Mosaic from Theodoric’s palace found in Verona

A section of mosaic flooring from the 5th century palace of Ostrogoth king Theodoric has been discovered in Verona. The mosaic was found during installation of new gas pipes in the Montorio hamlet less than four miles from Verona’s historic town center.

Remains of an enormous country villa more than five acres in surface area have been turning up in Montorio since the 19th century. While there is no direct evidence that it was one Theodoric’s many palaces, the sheer size and scale strongly suggests it was a royal estate. If it wasn’t Theodoric’s palace, it must have belonged to someone of enormous wealth who was very close to him.

Theodoric was not technically a Roman emperor. He was three different varieties of king, though, starting in 475 A.D. as King of the Ostrogoths, then adding King of Italy in 493 and of the Visigoths in 511. By the time of his death in 526, Theodoric reigned over most of what had been the Western Roman Empire. He spent his childhood as a noble hostage at the imperial court in Constantinople and was educated there in the Eastern Roman tradition.

As ruler of a territory stretching from the Atlantic to the Danube, Theodoric embraced the ancient imperial trappings. He donned the purple, accepted the regalia of the Western Empire from Eastern Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus and allowed all Roman citizens in the kingdom to be governed by Roman judicial law. He instituted a vast program of reconstruction of Roman cities and infrastructure, restoring ancient aqueducts, baths, churches, the Aurelian walls of Rome and the defensive walls of a myriad other cities in Italy. He threw in a few new palaces for himself while he was at it, most famously in his capital of Ravenna, but also in other northern Italian cities like Verona.

The mosaic will remain in situ. It will be cleaned and documented in detail before being reburied. Some local residents have proposed covering it with plexiglass so the mosaic can still be seen, something that has been done already in Verona’s historic center, but this mosaic is in a terribly awkward position, trapped under networks of old pipes surrounded by homes, so it’s not a good candidate for display, unfortunately.

7 thoughts on “Mosaic from Theodoric’s palace found in Verona

  1. Note the knotted curtains in the facade of the emperor’s palace. This is such a contemporary trend! I love it when the past connects with the immediate present.

  2. Note the knotted curtains in the facade of the emperor’s palace. This is such a contemporary trend! I love it when the remote past connects with the immediate present.

  3. Yeah, but particularly those knotted curtains were added after his death. Notice the sole hand on the third column from the left! Unfortunately, the Roman Church considered Theoderic a heretic.

    After his death, therefore, all images that depicted him and other people were removed from the mosaic and covered. Of the original figures, only the hands remained on the columns (yet another “contemporary trend”).

    Already in 476AD Odoacer had deposed the last western emperor, i.e. in order to make himself ‘King of Italy’ (rex italiae). He sent the isignia to Constantinople, and had himself affirmed.

    The eastern emperor Zenon made Theoderic ‘magister miltum’, either to appease the Ostrogoths but also to take care of Odoacer, who was murdered by him in 493 :skull:

  4. …turns out that Arianism was likewise despised in the eastern as well as in the western church, and indeed there are sources that either of them had manipulated his mosaics.

    In all fairness, I cannot proof anything here :hattip:

  5. Wow, Huck, thanks for pointing that out! I would never have blown up the image without your comment, but I see four different columns with hands. I also wonder what was hidden behind the center area which appears to be “bricked up” by golden mosaic pieces. Theoderic himself?

  6. @Virginia:

    The “Gothic War” between the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire during the reign of Emperor Justinian I and the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy took place between 535 and 554AD. General Belisarius (Βελισάριος) was a military commander of the Byzantines in the reconquest of territory belonging to the former Western Roman Empire.

    The mosaic panels were allegedly completed in 547. The Byzantines obviously added the Emperor Justinian I, next to court officials, the generals Belisarius and Narses, Bishop Maximian, palatinae guards and deacons, and they might have been the ones who erased Theoderic from the palace by adding those curtains.

    Later, the “Exarchate of Ravenna” was a lordship of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) in Italy, from 584 to 751, when the last exarch was put to death by the Lombards.


  7. Someone obviously ‘discovered’ it earlier but kept quiet about it when they installed that concrete pipe which cuts through a long length of the mosaic.

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