The Annunciation

12th century
Mosaic
Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio ("The Martorana"), Palermo, Sicily

The Ammiraglio was built by an Orthodox official of the court of the Catholic Roger II. Primarily Byzantine in inspiration, this and other mosaics share some characteristics of western art. Here the figures are dressed as in Orthodox images: Gabriel wears flowing robes and holds a sceptre; Mary sits in a blue robe and purple veil festooned with stars. Also Orthodox is the allusion to the Protevangelium's statement that when the angel arrived Mary had been spinning purple thread for a new Temple veil. We see a distaff in her left hand, and a line of thread crosses over her right thumb to a basket of thread on her lap.

More typical of western art is the dove approaching Mary on a beam of light and the hand extending from Heaven in the upper margin. Western images are also less likely to adopt the Orthodox tradition of placing Mary on a fully realized throne. Here her seat has no back or arms.

The inscription on the left is the Greek for "Saint Gabriel." Right of Mary's halo is an abbreviation of her name; I am unable to interpret the HCMOC left of the halo.

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More of the Annunciation

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