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.
It seems somehow odd to me that one should have to pay to walk in front of the high altar in a church. Should a house or worship not have free and universal access to all, mosaic floor or not? And if one is devout but poor one is denied the chance to ever see it.ReplyDelete
Everyone can still see mosaic David and will be able to so for the futureseeable future. I would be perfectly happy to do that - I personally don't feel the need to walk upon it.Delete
It still begs the question, why do you have to pay to walk on the floor of a church? Either permit everyone to do it, or no one, not just those who can afford to pay. From Parnassus' comment below it seems like the whole abbey is a revenue-generating machine.Delete
I have endeavoured to elaborate more on Parnassus' comment.Delete
Hello Rosemary, I was in London twice, and at both times the Abbey was closed for repairs, however I don't recall that there was any admission fee. I agree with David's comment above; I don't think I have ever been charged admission to a church--although their website does remark that worshippers can enter for free. Also I checked--if I am interpreting this correctly, regular adult admission is GBP27, and the pavement an additional GBP15, which I believe does include a tour. For GBP43, however, I could study the impressive picture of the Cosmati Pavement you have shown us, then head over to Bond Street.ReplyDelete
Hello Jim - there is no admission charge to visit Westminster Abbey if you are there for a service or simply go into pray but to be able to see this rare mosaic up close and personal is a special one off. I understand you do have to pay if you are using the abbey in much the same way as a museum - sadly it costs a fortune to maintain such an ancient building and all of the treasures that it contains.Delete
Hello Rosemary, My comment was not 100% serious--I was just registering sticker shock at how much admission costs can be these days. I especially sympathize with smaller attractions that can have huge expenses that have to be covered with low revenues, such as some lesser-known but worthwhile house museums, and am happy to pay the asking price. That said, my hat is off to those many museums and attractions that still manage to offer free admission. --JimDelete
Apparently there are 25 top museums that do have free entry in London alone - The V&A, The Briitish Museum, National Gallery etc.Delete
I had never heard of the Cosmati Mosaic Pavement until I saw it on the news. It's just fascinating! And how wonderful that it has now been restored. I'm familiar with Holbein's painting of the ambassadors, but I didn't know before that they were standing on the Cosmati pavement. I do know the famous object "hidden" in the painting, however!ReplyDelete
You are right Debra there is one hidden object, but there are also many hidden meanings within the painting too.Delete
I imagine there'll be long queues to view the mosaic, no matter how much they charge. It may well be that the charge has been designed to control the numbers of visitors. I was at a church in deepest Norfolk recently and noticed they had a little machine where you could make a £5 donation to the church just by waving your credit/debit card in front of it.ReplyDelete
Funding is a big problem everywhere especially for the maintenance of churches.Delete
What an intricate piece of history on the church floor. This is the first I've read of it, and will be going to your link to investigate more.ReplyDelete
I can't imagine the funds it must take to maintain a building like Westminster Abbey. I also see no need to walk on the mosaic - just seeing it would be amazing.
No are no other mosaics like this here which makes it unique,Delete
This is news to me.ReplyDelete
Hope you enjoyed seeing.Delete
Did not know about the pavement before last week or the history behind it. Did read Philippa Gregory's novels recently however concerning the Tudor period so the timeline and all the names are still vividly familiar.ReplyDelete
I would not like to have lived in the Tudor period but it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall.Delete
Dear Rosemary, I didn't know that such a beautiful mosaic exists in Westminster Abbey.ReplyDelete
To protect such a treasure against myriads of tourist feet is a very wise idea.
And what a wonderful feeling King Charles III will have during his coronation!
(He is now in Berlin - but I am in Bavaria - so: TV must substitute :-)
It looks as if he is enjoying himself in Berlin.Delete
What a fascinating post, Rosemary. I do not remember ever hearing about the Cosmati Pavement, and its connection to the Coronation. Very little information is available in Australia about the coronation, to my disappointment, and definitely no souvenirs on sale either. I remember the excitement of the late Queen's coronation when I was a tiny child, and was given medals and cards about it. It was great to see the Ambassador's painting again, and I do remember the skull - amazing!ReplyDelete
I haven't seen any souvenirs here either Patricia but people have so many other unexpected large calls on their finances currently.Delete
The mosaic is certainly beautiful and it's good to hear of it's story.ReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed its story Margaret.Delete
Does King Charles know much about the Coronation Chair being placed upon the mosaic when he is crowned? When King Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon could not end in divorce or annulment, does King Charles see any moral link?ReplyDelete
I am not party to his thoughts but I doubt it.Delete
What a fascinating floor of intricately beautiful design! Cosmati mosaic is utterly new to me. It can't be happened, but even if I were allowed, standing or walking on such a beautiful pavement is not my choice, Thanks for shairng.ReplyDelete
It is a wonderful piece of architectural and artistic work which is now almost 800 years old.Delete
What a beautiful mosaic and a fascinating history.ReplyDelete
Pleased that you found it fascinating.Delete
Beautiful mosaic and a very interesting post!ReplyDelete
Have a HAPPY Easter Rosemary...
Sending Easter greetings to you too Titti.Delete
Creative and artisticReplyDelete