The Apse Mosaic at the Ambrosian Basilica


6th-8th century, restored in 18th-19th
Mosaic
Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan

Left side of the mosaic

Christ blesses the viewer from his throne. His Father's blessing on him is symbolized by the throne and sunburst at the apex. The words in his book are ego sum lux mundi, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12, 8:5).

Two angels, labeled "St. Michael" and "St. Gabriel" in Greek, carry crowns for the two young saints below, Protasius on the left and Gervasius on the right. They are also labeled in Greek and carry small hand crosses, which continue today to be the symbol of martyrdom in Orthodox icons.

Below the thone, Saints Marcellina and Candida flank St. Satyrus, St. Ambrose's brother. Marcellina was his sister St. Ambrose. As for Candida, there are six saints with that name in the Roman Martyrology, two each in Rome, Naples, and Carthage. It seems most likely that this Candida is the Roman martyr who was baptized with her husband and daughter by St. Marcellinus, whose name so closely resembles that of St. Marcellina. Her feast is on June 6.

Below the three saints, an inscription declares that the church was built by St. Ambrose in honor of the martyrs.

The scene on the far right depicts an episode from the legend of St. Ambrose. While in the midst of Mass he seemed to nod off and fall asleep. The other clergy waited three hours before waking him. He explained that he had learned in a vision that St. Martin had just died in Gaul and that he, Ambrose, had conducted the funeral rites. The inscription below tells this story.

On the far left is the vision, with Ambrose standing to the left as another cleric places St. Martin's body in the sarcophagus. The inscription below says that although Martin is dead the gift of his life continues and the world rejoices.

View the two images above in full resolution.
Read more about Christ in Majesty and about St. Martin, Saints Gervasius and Protasius, and St. Ambrose.

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