What is a Mosaic? A Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. The history of mosaic dates back to 4th century BC with the introduction of Greek mosaic floors. Mosaics later spread to Italy in 1st century BC and by 4th century AD, Christian mosaic artists began to decorate the walls and the churches rather than the floors.
With the rise of the Byzantine Empire during 5th century in Byzantium (now Istanbul, Turkey), mosaics took on new characteristics which included Eastern influences in style. Byzantine mosaic artists incorporated typical Christian themes. The Byzantines made use of the Eastern invention of coloured glass and gold was used to represent celestial light bringing richness and glamour to the walls. The main purpose of the mosaics was for the images to serve as illustrations catechizing activities or as a teaching aid in one’s introduction to the participation of the liturgy. Essentially the mosaics were illustrations for the illiterate so they could appreciate the gospels and the stories told in the bible. Since medieval Byzantine artists have left no written statement about themselves or their work, we know little of their thought process, other than what the monuments themselves can tell us.