it possible to resolve certain questions about the church raised in past scholarly discussions regarding its history. Prior to the publication of this book, Michele Bacci published his important history of the church using results of the projectin a timely manner in 2017; in the present volume he expands this history, as the
extensive restoration and conservation work has revealed certain new finds and information about the church and its decoration. [...] This book will take its place as a fundamental reference for understanding the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. [...] In sum this book provides the most important and up-to-date analysis, documentation, and discussion of the historical and archaeological investigations about the Church of the Nativity, and the technical analyses, evaluations, and the interventions to restore and conserve the building, work done over the past decade and now mostly complete. What remains to be done can hopefully be funded and carried out in the next few years. But this volume is a monument to the remarkable achievements of Piacenti S.p.A. and the C.D.G. under the aegis of the Palestinian Presidential Committee with the cooperation of the three ecclesiastical authorities.

Jaroslav Folda (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) in Chapter 13: Review Article, Crusades, Volume 20, pp. 267-275, Taylor & Francis