(active 1130s in Rome)

Overall view of the apse

San Clemente, Rome

The central motif in the apse mosaic is a Crucifixion, with Mary and John the Evangelist flanking the cross and turned toward it in mourning. The cross is rooted in a large acanthus bush, and in a dark blue clearly stands out against the gold ground. Twelve white doves, pictured in profile, adorn the cross as symbols of the apostles. The vines leading out from the acanthus bush uncurl into a total of fifty round volutes across the entire surface of the calotte. Four rivers of paradise appear beneath the acanthus bush, two stags drink from them; and various kinds of birds, including peacocks are depicted. All these motifs are derived from Early Christian iconography.

At the outer ends of the base strip stand the familiar depictions of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Twelve lambs emerged from them to flank the Lamb of Christ in friezelike rows.

The mosaic in San Clemente was the first great apse mosaic to have been produced in Rome in roughly two hundred years. It incorporated any number of familiar motifs from Early Christian mosaics, but combined them with distinctly medieval pictorial elements to create a new synthesis.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.