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Finding faith: The oldest image of Jesus captured in mosaic

JESUS; MOSAIC

Photo by Lucie de Guise, courtesy of the British Museum

Lucien de Guise - published on 06/07/20

This 4th-century AD work of art shows Christ without a beard.

A series that looks at the visual arts for signs of the universal Church in sometimes unexpected places.

Discussion about what Jesus looked like shows no sign of disappearing. Skin color is one issue that seems especially insignificant when one realises that early artists didn’t even visualize him with a beard. This is the oldest-known image of Our Lord in mosaic, from the 4th century AD. Of all the unlikely locations for this enormous and very sophisticated work of art, it was unearthed in the rural southwest of England. The only element that seems authentically Middle Eastern about it is the pomegranates besides Christ’s head. The artist seems to have had a clearer idea of what this Mediterranean symbol of immortality looked like than about the main subject of the mosaic.

JESUS; mosaic
Photo by Lucien de Guise, courtesy of the British Museum

Lucien de Guise is on Instagram @crossxcultural. As a Catholic writer, editor, curator and former museum director, his aim is to build bridges through art.

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