The Great Pavement: Westminster’s Cosmati Floor

currently playing on my iPod: Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Upon watching BBC America’s coverage of the royal wedding (which was absolutely fantastic, btw), I became intrigued with the Great Pavement. The Great Pavement is the mosaic floor before the High Altar at Westminster Abbey.

The floor was commissioned by Henry III (a medieval English king known for his good taste in art and architecture) when he rebuilt the abbey in the mid 13th century. The style is deemed Cosmati work after the Italian family who developed that particular style of mosaic floor. It is beautiful, intricate, and mysterious. I love it. I want one. Seriously.

Set on a background of dark limestone called Purbeck marble, the various small pieces are made of cut metal, glass (which was not usually present in Cosmati work), precious stone, and marble–some of which was recycled from Roman ruins. 

There were inscriptions on the floor that are not very readable, but were thankfully copied sometime in the 15th century. The inscriptions lead us to believe that the Great Pavement was made to reflect the perfect order of God as is seen in nature. One of the inscriptions actually foretold that the world would only last 19,683 years–a number found by using the life span of other things in nature. It ends up being three raised to the power of nine. Hm.

Regardless of its strange inscriptions, the floor is an amazing piece of history, of art, and I am awed by what that floor has seen. Many many coronations, the wedding of Richard of Cornwall (Henry III’s bro) and Sanchia of Provence, and now the joining of our own generation’s William and Catherine. Cool stuff.

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This entry was posted in medieval trivia, research and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Great Pavement: Westminster’s Cosmati Floor

  1. 2kdb2 says:

    Reblogged this on Star in the Stone.

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