Centcelles, Mausoleum of Constans I

Also known as Taragona, Mausoleum of Constans I
Era 4AD
Location Cami l'Almoster, 1, 43120 Constantí, Tarragona, Spain
Placement check map location is OK

A building from Centcelles near Tarragona in Spain, may be the tomb the emperor Constans I, youngest son of Constantine the Great, who died in 350. The mausoleum retains much of an elaborate programme of mosaic decoration in the dome. These begin with a lower level of secular, traditional scenes of hunting (which also carried imperial connotations). They move up to Old and New Testament scenes of salvation in the middle zones, divided by architectural columns. At the top are standing figures of the seasons interspersed with larger panels, now very fragmentary, showing what look like scenes of imperial ceremony on a gold background. Stone, marble and glass tesserae are used; interestingly, at Centcelles, the materials are arranged hierarchically, with stone used extensively in the lower two zones and glass in the upper. Gold glass is employed in the top zone and the central medallion and emphasises the main axis of the decoration through its use in one panel in the middle zone, that of the Good Shepherd. The mosaics echo floor mosaics, notably in the hunting frieze and in the choice of ornament – the ribbon decoration for example. At Centcelles, we have no idea where the materials and artists for the mosaics came from. Almost certainly the glass was brought specially, and the presence of Pentelic white marble tesserae suggests that some of the stone was also imported or re-used. The mosaicists may have come from Rome perhaps, as there is relatively little trace of wall mosaic in Spain and the mausoleum was certainly a special commission. However, taken with the earlier imperial mausolea of Diocletian and Maximian Daia, S Costanza and Centcelles make it clear that elaborate, full iconographic schemes invoking hopes for the afterlife in wall mosaic were nothing new.