Stepping On Masterpieces

Few tourists that brave the crush of people on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, are aware of the existence of a masterpiece – an original Joan Miró mosaic – right under their feet in the middle of the pedestrian street near the Plaça de la Boqueria! Get there early (9am is early enough by Spanish standards) and you will have it all to yourself.
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As excited as I was at finding the Miró, my loyalties lie with the muted hues and classic patterns of ancient mosaic floors. Below is a selection of mosaics, that have been cordoned off and are not technically underfoot at present, but still in situ.

This Medusa head  in the Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Rhodes, is a 1912 reproduction commissioned by the Italian court, when the original 14th century palace was destroyed in an explosion

A 1st century mosaic floor from the Church of St. Cosmas and Damian in the ancient Roman city of Jerash in Jordan, also known as the Pompei of the East.

Mosaic Map - Madaba, Jordan
Mosaic Map – Madaba, Jordan

The famous mosaic map of Madaba in the Church of St George, is considered the best representation of the biblical lands, up to 570 AD. After the Islamic invasion a few figurative representations were removed in keeping with Islamic religious codes. We spent a few hours here, on our way to Petra, but an overnight stay might be warranted.

No that isn’t a carpet! That is a mosaic floor in a lesser known residence in Madaba. There is conjecture that there might be a whole lot more undiscovered mosaics underneath the entire city!

The exquisite Mosaic Museum within the Arasta Bazaar in Sultanahmet, Istanbul displays part of the floor of the peristyle courtyard of the Grand Palace of Constantinople, that was accidentally uncovered during construction work. These 6th century mosaics represent an aesthetic that is absent of religious motifs, showing instead hunting scenes and scenes from mythology, like the geese herder above and the incredible leopards’ kill on the header. This isn’t part of most tour itineraries. But do make the effort if you are ever in Istanbul, you won’t be disappointed.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

84 thoughts on “Stepping On Masterpieces

  1. Imagine coming upon even more mosaics under the city?! How neat would that be! Great post, Madhu – stuff like this totally floats my boat!

  2. When I look at the photographic record of your wanderings, I always wonder how in the world you take it all in. Even a single visit to any one of these places would be a sensory overload for most people. The mosaics are fascinating to me. I want to wave a magic wand and look under the city for more! 🙂

    1. I am fascinated by ancient art and architecture George and can never get enough 🙂 Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go on an archaeological expedition and unearth mosaics and wonderful antiquities? To be the first ones to set eyes on things that have lain hidden for aeons? 🙂

      1. In my next life, I intend to be an archaeologist. I felt the same sense of anticipation (albeit on a minuscule basis) when I used to rummage in antiques shops! Oh, what fun I intend to have. 🙂

        1. Me too ;-D Hope there will still be beautiful things to unearth. Who would want to dig up laptops and ipods?

  3. Wonderful Madhu and I haven’t seen any of them which is terrible. When I saw the Turkey tag I thought you would have the pavement at Ephesus?

    1. Thanks Gilly. We went to Ephesus on our first visit on a tour and they skipped the terrace houses completely and that is the reason I don’t have any floor mosaics from there. I did have the ones from Hierapolis, but they aren’t that great looking.

  4. Loved it.. great photographs highlighting the details… Mosaic Art has been perfectly captured… 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing another gorgeous part of history and these mosaic masterpieces. Fascinating topic, especially to think that there may be still some left undiscovered!

  6. I also think the Mosaic Art as exquisite, unique and beautiful. Thanks for sharing these amazing masterpieces particularly of artist Joan Miro. Sometimes we are too busy and preoccupied to notice that we are standing on top a priceless work of art. Have a blessed day.

  7. Wow, I’m glad you shared these photos and information! It seems like such a shame to walk on something so lovely.

    1. I guess it is a bit like walking over an expensive carpet 🙂 Only these got to be way too valuable! Thanks Fergiemoto

    1. Aren’t they Zoe? I am amazed at the details in some of them and the intricate patterns! Thank you for your thoughts.

  8. What a gorgeous selection of mosaics, Madhu. I had no idea the Miro was there underfoot – and what a great tip to get there early! Thanks for another lovely piece…

    1. The things one can unearth with a bit of patience and Google 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Kate.

    1. Am surprised no one mentioned the header! I think the details there are amazing, if a little gruesome! Thanks DJ

  9. I’m a big fan of mosaics. Seen all the ones you mentioned in Jordan and loved every single one of them. Been to BCN and managed to miss Miro’s. I was with Catalan friends so will “tell them off” for having kept it to themselves (it’s just not possible they don’t know it’s there!).
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are most welcome. And your Catalan friends probably take that art underfoot for granted 🙂 Thank you for the visit and comment.

  10. I missed the Miro in Barcelona…I will just have to go back. The mosaics on the floor of the Duomo in Siena are wonderful as well. Most are only uncovered for a few weeks a year.

    1. Have been to Sienna, but haven’t seen the mosaics there. A return trip to Italy is definitely warranted 🙂 Thanks for the visit and comment Debra.

  11. How beautiful! I love mosaic. I can’t decide which I like best, though the ‘not-carpet’ and Medusa’s Head are definitely up there. Thank you 🙂

  12. These are so cool, Madhu, that map of Madaba in incredible, I have got to see that for myself one day! And I do love that Miro in Barcelona 🙂

    1. Thanks Naomi. Couldn’t make up my mind about which to choose, so decided to show a sampling of all 🙂

      1. I’m glad you did, Madhu. I really love to see them all and compare. And when you present, you always share a story for each, and the more stories the better!

  13. I never did adjust to the timings in Spain…everything just started too late and ended too late. 🙂

    Gorgeous photos!

    1. Me neither. I hated having to waste my mornings just because nothing would be open till noon. And before you knew it, it would be time for siesta!! Thanks Ameena.

    1. We went to Pompei in 1985 and my photos aren’t in the best of shape 🙂 I think Madaba is worth an entire day at least. Thanks Jo.

  14. Wonderful post Madhu. I love mosaics and of those above think I love best the Madaba; how incredible it would be to discover more that are underneath the city. The colors and design on this one are exquisite.

  15. fabulous piece of documenting, pictures are very good, really wish I could see for real. thats what makes good pictures for me. 😉

  16. These are so amazing, Madhu. Yes I’ve seen that Miro; very quirky indeed. Great post. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful artworks. 😉

  17. I’m so glad you posted this lovely selection of mosaic floors/walkways Madhu. I do love mosaic floors: they’re simply gorgeous, and seem to be a sign of great luxury and refinement, as the Madaba “carpet” would indicate. Perfect post!

    1. I love mosaics too and that made it easier to decide what kind of ‘art’ to write about. Glad you like it too TWLG. Thank you.

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