Mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome (432-40)

The decoration of the Early Christian churches, and particularly of the basilicas, was mostly with mosaics. The largest series of early mosaic decorations in Rome are the panels on the triumphal arch and the nave walls of Santa Maria Maggiore of c. 432-40.

The nave mosaics depict Old Testament stories of heroes and patriarchs beginning with Abraham, taken mainly from the Books of Exodus and Joshua. Only 27 of the original 42 mosaic scenes remain. These mosaics are notable because they are somewhat realistic representations, often of miraculous events, with landscapes, blue skies, architecture in a kind of perspective, and modelled figures.

The triumphal arch mosaics are less realistic than those on the nave wall with static figures and a predominance of gold. These continuous scenes focus on New Testament events and symbolism relating to the infancy of Jesus. Mary, as Mother of God, is depicted as queen of Heaven, usually enthroned and dressed regally. Jesus is often depicted as a youth or young adult, not as an infant or child. The bottom register on one side depicts Bethlehem, the city of David, the king from whose descendants Jesus was born, and on the other, Jerusalem, the place of Jesus' death and resurrection. Twelve sheep, six on each side look out the gates of each city.

Despite extensive restoration and some losses the mosaics are the most important Early Christian narrative series extant.

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Mosaic decoration
432-40
Photo
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1300*938
True Color
243 Kb



Decoration of the nave
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1200*800
True Color
171 Kb



Scenes from the life of Joshua
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

800*789
True Color
251 Kb



Scenes from the life of Joshua
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

799*800
True Color
253 Kb



Scene from the life of Joshua
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1000*590
True Color
235 Kb



Hospitality of Abraham
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

800*759
True Color
129 Kb



Hospitality of Abraham
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

690*800
True Color
246 Kb



Hospitality of Abraham (detail)
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

689*900
True Color
234 Kb



Hospitality of Abraham (detail)
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

699*900
True Color
229 Kb



Scenes from the life of Moses
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

695*800
True Color
247 Kb



Crossing of the Red Sea
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

793*900
True Color
250 Kb



Old Testament scenes
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

795*900
True Color
247 Kb



Rachel returning from the fields
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1000*520
True Color
227 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1200*804
True Color
238 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1100*703
True Color
241 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1200*726
True Color
234 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

879*950
True Color
251 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1100*660
True Color
235 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

540*1300
True Color
237 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1150*863
True Color
247 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1200*600
True Color
228 Kb



Jerusalem
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1100*922
True Color
254 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

950*706
True Color
114 Kb



Bethlehem
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1000*980
True Color
244 Kb



Mosaic decoration
432-40
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

1000*390
True Color
153 Kb