The Nativity

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

The mosaic presents all the common features of Orthodox Nativities of the time. In the center Mary relocates the child from the cave to the stable and places him in the manger, where the ox and ass feed. The other elements former a circle focusing on this central scene: clockwise from the bottom left, we see Joseph with his hand on his cheek, the shepherds hearing of the birth, the angels and star, and the midwives washing the baby.

This mosaic is actually half of a paired composition that stretches from side to side of the church ceiling. In the other half, the Dormition, Mary's soul is the "baby," being carried to Heaven by her son and wrapped in the same swaddling clothes as the Christ Child's.


More of the Nativity

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