Cover image for Mosaics of Faith: Floors of Pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land By Rina Talgam

Mosaics of Faith

Floors of Pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land

Rina Talgam


Was: $129.95 Now: $64.98 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-06084-2

600 pages
9" × 11"
360 color/144 b&w illustrations
Co-published with the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute

Mosaics of Faith

Floors of Pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land

Rina Talgam

“This is a magisterial survey that deserves to take its place as the definitive work on the mosaics of the Holy Land.”


  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
This monumental work provides a comprehensive analytical history of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, and Early Abbasid mosaics in the Holy Land, spanning the second century b.c.e. to the eighth century c.e. Previous general studies of the Holy Land mosaics have focused on specific collections; in Mosaics of Faith, Rina Talgam sets out to demonstrate how mosaic art constructed cultural, religious, and ethnic identities in eras that shaped the visual expressions of three monotheistic religions. Her examination of the mosaics in a pivotal area of the eastern Mediterranean sharpens and refines our understanding of the region’s societies and their ideologies, institutions, and liturgies. Covering almost one thousand years of mosaic production, Mosaics of Faith offers an unprecedented view of the evolution of floor decorations from the Hellenistic to the Roman periods, in the transition from Roman to Early Byzantine art, and in the persistence of Byzantine traditions under Umayyad rule. More than other corpora of ancient mosaics, those from the Holy Land have generated greater awareness of the intricate visual exchanges between paganism, Judaism, Samaritanism, Christianity, and Islam. Talgam examines the mosaics’ formal qualities in conjunction with the religious and cultural contexts within which they were produced and with which they had a profound, multidimensional dialogue.
“This is a magisterial survey that deserves to take its place as the definitive work on the mosaics of the Holy Land.”
“The result of immense and ongoing research, this readable book is lavishly illustrated in color. It will appeal to interested general readers and to scholars and students of art, religion, history, and anthropology.”
“All those interested in the cultural life of the Holy Land in the period concerned will learn from this book.”
“This outstanding book examines a millennium of mosaic making in the Holy Land, discussing the mosaic art of pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims as a reflection of the social, intellectual, and religious world of each society and the interrelationships among them. Rina Talgam is not only an acknowledged authority on ancient art, and mosaics in particular, but also a highly experienced archaeologist who has participated in the excavation of mosaics. Technique and style play an important role in her study, along with analysis of iconography. This volume is of the utmost importance for the study of art and culture in the ancient Near East.”
“In Mosaics of Faith, Rina Talgam has accomplished the heroic task of providing a chronological and comparative review of the many mosaics of Palestine as they survive in contemporary Israel and Jordan today. These mosaics evoke the cults and tastes of pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims from before the Roman Empire to after the Muslim conquests. Her vast perspective is unparalleled and immediately establishes her work as an indispensable guide to the shared imagery of the faiths of the region.”
“In this magisterial study, Rina Talgam gives full justice to all aspects of the floor mosaics of the Holy Land in their multicultural contexts. Comprehensive, detailed, and well balanced in its conclusions, it will become the preeminent work of reference and interpretation in its field.”
“The mosaic floors excavated in Palestine in the last century or so—pagan polytheist, Jewish, Christian, Samaritan, Muslim—represent one of the most vibrant groups of historical documents in archaeology for understanding the multicultural development of religious identities (some discrete and separate, some syncretistic, all in different ways in dialogue with one another) in late antiquity. Rina Talgam’s book—comprehensive, detailed in discussion, wide-ranging, superbly illustrated—offers a transformative account of this material, by far the best to date. She takes the reader through a deep and enlightening historical survey of the excavated materials, offering insight and up-to-date information on a vast and wonderful corpus, and not eschewing controversial topics such as iconoclasm and the destruction of figurative images in the eighth century.”

Rina Talgam is Associate Professor of Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Preface and Acknowledgments


Part I: The Mosaics of the Holy Land in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods


Chapter 1: The Mosaics in the Hellenistic and Early Roman Periods

Chapter 2: The Mosaics of the Late Roman Period

Part II: The Mosaics of the Holy Land in the Byzantine Period


Chapter 3: The Compositional Trends in Floor Mosaics of the Byzantine Period

Chapter 4: The Stylistic Developments of Byzantine Mosaics

Chapter 5: The Church as the Heir of the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple

Chapter 6: The Synagogue as a “Lesser Temple”

Chapter 7: Samaritan Self-Determination

Chapter 8: The Mosaics in Secular Buildings

Part III: Mosaics of the Holy Land from the Muslim Conquest to the End of the Eighth Century


Chapter 9: Church Mosaics

Chapter 10: Synagogue Mosaics

Chapter 11: Mosaics Under Muslim Patronage

Chapter 12: The Defacement of Images


List of Abbreviations