The Monreale Noah Cycle

12th-13th century
Mosaic
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

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


God is represented only by his hand reaching from Heaven, even though previous panels in the Monreale Old Testament series have shown him as a full-length figure. (See the description page for more details and a larger picture.)

The ark is visualized as a rudderless boat with a large structure amidships. In other images the structure is clearly church-like; here its shape is more like the end view of a lidded chest, which is what Latin arca means. In the earliest images Noah's vessel is always pictured as a chest with a lid and hasp. (See the description page for a larger picture, explanation of the tools used, and more details.)

Noah takes the animals onto the ark. In these panels his beard is full and white, as is his coif; his sons have shorter, dark hair and a bit of five-o'clock shadow. (See the description page for more details.)

The dove returns with the olive branch. In the water beneath the ship the raven pecks at the corpse floating on the left. Another corpse floats on the right. (See the description page for more details.)

The animals are released from the ark and begin to graze on the land. (See the description page for more details.)

After Noah sacrifices a lamb the Lord makes a covenant with him and his descendants, who are arrayed behind him. The rainbow is to be a sign of that covenant. (See the description page for more details.)

The final panel uses two scenes to tell the story. On the left, Noah plants a vine and makes wine from the grapes. On the right, he falls asleep drunk and naked. His son Cham mocks him, but his other sons Shem and Japeth piously avert their eyes while covering their father's nakedness. (See the description page for more details.)

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