The Tortoise and the Cock

4th century
Details of floor mosaics
Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta
Aquileia, Italy

The image on the left is from the main hall of the basilica; on the right, from the north hall. According to the printed material available at the basilica, "The cock is the symbol of the light of a new day, thus representing Christ, the 'light of the world.' The tortoise, whose Greek name means 'dweller of the darkness,' is instead the symbol of the Evil." The kantharos atop the tower in the left image was a symbol of immortality that Christian iconography inherited from the ancient Greeks. (See my discussion of the kantharos here.) The significance of the tower itself is unclear.

View the left and right images in full resolution.

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