Early Christian Decorations

Dear friends,

the last fragments belonging to Cim basilica that we have digitally restored were a stone bas-relief decorated with a peacock and an engraved capital decorated with a cross. The first element was probably the decoration of a lintel, while the second, considering its peculiar shape, was probably supporting the transenna in a mullioned window.

Fragment decorated with peacock.

Fragment decorated with peacock.

Mullioned window capital with cross.

Mullioned window capital with cross. The lateral grooves housed the stone transenna.

In order to digitally restore the fragment with the peacock, we studied the iconography of several early Christian decorations. Peacocks were symbols of resurrection and eternal life. They were often represented while drinking from a chalice, symbol of the Eucharist, representing human souls reacquiring memory. Also doves were frequently depicted in this iconography. 

Pluteo, VIII secolo from Villanova di S. Bonifacio

Pluteo with peacocks, VIII sec. from Villanova di S. Bonifacio

Pluteo with peacocks , VIII sec, Oratorio di San Michele alla Pusterla, Pavia.

Pluteo with peacocks , VIII sec, Oratorio di San Michele alla Pusterla, Pavia.

By using Photoshop we reconstructed the missing part of the peacock. We used the chalice depicted in the Pavia bas-relief as a model to reconstruct the missing element in our fragment. We then created a depth map and a displacement map of the decoration that we imported in Blender in order to created the high-resolution 3D model of the object. We then optimized the 3D model for its use in an interactive game based on the real time rendering of the scene and we created a low poly 3D model by substituting the decorations with their normal map.

Depth map peacocks decoration.

Depth map peacocks decoration.

Considering the symbolic meaning of this element, we suppose it could have decorated the lintel of the door for the Baptistery, on the left side of the Basilica.

3D Reconstruction of Cim Basilica. View from the narthex on the main church and on the door of the Baptistery. (Finel render CNR-ITBC).

3D Reconstruction of Cim Basilica. View from the narthex on the main church and on the door of the Baptistery. (Finel render CNR-ITBC).

Triconch church of St. Martin in Pridraga.

Triconch church of St. Martin in Pridraga. Mullioned window on the facade.

3D model of the mullioned window on the facade of Cim basilica.

3D model of the mullioned window on the facade of Cim basilica.

We followed the same process for the restoration of the capital engraved with a cross. Considering its specific shape we positioned it in the mullioned window of the main facade of the church. An example of this is in the Saint Martin church of Pridraga, even if the windows have lost their original transenna.

Several geometrical patterns were used to create transenna, stone elements used as infill for windows against the incoming light. Lattice structures (in the image below the transenna in the low-right corner, from San Giorgio in Velabro) were used from the Romans and remain in use in the Early Christian churches, for this reason we used it in our reconstruction.

Trandenne_esempi

Examples of Transenna.

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