Reconstructing an Early Christian altar fence

Dear friends,

Today I want to share with you some more information about the reconstruction on Cim basilica.

Once that we defined the possible layout of the architectonic elements in the sacred area, we had to reconstruct them on the basis of the archaeological finds. The entire reconstruction moved from the dimensions of an engraved stone slabs, the only excavated elements that we were able to reconstruct with some certainty.

Fragments of a stone slab with a procession of lambs to the cross

Fragments of a stone slab with a procession of lambs towards the cross

As you can see, the fragment on the bottom of the picture has a corner decoration. Lateral images of it show that it is perfectly cut, meaning that it is really the lower-left corner of the slab. The two upper pieces of the picture show three arches: the first one hosts a vertical element that scholars identified as the basement of a cross, the second and the third host two lambs. Their position suggest that the cross is the central element of the composition, towards which the lambs in the lateral arcades are moving.

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the decoration (by TOMO ANĐELIC)

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the decoration (by TOMO ANĐELIC)

On the base of the decoration, we made a first hypothesis that gave us the width of the slab.

Reconstruction panel lambs

Reconstruction panel lambs

Among the finds is another stone fragment similar in its thickness to those decorated with the lambs. It shows a geometrical decoration, interpreted as a central cross inscribed in a circular frame and flanked by smaller crosses on the four corners. The fragment shows part of the bigger circumference and of a smaller one.

Fragment of stone slab with cross decoration

Fragment of stone slab with cross decoration. Study on the composition of the full decoration.

By comparing this geometrical fragment with similar decorative elements of coeval churches, we come up to an hypothesis of reconstruction of its iconography. Our hypothesis was strengthen by the total width of the reconstructed slab, which corresponded with that of the lambs panel. From this comparison we were able to derive the hight of the panel decorated with lambs.

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the Crosses panel

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the Crosses panel (Autocad reconstruction made by Tatjana Mijatović).

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the Crosses panel.

Hypothesis of reconstruction of the Crosses panel (Autocad reconstruction made by Tatjana Mijatović).

The line drawings of the two panels made in Autocad were imported in Photoshop to be used as starting point for the creation of the depth maps of their decorations. From these images were also derived the black and white displacement maps of the two panels. By importing the depth maps and the displacement maps in Blender, we obtain a high resolution 3D model of the two panels.

In order to optimize the 3D models for their use in an interactive game based on the real time rendering of the scene, we created the low poly 3D models of each panels by substituting the decorations with their normal map.

From the top: Depth maps, Displacement maps and Normal maps of the Cross and Lambs panels.

From the top: Depth maps, Displacement maps and Normal maps of the Cross and Lambs panels.

The stone panels needed a frame, a support structure in which to be inserted. In a previous post I showed you the restoration of a double-sided pillar decorated with half columns, and of a double-sided capital, decorated with floral motif. We interpreted this element as part of the supported structure of the fence.

Presbytery of Cim basilica - planimetry.

Presbytery of Cim basilica – planimetry.

By analysing the planimetry of the presbytery, we noticed that the tomb was placed on the right side of the central square. We then assumed it was in a position where priests could avoid it when accessing the presbytery. A comparison with standing examples of fences and the dimension of the space (4,80 m width) suggested that the access could have been of 60 cm, giving a regular rhythm of 8 column in the upper level. Using fragments of other decorations found in the excavation, we created the missing elements to complete the fence, with the following result.

Test rendering of the final altar fence - front.

Test rendering of the final altar fence – front.

Test rendering of the final altar fence - side.

Test rendering of the final altar fence – side.

Hypothesis of reconstruction of Cim Presbitery in the reconstructed Basilica.

Hypothesis of reconstruction of Cim Presbytery in the reconstructed Basilica. (Final render by CNR-ITABC)

All our work of interpretation and reconstruction has been verified by experts from the City Museum of Sarajevo and the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each decision has been documented and recorded in a document.

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