The Death of Moses

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

On the left in the upper register, Moses delivers the book of the Law to his people (Deuteronomy 31:24-29). Then, on the right, he dies on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1-5).

As for the lower register, when I wrote the predecessor of this page I said it represented the people laying Moses to rest, as in Deuteronymy 34:6. It may be so, but there are two problems. The first is that the text says only that Moses was buried; it says nothing about a procession. The second is that the thing carried by the five bearers appears to be identical to what they are carrying in the next mosaic in the series, where it is clearly the Ark of the Covenant that is being borne across the Jordan. Thus it may be that the lower register actually pictures the departure ordered by Joshua in Joshua 1:11 ("After the third day you shall pass over the Jordan and shall go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God will give you").

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 Joshua.

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