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Bill Thayer

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Epiphany


[image ALT: A roughly square fragmentary mosaic depicting a woman seated on a plump cushion, holding a baby who is leaning forward to touch a book or a box being presented to him by a hand. Behind them a tall standing angel with a rod or scepter; and to the left, the small figure, the only one in the composition not to have a halo, of a man. It is a mosaic from the medieval church of St. Peter's in Rome, now preserved in the sacristy of S. Maria in Cosmedin, and probably represents the Epiphany.]

The Virgin and Child, an angel by their side, and a figure behind them that might be St. Joseph (but where's his halo?); and a hand presenting Jesus with a box or a book: very likely that of one of the three Kings with an offering, but just maybe, the man who commissioned this mosaic.

This fragment of an eighth-century mosaic, shown here in its entirety, is indeed an epiphany. While it's attractive enough, it wouldn't be anything much if it weren't for its provenance: it's one of the very rare remaining bits of the medieval Basilica of St. Peter's, demolished in the late 16c to be replaced by the St. Peter's everyone knows. Why more of Old St. Peter's wasn't saved is a total mystery to me.

It is only thru the magic of PhotoShop that you are seeing this without distortion by the way: the mosaic, in its wooden frame, is high on a wall inside the sacristy; here is the unmassaged photo.


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Page updated: 2 Nov 06