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Early Christian mosaic from the 6th century, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna
The Deesis mosaic of Hagia Sophia is a major work of Palaiological-Renaissance and Byzantine art.

Mosaics are already in the ancient species known and popular of Fine Arts , created by combining different colors or different shaped parts pattern or image when it is. Different materials can be used, stone and glass mosaics are classic; in the Islamic Middle Ages, tile mosaics were added. Paper, fabric and leather mosaics are modern ; other experimental forms are also possible. In contrast to inlays , mosaics primarily only use a single, simple form of the imaging particles, mostly small cubes. Mixed and transitional forms are possible.


The word mosaic is derived from the late Latin Musaicum ( opus ) (work dedicated to the muses ). The musical technique is the assembling of different colored flat plates (made of stone, metal, wood etc.) to create decorative patterns. The individual stones are called tessera . The furnishing of a building with mosaics is known as tessellation .



Probably the oldest known human-made mosaic area comes from Homo erectus bilzingslebenensis in Thuringia, who apparently must have pressed some foreign stones and bones into the loess of an almost circular square with a diameter of about 9 m. This pavement-like area was found around 400,000 years ago.

Between the Tigris and the Euphrates , in Mesopotamia near the city of Ur , the oldest mosaics from Sumerian times (approx. 2500–3000 BC) were found. These are pillars made of palm trunks that were coated with asphalt (a mixture of the binding agent bitumen and aggregate ) and decorated with mosaic stones.

Mosaic pins and mosaic stones were also used as material for wall friezes in buildings and as decorations for jewelery boxes, as shown by the column reconstruction of parts of the Eanna shrine in the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin and the standard of Ur in the British Museum .


Pebble mosaic in Pella

The first mosaics in the Greek world are pebble mosaics. As the name suggests, they are made up of selected pebbles, with black and white dominating. Examples of this are the mosaic with Dionysus on a panther in Pella , the capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia from 330 to 310 BC. And The Beauty from Durrës (Albania), which was created around the same time.

In Hellenism , the pebbles were replaced by specially cut stones. Ancient mosaic experienced its first heyday in the second century BC. During this time, large motifs that could cover the floor of an entire room were produced. The best known example is the Alexander mosaic in the Casa del Fauno in Pompeii ; other examples were found in Delos .

Roman Empire

This mosaic from the imperial palace in Constantinople (5th / 6th century) illustrates the high level that the fine arts in the late antique metropolises could maintain for a long time.
Mosaic ceiling in the octagon of Aachen Cathedral
Location Thermengasse in the Roman vicus Turicum ( Zurich ): remains of mosaics with simple black and white decor made of limestone that adorned the walls of the thermal baths
Mosaic from the 19th century in Braunschweig
Detail of a Kosmaten mosaic from the Cathedral of Monreale , Sicily (12th century)
Mosaic in Herculaneum , Neptune and Amphitrite
Contemporary mosaic facade in Graz , end of the 20th century. (Photo: 2010)

Mosaics were particularly widespread in the Roman Empire . Many floors and, less often, the walls in residential buildings of the upper social classes were decorated with mosaics. In the first century AD, black and white mosaics were preferred, with geometric motifs dominating. Figurative representations were rather rare and only became more popular in the 2nd century; At the same time, there were also multicolored mosaics, which were particularly popular in the North African provinces and showed their own style. Classical Greek style elements and traditions predominated in the east of the empire.

From the 3rd century AD, Christian mosaic art emerged as a special art movement, both in the west and in the east of the empire. Early Christian mosaics in Rome are a special focus, as are the mosaics in Ravenna, Italy, influenced by the Byzantine Empire .

There are also some older mosaics in Germany that date from the time of the Roman occupation. One of the most famous mosaics is the Dionysus mosaic in Cologne, which was found during shaft work in 1941 and over which the Roman-Germanic Museum was built. The largest Roman mosaic in Germany was discovered in 1852 in the Nennig district of the Saarland community of Perl . The so-called gladiator mosaic measures 15.65 × 10.30 m and shows six figurative fields of images with scenes from the amphitheater between braided diamond stars . It is preserved in place under a protective structure from 1874.

middle Ages

Medieval mosaics are rather rare; The figurative scenes in the former cathedral of Lescar ( Aquitaine ) or the representations of the zodiac in the ambulatory of the former abbey church of Saint-Philibert in Tournus ( Burgundy ) are famous . But also in some Romanesque churches in Cologne (e.g. Sankt Gereon , Groß Sankt Martin ) there are complete or partially preserved examples.


