Pictorial blethers

By blethers

Anciently scary

This is a small part (about 2’ square) of the huge mosaic that covers the floor of the 11th century Otranto Cathedral. I couldn’t quite make out why hell was situated in quite this area, in front of a baroque side altar, unless in reaction to said baroque alterations to this part of the church. Most of it is now neo-Romanesque and much the better of it. The other side altar was rather firmly roped off, but I could make out the odd-looking reredos made up of 600-odd skulls neatly arranged in what looked like tall picture frames. The skulls belonged to local martyrs who refused to convert to Islam in a historic invasion.

It didn’t help, I suppose, that we were tourists and not worshippers on this Sunday morning - but if one of us had been wanting to join in the service that suddenly began, it’d have been difficult- there was absolutely no effort made to encourage or welcome. Clearly the Church in Italy feels itself above such considerations...

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