Near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem is a beautiful Armenian mosaic dating from the 5th or 6th century AD. Also known as "the bird mosaic," it was discovered in 1894 along with a small natural cave.
What to See at Armenian Mosaic
Incorporating tesserae of many different colors, the Armenian Mosaic depicts a vinewith many branches and grape clusters, which springs from a vase. Populating the vine's branches are peacocks, ducks, storks, pigeons, an eagle, a partridge, and a parrot in a cage. The elaborate scene is framed by a guilloche border.
Under the southwest corner, a small natural cave contained human bones and lamps dating from the 5th or 6th centuries. The room was clearly used as a mortuary chapel. An inscription at the top of the mosaic reads: "For the memory and salvation of all those Armenians whose name the Lord knows."
Not only the inscription, but the symbolism of the mosaic itself indicates the room was used to ponder death and remember the dead. In early Christian art, birds were common symbols of believers' souls. The bird in the cage represents the soul imprisoned within the body. Other images remind the viewer of the hope of salvation: vine scrolls symbolize the blood of Christ and a basket of fruit represents the flesh of Christ.
The Armenian Bird Mosaic is about 200m north of the Damascus Gate. Go south along Hanevim (Prophet St.) to a house at the corner of a short street on the right.
Quick Facts on Armenian Mosaic
|Visitor and Contact Information|
- Kay Prag, Blue Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Black and Norton, 2002), 249-50.
- Design in Center and Periphery: Three Generations of Armenian Ceramic Artists in Jerusalem - Interpreting Ceramics