Wednesday, 29 March 2023

A Medieval Treasure

 The Cosmati Mosaic Pavement

The Cosmati Pavement is currently in the news, but did you know about this rare national treasure previously? 

The pavement was commissioned by King Henry 111 from the reknown Cosmati family in Rome.  In 1268 they journeyed over from Italy to London where they designed and then laid the pavement in front of Westminster Abbey's High Altar. For the last 150 years the mosaic has been cover in a carpet to protect it. The reason for the present interest is because King Charles will be seated on the 700 year old Cornation Chair placed upon the mosaic when he is crowned, the mosaic having been carefully conserved and restored in recent years.

The mosaic is something that I have known about for a long time, courtesy a painting by Hans Holbein the younger, called The Ambassadors, which he painted in 1533. The painting was done at a time of great religious upheaval both here and across Europe.


Catherine of Aragon

The Pope had refused to annul King Henry V111's marriage to Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the break with the Roman Catholic Church. 

King Henry V111 & Anne Boleyn

In the year that Holbein executed his painting King Henry V111 married Anne Boleyn. The array of objects seen in the painting alludes to the religious discord both here and across Europe. Holbein came to live in England in 1532 and was, therefore, both witness and party to this tumultous period in our history. In his painting two French Ambassadors are seen standing on the Cosmati Pavement, however, this mosaic holds a criptic medieval prophecy, but what is it? If you are interested in discovering the answer and would also like to know about the meanings behind some of the other objects depicted in the painting, then you can find out about them here.