Jacob Wrestles with the Angel

Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

In Genesis 32 Jacob sends servants ahead with gifts for Esau including hundreds of farm animals. The servants and their horses are in the upper left of the mosaic, the flocks in the upper right. Then Jacob crosses "the ford of Jaboc," the blue band in the mosaic, with his wives, handmaids, and sons. Two of the latter sit in the lower left with their satchels. Then, after he sends them all across the river, "a man wrestled with him till morning," as pictured in the lower right. The context makes it clear that the man was a messenger from God, so the mosaic pictures him as with the wings of an angel.

This is part of the extensive series of Old Testament scenes portrayed in mosaics along the two walls of the nave at Santa Maria Maggiore. To view the others, follow this link. The original nave mosaics are from the 5th century, but several including this one appear to be from a later date, especially considering the attention to perspective and the modeling of the faces.

Read more about images of Jacob.

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