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Monday, November 17, 2014

The Vatican's Mosaics

St. Peter's Basilica, a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City in Rome, Italy, is one of the largest churches in the world. 

It has been described as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom" and one observer wrote: "St Peter's Basilica is the reason why Rome is still the center of the civilized world. For religious, historical, and architectural reasons it by itself justifies a journey to Rome, and its interior offers a palimpsest of artistic styles at their best..."

By Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Pope and Bishop of Rome.

St Peters is the repository of amazing work of art : sculptures, images... 

The Transfiguration - Raphael

Now, an interesting and little known fact about the images inside St Peter's is that all but one of them are mosaics executed in the "filato" technique.

Details of the Filato Work of the above Scene.

Filati mosaics have been utilized since 1600 by the Vatican studio to reproduce and replace the oil paintings in St Peter’s Basilica which have deteriorated over the years due to humidity.

The "Filato" technique was invented during the 15th century. Filato is made from smalti that is heated and stretched into thin noodles. It is then cut in small pieces used as micro tesserae.

Filato rods

The use of glass in mosaic allows for amazing colours, since we are now able to produce all nuances of colours by the filato technique, we are able to reproduce in mosaic all the most famous paintings. 

Personally, if I admire the amazing beauty of such works, I am saddened by the fact that all the creativity is taken out of the mosaicist's work. Mosaic is just used for copying painting. In my opinion, it is unfortunate. By doing so one relegates mosaic to the status of a mere Craft rather than a full Art.

What do you think ? Agree, disagree ? Please leave your comments below !

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If you are interested in purchasing one of my mosaics, would like to commission a special project or to simply discuss the wonderful art of modern and ancient mosaics, please contact me by email at or by phone at (334) 798 1639.

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