(active 1130s in Rome)

Overall view of the apse

San Clemente, Rome

The fullest expression of the revival of the ancient style is to be found in the apse mosaics in the upper church of San Clemente, which probably date from the 1120s. Here the choice of mosaic as the artistic medium is a clear demonstration of a deliberate turning back to the tradition of late antiquity: mosaics had not been made in Rome on this scale or centuries and production of the materials used in this technique must have, therefore, largely died out. Considering the quality of the work, it is hard to know where the craftsmen can have come from. Above all, though, it is the subject matter of the San Clemente mosaic that demonstrates links with early Christian figurative art.

The picture shows the apse mosaic in the upper church of San Clemente. The centre of the composition is occupied by a crucifix flanked by the Virgin and St John the Baptist. The lower end of the cross is in the shape of an acanthus whose vines spread out across the entire surface of the conch, symbolising Ecclesia (the Church), whose root is the Cross, or Tree of Life. In the lower section the four rivers of Paradise are shown on the central axis of the composition, the presence of various animals on the banks of these rivers lending the scene an idyllic quality.

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