The mosaic method has been discovered to be in use in Mesopotamia as early as the fourth millennium B. C and many researchers also feel that mosaics may have origins in imitating the various carpets and tapestries that abounded. (Anthony 27)
This paper will discuss three such mosaics: the aspe and choir at San Vitale, the Deesis Mosaic of Christ flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist and Christ enthroned, the apsidal mosaic in the basilica of Saint Paul’s. Each of these is representational of their religious affiliation as well as their historic and cultural context in which they were created. There is also a sense of humility when faced with these works. The creation of the mosaic itself is somehow representational of the many facets of the art and of the religious tradition it represents. While certainly lacking in depth of filed and light/shadow, the mosaics represent in this sense a divine use of an inner light, a creativity in the weaving of the image that can be achieved in no other art form.
One author refers to this Inner Light as, “The vibrancy of effect produced by decidedly broken color creates a definite esthetic stimulant which in the right surroundings, quickens religious emotion” (Anthony 37). The juxtaposition of varying pieces of glass and fragments of tile create a quality that the mind sees almost as moving and alive, something that seems to touch the soul and heart as well as the eye. This resonance lends itself well to the feeling of spiritual and religious passions. The figures represented are perceived as symbolic icons, which already produces an immediate religious invocation only to be enhanced further by mosaic’s shapes and often brilliant colors.
The first mosaic under discussion is found in the Basilica of San Vitale located in Raveena, Italy. The church was consecrated in 547AD and the Archbishop