History of Mosaic

The first mosaics can be traced back to as far as the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. These early examples of mosaics were made from different materials which were found at a temple building in Abra, Mesopotamia. These mosaics were made from pieces of coloured stones, shells, and ivory.

Some of these early mosaics show evidence of the first glazed tiles which date back to 1500BC. This article will provide an overview of early uses of mosaic pieces throughout medieval Roman times.

Ravenna – Rome

In the 5th century, Ravenna Rome became the centre of late Roman mosaic art. High artistic quality was seen in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The vaults of the small structures are clad with mosaics on blue backgrounds. The San Giovanni Evangelista building was also seen as one of the greatest decorated places with mosaics in Rome.

Throughout the 6th century, the Ostrogoths kept the tradition of mosaics alive as some of the most well-known mosaics were in historical and important buildings. After 539 Ravenna was reconquered by the Romans by the Eastern Roman Empire and became part of the Exarchate of Ravenna.

Butrint – Rome

The mosaic pavement of the Varina Plain Basilica of Butrint displays a variety of motifs including sea creatures, birds, fruits, flowers, trees, and abstract patterns. The variety of elements involved in the mosaic presents and celebrates the richness of all-natural creations.


Italy had many parts with eastern artistic influences such as Sicily and Venice. Mosaic making has never gone out of these areas and is still seen as a popular activity. The interior of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is full of elaborate golden mosaics which the oldest ones were made by Greek masters in the 11th century.

There you can also find works by local artists from the 12th century. The full mosaic decorations of the St Mark’s Basilica were only completed in the 16th century. The atrium also shows over 100 scenes of mosaic.