Sunday, December 5, 2010


A short distance after the entrance to Caesarea stands a humble sign near the street, which points to "Bird Mosaic". We never checked this out, always just passing it, heading to the ancient port and the Roman aqueduct. Some days ago I found pictures from that place in my e-mail box sent to me by my dear friend Aiva and I said: "Wow, what is this?" and of course I wanted to go there, so yesterday afternoon we did. This is a secluded place located in a small park from where you can spot the sea, with only a wooden fence around it, under the sky, there is no roof, it is open to everyone, no facilities, no visitors fee, a small plate of explanation at the entrance...
What a surprise awaits the guest! We were very excited to find a large mosaic carpet with medallions featuring a variety of beautiful birds.
It is surrounded by trees and  mammals. Pomegranate trees, apple trees, and one which is perhaps a pear tree. Bear, deer, elephant, hounds, a boar which looks like a horse, ibex, a panther, a lion...  
The most outer borders are a mix of graphic patchwork and circle ornaments adorned with squares inside them. This must have been the villa of a rich and important man, of a man with an eye and a liking for beauty and elegance!
Let's see what the plate tells us: 
"The birds mosaic is situated in the center of a large mansion, built at the end of the Byzantine period (end of the 6th century - beginning of the 7th century CE), on top of a sand hill, outside of the Caeserea walls. Part of the mansion was excavated in 1955, covered and re-exposed in 2004-2005. The mansion which was probably owned by a reputable family was built over nearly one acre. The complex included mosaic-paved rooms, porticoes and patios, around a central courtyard (approx. 14.5 m x 16 m).
The frame of the mosaic pavement of the central courtyard portrays animals and fruit trees, surrounding 120 medallions, arranged in 12 parallel rows, each portrays a regular sequence of 10 diverse birds. In each row the sequence begins with the second image (from the north) from the row below. In this way every diagonal in the pattern from south-east to north-west is decorated with the same bird image."
"Fragments of mosaic floors that were found over the intact floors of the ground level floor indicate a two story building. The mansion was burned down, apparently during the Arab conquest (640 CE). The wooden girders that held-up the ceiling of the ground floor collapsed in the fire, and the upper level flooring fell down on those of the lower level."
"Water for the residents was stored in a cistern under the central yard, where rainwater from the roofs and patios was collected. In the north-west of the compound a water pool was discovered that received its water from a well (the place is higher than the Caesarea aqueduct and needed independent water supply). To date no inscription has been found to identify its original owners. It is named the 'Birds Mosaic Mansion' after the finding that characterizes it." 
This  must have been a wonderful place to live in, within short reach of the city and the harbor, and with a marvelous view on the sea! We enjoyed our visit there immensely! Thank you Aiva for the hint!
Photographs by Uri Eshkar.

Look at the post about the mosaic exhibition at the Mormon Center in Jerusalem and you can see where one of the artists got his inspiration from.


Pesky Cat Designs said...

Love the aviary mosaics! You are quite lucky to get to travel so much and explore so many fascinating places. :)

Eva said...

Another wonderful site to visit! How I love these digital sightseeings. Thank you!

2 B's World said...

Bezaubernde Darstellungen, die für mich große Kunst sind. Ist es nicht total beeindruckend, wie man aus so vielen kleinen Teilchen solche wundervollen Motive zaubern kann.
Ja, es muß wirklich ein perfekter Ort gewesen sein, um mit seiner Familie dort zu leben.
Yael, Du überrascht mich immer wieder auf's Neue mit solch tollen Bildern von euren Ausflügen. Ein Kompliment an den Fotografen.

Liebe Grüße an euch von Birgit und Barny

Irmi said...

Liebe Yael,
ich bin immer wieder fasziniert von den frühen Mosaiken. Sie wurden mit so viel Liebe zum Detail angefertigt.
Caesarea muß wundervoll anzuschauen sein.
Liebe Yael, schau mal bei mir nach. Da ist etws für Dich.
Liebe Abendgrüße und einen schönen Wochenbeginn
Irmi, die vom Neckarstrand

Smithy said...

This is yet another magnificent historical site to share with us, Yael. I loved the bird mosaics especially and was interested to note that, apart from the peacock, they all seem to be water birds :) Beautiful mosaics....fascinating post! Thanks Yael and to Uri for the great pix xxx

Bernstein said...

Woooow, ich bekomme vor lauter Staunen den Mund nicht mehr zu. Schier unglaublich groß muss für diese wunderbaren Arbeiten die Geduld gewesen sein - für mich kaum vorstellbar und machbar.
Sicher ist es ein ganz besonderes, diese Mosaike aus der Nähe zu bewundern.
Ja, das ist wohl ein perfekter Ort, um mit der Familie dort zu leben.
Schwer beeindruckte und ♥liche Grüße

Cec said...

How beautiful!! Hope all is well, I'm sending a virtual hug your way!!

Hilde said...

Wow, these are amazing! I love the animals.
And so well preserved. Wonderful!

aurorafedora said...

i love mosaics. those are really really great!!