The Palace Mosaic of Constantinople


Head of Project: W. Jobst

Fig. 1: The Palace Mosaic, Detail

The focus of the workgroup “Mosaic Research in Asia Minor” lies in the completion of the publication of the project “Palace Mosaic of Constantinople”. This mosaic adorned the floor of a peristyle hall which had been uncovered in the course of excavations by the Walker Trust (University of St. Andrews) in 1935-1938 and 1952-1954.

The Palace Mosaic belonged to the décor of the Byzantine Imperial Palaces.

About 250 m² of the mosaic was excavated by the British researchers which are only about 15% of the peristyle hall; the floor had to its entirety been covered by a mosaic. The mosaic was of the highest artistic and technical quality, composed of millions of tesserae of valuable material.

The respective images and groups of scenes show exotic animals, groups of animal fights and bucolic and mythological scenes. At the edges the images are framed by a border of acanthus twines interspersed with figures. A vision of paradise is concealed behind the images. 

The main problem of this artwork is its conservation and preservation.

The preserved parts in the northwestern and southwestern halls had been already taken off and cast into reinforced concrete plates by the British researchers. The largest connected part in the northeastern hall remained in situ. According to the at that time common conservation measures, it was covered with a protective coating and the edges and bald spots were secured with cement mortar. A temporary protective roof was erected over it.

Fig. 2: The Palace Mosaic, Detail

Because of the continuous decline of the condition of the mosaic, the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of Turkey looked for experts and formed a collaboration with the ÖAW.

In a joint Austrian-Turkish research and restoration project with the participation of experts from both countries as well as international partners, the protection and new presentation of the palace mosaic was realized with large financial expenses, funded on the Austrian side by the FWF. 

Fig. 3: The Palace Mosaic, Detail

The final publication of the project will consist of the following chapters

•  W. JobstP. Turnovsky, The Palace Mosaic of Constantinople. Excavations and art history.

•  Report about the restoration of the Palace Mosaic with contributions by K. Herold, P. Berzobohaty, C. Podgorschek and Ch. Gurtner (prepared by P. Turnovsky).

•  P. Turnovsky, The pottery from the excavations under the Palace Mosaic.

•  F. Kappel, Natural scientific analysis of the stone and glass of the Palace Mosaic. 

•  F. KappelA. Gastgeb, Natural scientific analysis of the late antique amphorae sherds from the Imperial Palace of Constantinople.