Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh

Home Forums Ireland reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh


The positioning of the mosaic in the apsis of Santa Pudenziana has both architectural and theological significance. The Apse is the focal point of the basilica and immediately draws the eye’s attention. There, Christ is enthroned, his right hand extended in blessing, a book in his left. He is bearded, with long loose flowing hair. He is seated on a high backed throne. Above him is a halo. All of these details attest his divinity. They are all taken from the standard trpes of Roman and Greek art for depicting the gods of the Roman and Greek pantheon. The representation of Christ in Santa Pudenziana is an example of what is nowadays called “inculturation” – Christianity’s assumption of elements from a given culture to convey its message. The results of this early process are still to be seen in some of the prayers of the Roman Missal which can be shown to have been borrowed directly from the pagan temples of Rome and christianized. In the case of the Santa Pudenziana, the beard and halo, borrowed from depictions of Jupiter, signify Christ’s divinity. The enormous high backed throne is borrowed from the high-backed seats used in depictions of the Capitoline triad – Jupiter, Juno and Athena – and again signify his divinity. Similarly, loose long hair was also a standard sign of divinity in Roman and Greek art. Here, applied to Christ, it again asserts his divinity. The positioning of the moasic in the apsis of the basilica also has its significance: beneath it is located the Cathedra of the bishop affirming that the bishop’s authority comes from Christ. The positioning of the Christ figure in the apse also had liturgical significance: it was a physical articulation that Christian life is a procession through time to Christ. Commanding the focal point of the Basilica, all things literally lead to Christ. All things that happen within the Basilica draws meaning from Christ. The liturgical life of the Church unfolds in a series of processions: the entrance in which the clergy come to him; the offertory, in which the elements for the eucharist are brought to him, and the procession to Holy Communion when the faithful share at the Lord’s table. Seven hundred later, the same iconography would be used in the tympana of the Romanesque Churches to inidcate the authority for the justice administered in their portals.

The image of Christ in the mosaic of Santa Pudenziana, showing beard, long hair and halo.

The council of the gods 5th. century (Vatican Library)

Christ handing the law to his Apostles

Santa Pudenziana: the lion symbolizing St. Mark; the ox symbolizing St. Matthew;

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