The Woman Taken in Adultery in the Monreale Cathedral Mosaics

12th-13th century
Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

This is a fairly straightforward illustration of John 8:1-11. John and the other disciples stand behind Jesus as he sits in the temple area (8:2), and the scribes and Pharisees bring in the adultress and place her "in the middle" (statuerunt eam in medio, 8:3). Jesus sits on a throne, a symbol of his authority as a teacher. In the text Jesus responds to the accusers by writing something on the ground with his finger, but here he simply points down and no writing is shown.

After he has written in the ground he says, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." At that they "went out one by one, beginning at the eldest." In the mosaic, the "eldest" is the man with the gray beard with his hand on the woman's arm. On the right, he and the others are pictured slinking away.

The other man standing behind the woman could be Saul, the Pharisee who persecuted Christians until his own conversion. He has the receding hairline typical of portraits of St. Paul, and he alone is not pictured among the group that takes its leave.

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