Apocalyptic mosaic in Westminster revealed

In front of the high altar in Westminster Abbey lies an intricate Cosmati mosaic made of exotic colored marble, glass and gemstones so delicate that it has been covered up for much of the 20th century.

Even Queen Elizabeth II had to stand on carpeting during her coronation because it was deemed too perilous to perch the throne, flunkies and other imperial accoutrements on the mosaic proper as had been done for 6 centuries before.

Now that a two-year restoration program has begun, the layers of carpeting have finally been removed so visitors may actually get a glimpse of the beauty.

The wraps have come off one of Westminster Abbey’s least known treasures, a medieval marble pavement foretelling the end of the world, while conservation experts consider how to preserve the ancient stones for the next 740 years.

Few modern visitors have ever seen it, although since 1268 kings and princes, queens and cardinals have walked across a symbol laden mosaic as intricate as a piece of jewellery.

It is made up of rare marbles and gemstones, including some recycled from monuments 1,000 years older, and pieces of coloured glass, set in complex allegorical patterns into a framework of Purbeck marble cut as intricately as a jigsaw puzzle.

The allegory of the shapes apparently contains references to the end of the world, as does an inscription that is now almost entirely gone but was transcribed in the 15th century:

If the reader wittingly reflects upon all that is laid down,
he will discover here the end of the primum mobile:
the hedge lives for three years,
add in turn dogs, and horses and men
stags and ravens, eagles, huge sea monsters, the world;
each that follows triples the years of the one before.

Cool, huh? I do love a quality obscure-metaphor-packed apocalyptic code. Here’s a neat interpretation of the inscription.

This inscription refers to the medieval belief that the earth was fixed at the centre of nine moving spheres, which carried the sun, moon, five known planets, and the fixed stars. The ninth and outermost sphere, beyond the fixed stars, was called the “primum mobile” (first moved) because it was thought to be the sphere set in motion by God, which provided the motive power of all the other spheres.

“The end of the primum mobile” means the age of the universe when it will come to an end – at the Day of Judgement. The verse claims that this can be calculated by tripling the life-spans of God’s other creations. So the hedge, standing for three years, is tripled to give the life-span of a dog (nine years), which in turn is tripled to give the life-span of a horse (27 years). The final age, the life-span of the primum mobile, is 19,683 years – three raised to the power of nine. This was appropriate for the age of the ninth sphere.

That’s a pretty generous End of Days assessment. How are you supposed to get a bevy of adoring supine girls and the entire contents of their daddy’s bank accounts when the apocalypse is 20 thousand years away?

10 thoughts on “Apocalyptic mosaic in Westminster revealed

  1. That’s a pretty generous End of Days assessment.

    Pretty generous, or just common sense? All too often people make predictions of the “End of Days” being right around the corner and a couple of weeks/months/years away. When the time comes, and then promptly goes with nary a fuss let alone a falling sky, blood-filled waters and bugs galore, the “prophet” looks the fool. Much better to claim it’s far, far away and if it does comes say “Whoops”, than to claim it’s going to be tomorrow and have to save face a couple of days later.

    1. Very true, but all the other apocalypse predictions I’ve encountered have eschewed common sense in favor of the immediate benefits available to the “prophet”. He can always just change the math to keep the steady stream of money and babes flowing.

      Clearly the folks behind the mosaic had no crotch-sniffing dog in the hunt.

  2. Of course to calculate the end of the world properly you would have to know the moment of creation of the world, and since we now know that this was 1.4 billion years ago (more or less) this means the medieval mastermind of the mosaic had already got his prediction wrong when he made it!
    Nevertheless, like their spirtual heirs the Christian fundamentalists of the USA, the benighted medieval churchmen who made such weird and wonderful predictions thought that the world had been created 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, which means that in their opinion the world would end in 16683 AD…. so don’t worry folks, we’ve got 14670 years to go!

  3. You are correct I do put random things together but I wouldn’t say about a million choices to make, for example I just have one other regarding King Edward viii (not vii as I said a couple of posts ago):

    From his abdication on 11 December (the day I would be born) to the day that the stone of destiny returned to Scotland after 700 years on New Years night 1950 (the stone that King Edward should have been crowned upon!) is 5459 days where it was hidden in a Lathe making factory in the foremans office, in a secret compartment behind a giant lathe. And from that day it reached Scotland to my day of birth in 1965 is also 5459 days and my name is Layth…

    More in my new article.

  4. From the stones theft to prince Charles engagement to Diana is 250,000 days. He announced the engagement just over two weeks later and from the day of the declaration of union between Scotland and England is exactly 100,000 days plus there was an earthquake in Athens.

    Keeping to the theme of marriage, how about this one?:

    Prince Charles and Camila had to shift their marriage and venue to the next day because the pope died and had to be buried that day and Charles and Blair his guest had to attend. The pope was 31,000 days old when he died and was born and buried on a full solar eclipse.

    Or this and please not I’m keeping in theme here:

    The queen was visited in her bedroom by the palace intruder Michael fagan who had a chat with her while she was in her nightie on her 11,111 day as reigning queen.

    Half that number is 5555.5555 days which is how old exactly that William was within a minute of Diana’s hearse passing him on her funeral.

    Half it again is 2777.7 which is the span between Diana’s exact time of death and ten pm (the exact time of solar eclipse) of the day that Charles had booked to wed camila but at the last minute Pope john Paul requisitioned the day.

  5. Kaldani, your posts and insights are outstanding. Is there an address where you are currently posting and new or updated articles. I have not seen any in several years although I have introduced thousands to read your articles.


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