theodora mosaic

First Grade Art: Byzantine Mosaic

Late this September, my first grade class took on the task of learning about the 6th century Byzantine Empire and the holy and right-believing Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora.

Emperor Justinian, called “the emperor who never slept” or “the last Roman emperor," dedicated his reign to the protection and flourishing of the Church, the expansion of the Byzantine Empire, the construction of magnificent churches, and the reformation of Roman law. Empress Theodora proved herself to be the perfect companion to Justinian; she was formidable and bold during the Nika Riots, and offered her support as a political force alongside her husband.

As a staple of Byzantine art, many mosaics like the one above lined the walls of churches, monasteries, and mausoleums. Some of the most well-known mosaics line the walls of the Hagia Sophia (prior to the capture of the Church by the Turks in 1453) and the Basilica of San Vitale; both buildings were commissioned by Justinian I.

The first grade class used a detail of “Empress Theodora and her Suite," a sixth century mosaic from the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, to create their work together. The students independently chose the colors and placement of the stones, doing their best to recreate the original masterwork.


This was one of their favorite projects so far! You might see more mosaics from the first grade class in the future!

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