The Magnificent Art of Roman Mosaic

img_4502I’ve always loved mosaics. From jewellery set with tiny pieces of glass to sprawling floors, I’m fascinated by the alchemy of creating pictures from pieces of coloured stone. Years ago I even took several workshops on how to create my own mosaics, working in both the regular and reverse transfer processes. I ended up making my own mosaic table top, which has since been carted across the world with me in several moves. It currently sits in our shed and is in a sorry state of repair, so is a project for me this summer.

img_4503Near to where I live is the city of St Albans, once called Verulamium and one of the most important Roman towns in Britain. There was a lot of wealth in Verulamium, with many splendid villas being built there, as well as a baths, basilica and forum, all important fixtures in any decent Roman town. Now all that remains are a few fragments of the old city wall, and, beneath the parks and streets, wonderful mosaic floors, several of which have been removed and preserved in the excellent local museum.

img_4500As you can see the designs are amazingly modern, considering they were made almost two thousand years ago. I particularly like the semi-circular shell pattern – it predates Art Deco by almost two millennia, proving that really, there are no new ideas. And, if you go to the nearby park, you can see a mosaic floor still in situ.

img_1471Protected by a modern building, this beautiful floor was once part of a grand reception room. Complete with hypocaust underfloor heating, it comprises a series of panels with repeating designs. But I think the best thing about it is that it is where it has always been since it was laid, gleaming and new, all those centuries ago. I imagine how pleased the householder must have been, how proud that they had the funds to buy such a magnificent floor.

img_1473Now, perhaps, mosaic is something you have in your bathroom, or on the top of an outdoor table. But it must have been wonderful to live in a home where such beauty ran underfoot from room to room, full of stories and patterns and colour. What do you think?


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Wednesday Wander – Setanta Wall, Dublin

Dublin mural 2

This is the Setanta Wall in Dublin, Ireland. Created in 1974 by the artist Desmond Kinney, it depicts scenes from the story of CĂșchulainn and the Cattle Raid of Cooley. The small art critic standing nearby will give you an idea of the size of the piece, the vibrant colours and textures obviously hitting a positive note with her.

The mural is on a side street and, at the time we saw it, had a mosaic panel nearby – apparently this is now gone. As you can see, at the time it was already quite deteriorated along the bottom and side edges, so perhaps it just fell away. There was no other indication as to who had created the artwork or what it represented, which I thought was quite sad.

I hope things have changed for the wall now, and that perhaps the panel can be restored. If you are in Dublin, it’s definitely worth going to see – or perhaps you’ve seen it already.

Dublin mural 1

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week!