AFCP Stobi: Conservation of the marble elements from the Baptistry

September, 01 2017


The project “Preservation of the Baptistry in the Episcopal basilica in Stobi” was initiated in February 2017, when the team of stone conservators start cleaning the marble elements, which once supported the baldachin over the baptismal pool.


Twelve fragmented columns with their components - bases, shafts and capitals made of white marble were discovered in 1971 during the excavations of the Baptistry, conducted by Professors Jim Wiseman and Gj. Mano-Zisi and the team of American-Yugoslav archaeologists. Six smaller columns originally stood on the wall of the baptismal pool and six large columns were placed on the mosaic floor next to the wall of the pool. They were documented and stored near the Baptistry on an open area where they were exposed on atmospheric influences, vegetation and pollution.


The goal of the project is to perform conservation and restoration of the marble columns. For that purpose, several activities are planned: cleaning, gluing the fragments, restoring the missing parts and anastylosis (placement) in their original position.


After the fragments of the marble columns were transported from the Baptistry to the lab area near Crna River, the first step in conservation was cleaning their surface of lichen, moss and other dirt. The conservators used water vapour cleaner and distilled water, while those that were covered with thick layers of dirt and moss were cleaned with coatings of Calcium Hypochlorite solution. After the treatment, the coating is cleaned using distilled water and water vapour cleaner. In rare cases where the dirt on the surface is thick and hard it is carefully removed mechanically using medical knifes and scrub brush. The process is lasting and repetitive to the level when the fragments are cleaned and destructive processes caused by the lichen and moss is stopped. Most of the marble elements were consolidated after the cleaning and prepared for the next stage, which is gluing the fragments and restoration of the missing parts.


The cleaned fragments were glued using epoxy resin and the joints were filled with mixture of acrylic resin (Paraloid B72) and marble powder. Pigment is added in order to achieve colour closer to the shades of the original marble. The surface is polished to remove the extra of the filling mixture.


The restoration of the missing parts requires a long process of making moulds of clay, gypsum and silicon rubber. The missing part is then cast of polyester with added pigment to reach the colour of the original marble. According to the rules in restoration, the restored part should slightly differ in colour or texture. Stevan Ilijevic and Goran Ivanovski – stone conservators, worked on the conservation and restoration of the marble elements. In august, Mariana Filova – stone conservator from NI Stobi has joined the team. 

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