Given that we have a pretty wide readership, and many of you are academics, I wonder if anyone can answer a question posed by blog correspondent Dave about monograms that appear in mosaics, particularly at Ravenna. If you can help please add a comment to this post or email me. Thank you in anticipation!
“I have one question which you may be able to answer (I’ve never seen reference to it in any of my readings): in many 5th and 6th century mosaics – notably at Ravenna – martyrs, saints, angels, even Christ himself, often have a monogram embroidered on their over-cloak (himation) which sometimes looks like a Greek letter (gamma or zeta), sometimes an ivy-leaf, or sometimes like nothing identifiable at all – do these have any significance? The monogram between the knees of Christ in the apse at San Vitale is so prominent and conspicuous that I thought it must have been put there for a reason. (or perhaps it’s one of those things that will always be a mystery?).”
Can you help?
This offers a great excuse to post some pictures from our 2009 Mosaic hunting trip to Ravenna which show these monograms!