Noah and His Sons Build the Ark

12th-13th century
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

The inscription says noe secundum dei mandatum arcam facit operare, "Noah has the ark built according to God's command." The three men in blue are presumably Noah's three sons. There is no indication as to the identity of the two in white.

The mosaic provides interesting information about the tools and techniques of medieval carpentry. In the upper part of the scene we see two kinds of medieval "bow saws." Both are "rip saws," meant for cutting along the grain of the wood. The two-man version is called a "pit saw." On the ground below the man on the right has a "broad axe," used for squaring and shaping a timber. The man on the left is doing finer work with a "gouge."1

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

1 mac Alasdair, 3-6.