Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Late 12th century
Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

The mosaic illustrates an event recounted in all four gospels, but only John 6:1-13 places it on the grassy mountainside shown here rather than the "desert" specified by the others. After a day of preaching to the crowd, Jesus is aware that they need to eat. The only food available is five loaves and two fishes, but he blesses these and they prove sufficient to feed the entire crowd.

Surprisingly, Jesus himself is not shown in the panel, even though John and Luke say the food was distributed by him personally and Matthew and Mark say he gave it to the "disciples" to distribute. The two young men at work in the mosaic could be those "disciples," but they do not look like anyone in the group that accompanies Jesus in the other panels. In those images, Jesus always has a beard and a cruciform halo, so it is not possible that he is the youth handing out the bread here.

The inscription says, IESUS DE QUINQUE PANIBUS ET DUOBUS PISCIBUS QUINQUE MILIA HOMINUM SATIAVIT ET DE BACULUM TIS DUODECIMCOPHINI IMPLETUR, "Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and from (the remainder?) twelve baskets are filled."

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Read more about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

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