Mosaic with Birds, Kantharos, and Grapevine

4th century
Inner face of an arch between the narthex nave
Church of the Acheiropoietos, Thessaloniki, Greece

Instead of peacocks, the birds at kantharos and vine are local species. I am not a bird expert, but from examining pictures on the internet I would say the birds that flank the kantharos appear to be Eurasian Teals, which winter in all parts of Greece. Above them are what appear to be a Rock Dove on the left and a European Bee-Eater on the right. All these are native to the area around Thessaloniki. The teals and rock doves are found throughout Greece and the Adriatic basin; the European Bee-Eater in Thessaloniki and points east, but not in the rest of Greece or the Adriatic.

Another noteworthy feature of this image is the water seen at the lip of the kantharos. The mosaicist has made it clear that the vine grows from the water, not from earth as is the case in the natural world. The water is the water of baptism, whose fruit is immortality.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about bird and fountain symbols.

Photo © by Jan Piebe Tjepkema