St. John the Baptist

543-554
Mosaic
Rear of the Apse of the Euphrasian Basilica, Poreč, Croatia

In this early example of a John the Baptist portrait, the saint's eyes engage the viewer directly. The hair, quite wild in some other images, is disordered only by the two locks that fall over his forehead. The camel-hair tunic mentioned in the gospels is presented in a highly stylized manner and subordinated to the hieratic look of the brown dalmatic and white pallium.

The long cross in the saint's left hand will be seen again through the centuries, either as it appears here or in the form of a vexillum with a banner.

The saint seems to be gesturing to draw the viewer's attention to the cross. A church document of this century mentions images which have him point to a lamb as a way of asserting his own status as precursor of Christ (Trullo, canon 82). The gesture in the present image may have the same purpose.

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.