The Islamic mosaic art consists predominantly of abstract-geometric or calligraphic tile mosaics . These were probably developed under the Turkish Seljuks and spread over the entire Islamic world from the 11th century. From the 14th century on, the time-consuming and therefore expensive mosaic production was gradually abandoned; instead, new techniques were developed by means of which the abstract (Islam) or pictorial (southern Europe) motifs could be separated from one another before the final firing process .

Modern mosaic

In the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade , one of the world's largest mosaic furnishings is being completed: all walls over 7.40 m high are to be covered with gold mosaics.

Today, mosaics are mostly manufactured industrially and delivered prefabricated on mesh or paper. These prefabricated mosaic panels are available as glass mosaic, ceramic mosaic or natural stone mosaic.

A decisive limitation of the industrially to the hand-made mosaic is the shape of the stones and the guidance of the joint lines. In the artistic and hand-laid mosaic, their course, which helps to create the motif, creates a drawing within the motif and, thanks to their undulating lines that trace the motif, an aura around the motifs, which is what makes a mosaic so appealing in the first place and which are industrially manufactured in the pixel-like arrangement Mosaic is missing.

The German Institute for Standardization describes material surfaces with a side length of less than 10 cm as a mosaic, with more than 10 cm as tiles and from 30 cm as plates. Ministeck is a modern variant of the mosaic.

The mosaic has recently become more important in the arts and crafts sector. Many craft shops are increasingly offering templates and mosaic stones made of materials such as glass, ceramics, clay, marble and with different shapes such as pearls, hearts or stars.

The wall mosaic Frankfurter Staircase by Berlin artist Stephan Huber is located in the Main Tower in Frankfurt am Main .

With a height of seven meters and a length of 125 meters, the frieze of the teacher's house on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, made up of 800,000 mosaic stones, is the largest pictorial work in Europe. The frieze entitled Our Life by Walter Womacka was completed in 1964, renovated in 2004 and is a listed building.

The mosaic technique has recently also been used in computer programs for creating photo mosaics . As the largest mosaic work of art at the moment, a large part of the mosaic design in the St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade is completed by the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow under the direction of Nikolaj Muhin . The byzantine gold mosaics of the 11th – 12th centuries Century-like dome mosaic of 1235 m² was completed on December 17, 2017.

Famous mosaics


Important mosaic artists

In the 20th century
The glass mosaic " Sport " by Eduard Bargheer was made in 1962 in the August Wagner workshop. It is located in the Hanover district of Calenberger Neustadt next to the south entrance of the HDI-Arena .

Related techniques


  • Joseph Wilpert : The Roman mosaics and paintings. 4 volumes, 1916, DNB 561036160
  • G. Bovini: The mosaics of Ravenna. Zettner, Würzburg 1956, DNB 576237884
  • Klaus Parlasca : The Roman mosaics in Germany. de Gruyter, Berlin 1959, DNB 453705065 . (= Roman-Germanic research ; 23). (Partly also: Göttingen, Univ. Diss. 1950 udT: The mosaics of Roman Germania. )
  • Gonzenbach: The Roman mosaics of Switzerland. 1961, DNB 363791388 .
  • Philippe Bruneau: Les mosaïstes antiques avaient-ils des cahiers de modèles? In: Revue archéologique . (1984), p. 241ff.
  • Carlo Bertelli (ed.): The mosaics from antiquity to the present. Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1988, ISBN 3-86047-485-5 .
  • Annamaria Giusti: Pietra Dura . Images made of stone. Hirmer, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7774-2745-4 .
  • Albert Knoepfli : wall painting, mosaic. In: Reclam's Handbook of Artistic Techniques. Volume 2. Reclam, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-15-030015-0 .
  • A. Tammisto: Birds in Mosaics. 1997, ISBN 951-96902-4-7 .
  • Orhan Bingöl: Painting and Mosaic of Antiquity in Turkey. von Zabern, Mainz 1997, ISBN 3-8053-1880-4 .
  • Philippe Bruneau: Les mosaïstes antiques avaient-ils des cahiers de modèles? : Suite, probablement sans fin. In: Ktema. 25 (2000), pp. 191ff.
  • R. Westgate: Pavimenta atque emblemata vermiculata: Regional Styles in Hellenistic Mosaic and the First Mosaics at Pompeii . In: American Journal of Archeology. 104 (2000), pp. 255ff.
  • Bernard Andreae : Ancient picture mosaics. von Zabern, Mainz 2003, ISBN 3-8053-3156-8 .
  • Petra C. Baum-vom Felde: The geometric mosaics of the villa at Piazza Armerina. Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8300-0940-2 .
  • Michael Donderer : And they did exist! A new papyrus and the testimony of the mosaics prove the use of ancient "sample books". In: Ancient World . Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2005, ISSN  0003-570X , pp. 59-68.
  • Werner Jobst: Roman mosaics from Ephesus. Die Hanghäuser des Embolos , Verlag der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1977, ISBN 3-7001-0225-9 . (= Research in Ephesus Volume 8/2)
  • Umberto Pappalardo, Rosaria Ciardiello: Greek and Roman mosaics . Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-7774-3791-0 .

