Cosmati mosaics


Floor mosaics in the main nave of the Lateran Archbasilica in Rome. 

The mosaics is the so called Cosmati style mosaics. Cosmati were a Roman family of artists. They specialised among others in designing and making of mosaics. You will find them in many churches in Rome.

Lateran Archbasilica, although located far beyond Vatican city belongs to the Holy See (the Vatican state.)

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Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani belongs to one of those museums where one is simply overwhelmed with all the artifacts, sculptures and paintings gathered in a relatively small space. It would be difficult to recall all of them, not to mention describing or even make photos of all of them. It would be simply too much.

In Musei Vaticani there a couple of routes you can take. Quite often the sightseeing begins with the antique section. Inside there are many sculptures, busts, reliefs, mosaics and other ancient artifacts. There are almost no paintings. That one will be however more than balanced in other parts of the museum. Walls and ceilings are of antique look. In this section of the Vaticani museum one should simply concentrate on the historical value of that, what one sees. The following sections are more about the art, paintings or frescoes as well as craftsmanship. There are a number of chambers that look like an art gallery, so the focus is indeed on the paintings on display. But there are chambers where one has to look around and look up. The most impressive frescoes are probably in the Raphael’s Rooms – a series of chambers painted by Raphael. But there are also at least two passages alongside long but long corridors with frescoes painted on ceilings. These are a couple of hundreds meters long each: one is a corridor with tapestry maps and the other one a series of consecutive corridors in the Bibliotheca Vaticana (>>>).

Visiting this museum one has to be prepared to find oneself in a crowd – there are daily hundreds of tourists, who want to visit this place. As far as the entrance is concerned: there is the official queue, in which one has to wait a longer time (around an hour or so). One can also use a quicker queue that in practice means use a service of a person (or a guide), who has a reservation. But one has to pay more for the ticket. The latter seems to be an under the desk procedure, but it works.


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The Lateran Archbasilica

The Lateran Archbasilica

Sightseeing in Rome means often visiting a number of churches famous for the architecture and the art pieces displayed inside. In most European cities, no matter Catholic or Protestant one usually visits one main cathedral, sometimes another famous church, and that’s it. In this respect Rome is different. There are around 900 churches here. Sightseeing churches is on a must see list, whether to admire the interiors or an original piece by Bernini or Raphael, or another famous artist. But still there is a problem of visiting numerous churches in a very short period of time, and quickly forgetting what we have seen in which church.

Rome’s churches, at least those most famous ones have some distinctive features, that cannot be seen in other places in Europe. Churches in Rome are usually quite old ones, however many times rebuilt or reconstructed. In Rome it was always customary that building materials were removed form one place to decorate another one. The most prominent example are probably the bronze reliefs that once decorated the ceiling in the Pantheon, but had been melted down, so that the bronze might have been used to make the famous St. Peter’s Basilica altar (by Bernini). The other distinctive feature is that inside the churches we may often find art pieces by famous artists (pictures, frescoes, sculptures, etc.). We have however to bear in mind, that the Catholic Church (popes and bishops) like kings and princes in many other countries hired talented artists to decorate the interiors. Some of the famous artists and their workshops could have shown the world their work and this way got famous because the Church was their sponsor. Further, there is the problem of not knowing at what to look at, the ceiling, the floor, walls or numerous pieces of art. All the details are worked out very precisely. Of specific things for Western European standards are the Byzantine frescoes and mosaics at walls and ceilings, typical for South-Eastern Europe, hard to find in the Western tradition. For different reasons, either invited or because they fled the country, some Byzantine artists worked in Europe since the times of Charlemagne and his heirs. The other feature are marble walls and pillars, as marble formations are spread all over Italy and marble is a natural building element.

Below a small selection of photos from one of the most prominent and oldest (with origins back in IV century) churches in Rome, the Lateran Archbasilica (Archbasilica of St. John Lateran), a church or a cathedral that although located in the city of Rome is an extraterritorial Vatican (Holy See >>>) property. In the past, the basilica and the adjacent palace were the official sit of popes. It lost its splendor as popes moved to Avignon. The present interior is a combination of works that had been conducted mainly in XVI-XVIII centuries. But still in hierarchy of basilicas of Rome, this one is precedent even ahead of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city.


The main nave, with figures of 12 apostles alongside it.


Vestibule, reachly covered with marble. Although its interior was designed centuries later, you easily can get the impression that you visit a palace in ancient Rome. 


A piece of the floor arrangement in the vestibule.


The ceiling of the vestibule.


Bronze doors at the main entrance inside of the vestibule, taken from Curia Iulia building at Forum Romanum. In ancient Rome Curia Iulia hosted the Roman Senate.


The floor mosaics in the main nave in the so called Cosmati style. Cosmati were a Roman family of artists. They specialised among others in designing and making of mosaics. 


The ceiling in the main nave. While in Rome it is always recommendable to look up.


One of 12 statues of the apostles located alongside the main nave. This one by Pierre le Gros is of St. Thomas.


The look downstairs onto the confessio (adjacent in front to the main altar) covered with beutiful marble. Behind the stairs rail, the view onto the tomb of Pope Martin V.  

Confessio is a crypt to which you can get from inside a church taking the stairs down. It is usually linked to corridors and chambers containing tombs.  During our visit in Rome we saw confessios in a number of churches.


The apse located at the very end of the basilica building, behind the altar. Traditionally it has a semi-circular shape, reachly decorated Byzantine style (mosaics at the top with figures shown at the golden background).

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