Rome's Oldest Apse Mosaic
The Paleochristian mosaic in the church of Santa Pudenziana (which is thought to have been built c. 390) is the oldest mosaic to be found in the apse of any church in Rome.
The church is dedicated to St Pudentiana, sister of St Praxedes (whose own church lies nearby), and daughter of the Roman senator Pudens, who is thought to have given hospitality to St Peter in a house on this site, when the apostle first arrived in Rome.
As originally constructed, the mosaic was considerably larger than it is at present. However, by 1588 the outermost of the twelve apostles had disappeared following a radical restructuring of the interior of the church.
The two female figures standing behind Saints Peter and Paul have been identified by some scholars as Saints Pudenziana and Prassede, and by others as personifications of the Churches of the Circumcision and the Gentiles.
Christ is seated on a throne above the apostles, who are clad in togas, and extends his right hand in blessing, while in his left hand he holds a book. Above the arcade of windows, which forms the background to the figures, are rows of decoration in green and gold (intended to represent the tiles of the roof). Above the roof we see groups of buildings. In the colourfully striated sky, we see the symbols of the four evangelists and an immense jewelled cross.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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