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Icon of Christ Pantokrator, Mount Athos Monastery

I’ve been somewhat interested in Byzantine mosaic ever since I read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sarantine Mosaic duology, in which the protagonist is a mosaicist. There is something fascinating in a wondrous image being constructed from thousands of tiny pieces of glass. Particularly amazing is the detail in Christ’s beard — no uniform brown, but definite contours and light patches. I had never realized that this level of detail is possible in mosaic; the mosaics that I have seen tend to be done with larger tesserae, giving the images a “boxy” look not unlike the graphics on early-1980s home video game systems. Also fascinating is the fact that the images in the mosaics are so dependent on light heightens the religiosity of the image. A well-done mosaic, lit well, seems to glow under its own power. It is no wonder the Byzantines used mosaic so extensively in their religious iconography.

(Click on the image to see the Byzantine Studies page at Fordham University, where I found it.)

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