Byzantine Mosaics

One of the reasons Thessaloniki was on my radar was its reported importance as a repository for Byzantine art – exceeding even Istanbul in importance. Although the frescoes in many churches were damaged by plastering over during their conversion to mosques, mosaics were uncovered and their condition was, if anything, improved by centuries of protection from the elements.

One of the oldest – late 5th century – is from Hosios David in the Ani Poli. A youthful Christ in glory is honored by the prophets Ezekiel and Habakkuk. Naturalistic elements represent the river Jordan and the evangelists. We were told that only one other church, recently destroyed in Damascus contained similar symbolism.

A second important mosaic is in the Church of Agias Sofia (Holy Wisdom, as in Istanbul). This is dated to the late 9th century based on an inscription and represents the Ascension with Christ surrounded by Mary and his Apostles, each with vivid expressions indicating their characteristics. (I especially like John – on the bottom with hand to his cheek.)

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