The Mosaics of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore


Many of the original fifth-century mosaics survive. These mosaics,though restored in 1593 and again in the 1990s, are considered by experts to preserve their original design and appearance. Here we illustrate some representative examples of the Old Testamental cycle (panels 1, 7, 11, and 15) used in the UCLA model. The source is a series of large format, 18 x 24 cm. transparencies which were licensed by the UCLA Cultural VR Lab for the Santa Maria Maggiore Restoration Project. The images that follow are greatly reduced versions of the 3500 x 2500 pixel drum scans actually used in the realtime model. In the realtime model, it is possible to see each tessera of the mosaic and even to distinguish the original work from the later restorations.

The general layout of the mosaics in the church is simple. On the triumphal arch are scenes pertaining to the life of Christ (on the left, from the top: Annunciation, Epiphany, Slaughter of Innocents, Jerusalem; on the right, Presentation in the Temple, Flight into Egypt, The Magi before Herod, Bethlehem; in the center is the dedicatory inscription of Sixtus III: "Sixtus III for the People of God"). On the left side of the nave, above the architrave, are 36 scenes from the life of Abraham, Isaac,and Jacob (on the left); and of Moses and Jesus (on the right).


Panel 1: The offering of bread and wine to Abram by Melchizedek

Panel 7: The passage through the Red Sea

Panel 11: The return of the explorers of the Land of Canaan; the stoning of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua

Panel 15: The capture of the city of Jericho


Date created: February 10, 2000