Web links

Commons : Mosaics  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Mosaic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Walter Oakeshott : The mosaics of Rome from the third to the fourteenth century . Anton Schroll & Co., Vienna and Munich 1967, p. 15ff.
  2. Dietrich Mania : In the footsteps of prehistoric man - the finds from Bilzingsleben . Theiss, Stuttgart 1990.
  3. Stefan M. Maul: The Gilgamesh epic . Beck, Munich 2006
  4. Johannes Boese: Old Mesopotamian consecration plates. A Sumerian genus of monuments of the 3rd millennium (Studies on Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology, Volume 6), De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1971, ISBN 3-11-002484-5 [Reprint 2011, ISBN 978-3-11-081831-4 ].
  5. Maria Siganidou / Maria Lilimbaki-Akamati: Pella. Capital of the Macedonians , Athens 2008.
  6. Michael Pfrommer : Investigations into the chronology and composition of the Alexander mosaic on an antiquarian basis . von Zabern, Mainz 1998 (Aegyptiaca Treverensia. Trier Studies on Greco-Roman Egypt 8).
  7. ^ Joseph Wilpert / Walter N. Schumacher: The Roman mosaics of church buildings from IV. - XIII. Century . Herder, Freiburg 1976.
  8. Joachim Poeschke : Mosaics in Italy: 300 - 1300 . Hirmer, Munich 2009.
  9. Jutta Dresken-Weiland : The early Christian mosaics of Ravenna: image and meaning . Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2016.
  10. ^ Fritz Fremersdorf: The Roman house with the Dionysus mosaic in front of the south portal of the Cologne Cathedral (= Cologne excavations. Vol. 1, ZDB-ID 519349-7), Gebrüder Mann, Berlin 1956.
  11. ^ François Bertemes , Rudolf Echt : Nennig. The Roman villa . In: Jan Lichardus , Andrei Miron (ed.): The Merzig-Wadern district and the Moselle between Nennig and Metz (=  guide to archaeological monuments in Germany . No. 24 ). Theiss, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-8062-1021-7 , pp. 135-147 .
  12. Ottobrina Voccoli and Michael Brunner: European mosaic art from the Middle Ages to 1900. Imhof-Verlag, Petersberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-86568-698-5 .
  13. ^ Mosaic frieze at the teacher's house with 800,000 stones In: Berliner Zeitung of October 14, 2003. Retrieved on June 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Mosaic frieze by Walter Womacka on Alexanderplatz as the largest pictorial work in Europe On Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  16. ^ Bernard Andreae : The Alexander mosaic . Reclam, Stuttgart 1967.
  17. ^ Bernard Andreae : Nile landscapes . In: ders .: Antique picture mosaics. Zabern, Mainz 2003, pp. 78-109
  18. Carola Jäggi : Ravenna - art and culture of a late antique residence city. The buildings and mosaics of the 5th and 6th centuries , Regensburg 2013.
  19. Petra C. Baum-vom Felde: The geometric mosaics of the villa at Piazza Armerina . Kovač, Hamburg 2003.
  20. Giuseppe Schirò: The cathedral of Monreale: The city of the golden house of God . Casa Ed. Mistretta, Palermo 2007
  21. Helmut Schlunk: The mosaic dome of Centcelles . 2 vols., Von Zabern, Mainz 1988, ISBN 3-8053-0921-X (Madrid contributions 13)