The Roman Mosaics

Mosaics are patterns or pictures made from lots of small different coloured stones or tile cubes (called ‘tesserae’ in Latin). They were common in Roman buildings and were often used to show off how wealthy you were.

The Romans knew the City of Chichester as Noviomagus Reginorum. This mosaic remnant, which was discovered in 1966, was almost certainly part of the floor of a public building. The remains of six additional rooms from the same period have been identified; these extend out under the south east precinct of the Cathedral.

The patterns in the mosaic all have special meanings:

  • The twisted rope border pattern is called a Guilloche and is a symbol of eternity and unity.
  • The bold ‘swastika’ pattern was a sign of good luck.
  • The cross-rose was widely used in ancient times and may have been an example of an ‘apotropaion’, or symbol of protection.

Geometric borders are very common in Roman mosaics and are thought to have been a protection against evil spirits. Doorways and other thresholds were very significant to Romans. The idea was that an evil spirit would have become so caught up by the entwined strands of the pattern that it would lose the power to do harm to the people or place.

The photographs show the fragment of Roman floor mosaic, 2nd Century AD, unknown craftsman