The Paralytic Let Through the Roof

6th century
Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

This is one of the 13 mosaics of the life of Christ along the upper band of the left wall of the nave. In Mark 2:1-5 and Luke 5:17-26 the friends of a paralytic try to take him to the house where Jesus is staying, but it is so crowded that they cannot get in. So they uncover part of the roof and let him down into the house, where Jesus heals him and forgives his sins.

For the sake of compositional simplicity, Jesus and (perhaps) John are placed outside on the left as the man is let down into the house on the right. The curvy headboard suggests that what the man is lying on is a bed (lectus, the word used in the Vulgate Luke) rather than a pallet or camp cot (Mark's grabatus). Also suggestive of Luke is the use of just two friends: Luke gives no number; Mark says there were four. But again, simplicity of composition may be what determined the artist's choice.

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