The pavements of some medieval churches in Rome are embellished with a striking type of inlaid stone decoration known as Cosmati work, or Cosmatesque.
Cosmati is the traditional name for the marble workers of Rome (marmorarii Romani) who were active in the 12th and 13th centuries. The name derives from the Cosmatus family, one of several families of craftsmen who specialised in producing ornate geometric designs, mostly for church floors.
The marble workers made extensive use of porphyry and verde antico, recycled from the classical buildings of ancient Rome, which they sliced and diced into circles, squares, triangles and lozenges. Employing the technique of opus sectile (cut work), they set the shapes in a frame of white Carrara marble to create a pattern of roundels and rectangular panels linked together to produce the characteristic chain effect.
In addition to pavements, the Cosmati also ornamented pulpits and other church furnishings.
The Cosmati were predominantly active in Rome, and what is now the region of Lazio, between 1100 and 1300. The only example of their work outside Italy can be found in Westminster Abbey, London.
Blogging about Rome,
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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
small-group walking tours
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