The Sacrifices of Abel, Melchizedek, and Abraham


7th century
Mosaic
Church of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy

As in the Abel-and-Melchizedek mosaic in nearby San Vitale, Abel wears a tunica pellicea, a tunic of skin or leather, like the ones that God made for his parents. But over this reminder of the Fall he wears a priestly chasuble such as seen on images of Ravenna's bishops (example). Melchizedek goes him one better with an example of the kind of mantle worn in early images of Aaron and Caiaphas. Abraham's vestment has at least one of the purple shoulder-to-hem stripes worn by Roman senators (example).

The altar is modeled on the San Vitale mosaic, with an eight-pointed star on the altar cloth and a two-handled chalice between two round loaves, each with a cross inside a swirly pattern. This mosaic also follows San Vitale by using a hand in the sky to represent God's acceptance of the gifts.

Abel offers a lamb, Melchizedek bread and wine, and Abraham his own son, Isaac. All three offerings are traditionally taken as types of Christ, the victim offered on the Cross and in the sacred liturgy.

This image in full resolution

More of Abel
More of Melchizedek
More of Abraham
More of Christ as the Lamb

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.