The Sacrifice of Melchizedek
5th century, with medieval and modern restorations
Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
In Genesis 14:14-20 the priest-king Melchizedek makes a sacrificial offering of bread and wine. In the image, the wine is in an oversized kantharos, a symbol of immortality inherited from classical Greek and Roman iconography. Christian commentary on Genesis 14 makes Melchizedek a type of Christ, who accordingly is pictured in the upper register.
The man on the right is Abram, whom Melchizedek blesses. Abram then responds by giving the priest "the tithes of all." The soldiers behind him are the "well appointed servants" (14:17) whom Abram led to victory against Chedorlaomer.
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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Read more about images of Abraham.
Read more about images of Melchizedek.
Read more about the kantharos symbol.
Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.