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.

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

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. 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!

  5. 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.

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

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