From Pieces of Glass to Visions of God:
Mosaics in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition
Christianity and the Orthodox Faith developed and flourished within the lands and seas associated with the Roman Empire. When early Christians began to construct their churches, or convert pagan temples for Christian
worship, they filled these holy structures with images and icons of Christ, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), the saints, and events from the Life of Christ. It is no surprise that early Christian artists applied artistic techniques and methods which were already an integral part of ancient Greek and Roman art. One such widely popular artistic form was the mosaic.
Mosaics are pictures or images which are created with tiny, integrated
pieces of colored glass. The artists arrange these small glass fragments
into images or pictures by positioning these objects to represent a
Christian Saint or Feast Day of the Church. The ancient Greeks and Romans
worked with glass and mosaics for hundreds of years before the coming of
Christ. Therefore, it was natural that early Christian artists used mosaics
in their representations of their faith. Within a few decades after the
Resurrection of Christ, churches, baptistries, palaces, and even private
homes were decorated with scenes from the Bible, the saints, as well as the
images of Christ Himself. These mosaics were displayed prominently
throughout the Mediterranean world.
Mosaics became the foundational art form for the interior decoration of
Orthodox Churches throughout the Mediterranean, Balkan, Anatolian, and Near
Eastern regions. The consequence of this incredible work is some of the
most beautiful and moving depictions of Christianity and its principals
anywhere in the world. Every significant town or urban location possessed
at least one church or public building which was decorated with icons or
imagery based on mosaic artistic techniques.
As with any art form, mosaics were adapted and modified by various cultures
and peoples to reflect the main attributes of the society in which they
were created, taking on the essence or image of the people from that
geographical area. A distinct fusion of Byzantine, Near Eastern, and
Western attributes can be found in many of these exquisite religious pieces
Our exhibit will take you on a fascinating tour of the most famous
Christian mosaics. We begin our tour with a brief look at the art and
techniques of mosaics across time. You will be able to understand how
mosaics are created and transformed from crude glass into refined Holy
Images. The evolution of mosaics, from the secular to the Christian, will
be illustrated including key elements of Christian mosaics and their
meanings for the Orthodox faith.
Finally, our exhibit will offer a “mini tour” of the various regional
Orthodox or Byzantine-inspired mosaics beginning in the Western portion of
the Roman Empire with a look at mosaic icons from Rome, Ravenna, and
Venice—including the famous lagoon island of Torcello and its famous
Byzantine mosaics from the early Christian period.
We will then move on to Sicily, Greece, and Constantinople with a panoramic
view of mosaics which incorporate the meaning and function of Eastern and
Western styles of art. The tour will include examples of Orthodox mosaics
from the Balkans, Russia, and the Near East. The exhibit will culminate
with an assessment at how mosaics continue to influence Orthodox art and
worship in the modern period.
Come to understand the various aspects of the Eastern Orthodox Faith
through mosaic illustrations of critical events and people in the history
of the Orthodox church. See how these early artists interpreted Christ, the
Theotokos, and the Saints…how they looked and what they did. You will gain
an understanding of how the story of the Christian faith is told through
these “little pieces of glass”.
Experience Orthodox Christianity as our Early Church Fathers did so many
years ago, yet appreciate its relevancy for today. In a world, which is
ever changing, understand the power and beauty of Christianity as told by
these Holy Images.
Learn how moasics were created and crafted into the beautiful Christian represenations that graces the walls and ceilings of some of the most famous Christian buildings in the world. Understand that the art of mosaic creation is not dead or lost, but continues to be created by modern artists. Comprehend the stories that these moasics tell and how they provide an interpretation for Christians of the past, but continue to
reveal the essence of Christianity for future generations to come.
This exhibit will be available for public visitation in the church, from
festival opening until 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday, and until 7:00 PM on
Sunday. Guides will be available to answer your questions as well as offer
additional insights into the various aspects of the Greek Orthodox Faith
and these historical Christian mosaics. We look forward to seeing you!