The Deesis

The Deesis, c.1261 CE, mosaic, imperial enclosure, south gallery, Hagia Sophia Istanbul, Turkey.

Byzantine mosaics, such as this one in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, sought to give the worshiper a glimpse of the heavenly realm. The Deesis is a traditional motif of Christ enthroned, flanked by Mary and St. John the Baptist appealing to Christ for mercy on behalf of the people.  The image is made of tesserae—small pieces of colored glass and stone. The glass pieces are set into a plaster wall at different angles to catch the light of flickering candles. The ethereal figures float against a background of swirling gold tesserae that take the figures out of earthy space. By placing these figures in a spiritual world, the mosaics gave worshipers access to that spiritual world as well.


Relating to the Byzantine empire, which ruled the Eastern Mediterranean from the fifth century CE to 1453; its capital was Byzantium (modern Istanbul).

of or relating to Moses or the writings attributed to him.

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