A floor can be just as provocative or beautiful as a painting. Mosaic floors are beautiful to look at, tell a story and are heaven to walk on, the tiny mosaic pieces at slightly different levels, creating movement and sensation in three dimensions. One of the most durable and lasting forms of floor, mosaics have been in evidence for thousands of years; made from pebbles, then tiny squares of glass, stone, terracotta and other materials.
Many exquisite examples still exist from the ancient world of Mesopotamia, the Roman world and beyond. The significance of their pictorial message varied greatly over time and place but the intricacy of the work certainly suggested wealth and permanence in the places they were used. Here are a few examples close to home and further afield.
Littlecote House, the Elizabethan house near the river Kennet in Wiltshire, where Henry VIII wooed Jane Seymour, is the site of a Roman floor, rediscovered in 1727 by the steward of Littlecote. The Orpheus Mosaic is almost all that remains of this hall. Its symbolism was forbidden due to legislation against pagan ritual around 400AD. Most of the buildings in the complex were either destroyed or fell into decay.
The Beauty of Durres, The National Museum, Tirana, 4th century BC.
This intricate pebble mosaic was found deep in the foundations of a private house,
apparently the floor of an ancient bathing/resting chamber.
| Moved to the Palace of The Grand Master of The Knights of St John, |
this Byzantine floor is from Kos, thought to be the birthplace of Hippocratos.
A detail from the old testament floor mosaic at The Cathedral at Aquileia. The story of Jonah and the Whale is depicted in the pavement. Dating from the 4th Century AD, the floor was only excavated in the early 1900s, discovered as often is the case beneath successive layers of flooring.
|This geometric pattern is familiar to all of us, and seen in mosaic form at Delos.|
Tunisian floor mosaic depicting farm life, 4th Century at the Barda museum, Tunis.