The Fall of Zedekiah

5th century, with medieval and modern restorations
Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The mosaic's subject is the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity. The story is told in 2 Kings 25:1-21, Jeremiah 52:9-11, and briefly in 2 Chronicles 36:15-21. In the lower register King Zedekiah is pictured twice. On the left side he is blinded by order of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who is seated in the center. On the right side he is carried into exile. The others appear to be his fellow exiles and their Chaldean captors.

In the upper register the right side pictures a violent stoning. Nothing in those three passages has Chaldeans attacking the Jews with stones, so the scene more likely illustrates the Jewish people's murder of the prophets, which 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 says was the reason God had the Chaldeans conquer the Jews.

On the left in the upper register five women pray in a landscape whose mottled ground is an extension of the background of the blinding scene below. Thus they are most likely Jews experiencing the captivity as in Psalm 136:1.

This is part of the extensive series of Old Testament scenes portrayed in mosaics along the two walls of the nave. To view the others, follow this link.

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