Noah Mosaics - Monreale Sicily

walwyn Sun, 04/26/2020 - 22:36
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The central aisle of the south wall, of Monreale Cathedral, contains a sequence of mosaics (c1218) that tell the story of Noah and the Flood. The biblical narrative contains two versions of Noah and the Flood (known as J and P sources) both of which are intertwined.1

The sequence of moasics in Monreale starts with God informing Noah of the impending flood and giving him instructions on how to build and populate the Arc.


Noah and his sons build an Arc from Gopher wood according to instructions that they had received.


Having built the Arc Noah and his sons load it up with all the animals. The bible tale splits into two at this point the P source says that they collected two of each male and female, the J source also includes the birds and says that one pair each of the unclean and 7 pairs each of the clean beasts should be collected.2 The difference between clean and unclean is that which are acceptable for sacrifice.3


After some time, the J source says 40 days and night whilst the P source says 370 days,4 Noah releases a bird, the P version says it was a Raven whilst the J version says a Dove.

Whether Raven or Dove, the bird eventually fails to return and Noah and his sons release the Animals from the Arc.

After which Noah builds an altar and sacrifices the extra clean animals that he had taken with him. God then places a rainbow in the sky as a promise that the world will not be destroyed by flood again.


Emerging from the Arc Noah and his family engage in farming and husbandry. Noah plants a vineyard and drinking too much falls asleep naked in his tent. His son Ham (father of Canaan) discovers him and tells the other brothers. Noah subsequently curses Canaan declaring that he and his offspring will forever be servants. This particular part of the Noah story is somewhat inexplicable and Rabinical sources hint at an incest element in the oral tradition that was omitted from the written account.5 6 The story has also been used to justify slavery.7