The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Byzantine, 500-700 A.D.
Fragment of a stone frieze
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The gospels have six accounts of miracles involving the multiplication of loaves and fishes, but only in John does the crowd react with a characterization of Jesus as the Messiah: "This is of a truth the prophet, that is to come into the world."1 This recognition of Jesus' exceptional status is registered in the raised right hands of the four men in the relief and in the portrayal of Jesus not as a man addressing a crowd but as the Christ – seated on a throne, framed by an arch, and flanked by two angels.

The four men on the left and right all hold books, so they may represent at the same time the acclaiming crowd and the four evangelists who later told this story.

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Read more about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

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

1 John 6:5-14. The detail of the twelve baskets in verse 13 matches the number in Mark 6:35-44, Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:12-17. Another multiplication of loaves and fishes, involving seven baskets, is recounted in Matthew 15:32-38 and Mark 8:1-10.