Rome, S Tommaso in Formis

Era 13AD
Location Via di S. Paolo della Croce, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
Placement I've managed to mark the road but not the spot of the gate.

A mosaic was attached to the facade of S Tomaso in Formis (the church itself does not survive), dated to 1218. It takes the unusual form of a roundel, in which Christ is shown enthroned, grasping white and black captives, both shackled, referring to the charitable work of the Trinitarian Order, to whom the church belonged, and its freeing of slaves.

The patron is unknown and the subject unparalleled; it has been suggested that it may have derived from the seal of the Order. It is an unusual example whose existence suggests a whole level of small-scale mosaic making by Roman artists not otherwise visible.


The mosaic is on the entrance to the former hospice of the Trinitarian church on Via di S Paolo della Croce. An inscription ascribes the mosaic to one Master Jacopo and his son Cosmatus, and they introduce the Cosmati family and ‘Cosmati work’. This term is used to refer to elaborately- patterned pavements made from small cut stones and to inlays using glass, including gold glass, cut to size and often resembling mosaic tesserae, forming part of the floors and also often incorporated into sculpted church fittings such as baldacchini, altars, candlesticks and even tombs.

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