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Joint Investigation with Ground Penetrating Radar and Infrared Thermography as a Diagnostic Support for the Restoration of Two Wall Mosaics in the Church of St. Mary of the Admiral in Palermo, Italy


The church of S. Mary of the Admiral in Palermo, known as "La Martorana" and very famous for its Byzantine mosaics, has been a World Heritage site since 2015. The mosaic system of the church includes several groups of figures and scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. From the western part of the ancient church only two mosaics survive, detached from their original position, and are now located in two internal chapels. On the occasion of several restoration works, these two mosaic panels were investigated with non-invasive techniques, in order to provide diagnostic support to the restoration and consolidation interventions. The investigations were aimed at detecting any air pockets that could cause the detachment of the tesserae or of possible differences between cement mortars under the tesserae. For this purpose, the integrated use of two non-invasive techniques namely infrared thermography (IRT) and ground penetrating radar (GPR) was considered. The joint analysis of IRT and GPR data allowed the interpretative uncertainties inherent in each technique to be reduced. Furthermore, for both techniques differentiated analyses were performed for layers at different depths under the mosaic surface. The results of these analyses were found to be more reliable regarding GPR data, compared to infrared thermography, the latter being more influenced by the reflectivity of the tesserae. However, the results partially confirmed the restorers' diagnosis, also allowing the identification of further critical areas that could be affected by deterioration or compositional differences in the layers supporting the mosaics