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Architecture - Mosaic

( Originally Published 1915 )

One of the richest of all interior decorations is mosaic. It begins to be used prominently in the early Christian churches and has continued to be popular to this day. On account of its great permanency, people valued it for monuments which they wished to have endure forever.

Mosaic consists of a pictured decoration, or a decoration usually made of small pieces of colored glass set in cement against a wall or other surface to be decorated. At one time, the manufacture of mosaics for commercial purposes became a great industry in Italy. As many as twenty-five thousand different shades of colored glass were kept in one factory so that it was possible to imitate any possible shade or tone from a painting that was to be copied. At a little distance the mosaic copies of paintings cannot be told from the original paintings. Those large mosaic copies of paintings, that adorn the interior of St. Peter's at Rome, would deceive the most expert, so much do they carry the illusion of an oil painting. Other mosaics do not attempt to imitate anything, but to produce beautiful decorations or pictures for the walls. Some of these, like the ones in St. Mark's at Venice, have an almost inconceivable richness and beauty. Among the noted mosaics of the world are those at Ravenna, Italy, which people from all parts of the world go to visit and to study.


One great basilican church, one of the most wonderful churches in the world, is " St. Paul's Outside the Walls " at Rome. It is not the original church, as that was burned; but the new one is almost exactly like it, and very large and rich and beautiful; one of the great sights of Rome today. Another famous basilican church, and one of the most perfect, is S. Appollinare Nuovo at Ravenna. We shall wish to turn back and remember the features of these simple structures to see how the elaborate edifices of the Romanesque and Gothic still preserved their essential features.

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