Byzantine Mosaic Inspired Chivalry Scroll

The recipient of this scroll has a Byzantine persona and I sought inspiration from mosaics that survive from Byzantium. I found my inspiration fro this project in the Basillica of San Vitale in Northern Italy. The mosaics at the Basilica date from between 527 and 547 CE.1

The award document is written in Greek which was the official language of the Byzantine Empire. I was given words to use in English and used Google Translate to translate them to modern Greek. The names and the words for the date were spelled out phonetically. The King and Queen even signed their names in Greek letters.

Ancient Greek used no spaces between words, no punctuation marks and no hyphenation. That is to say that all available space on the line was used. If a word needed to continue on to the next line, it would simply stop at the end of the line and continue at the start of the next one. Readers of the language were fluent enough to know where the words began and ended. This scroll is written in the same format.2

In modern Greek, Arabic numerals are used for numbers. In ancient Greek, they used Greek letters and a special diacritic mark to denote numbers. Because I didn’t want to use Arabic numerals and the rest of the text was in modern Greek made to look like ancient Greek, I compromised and chose to write out the numbers as words i.e.: thirteen and forty-nine.4

The calligraphy hand I used is called Greek Uncial. I used the Codex Sinaiticus — which is hand-written in Greek – as an exemplar. The Codex Sinaiticus is a manuscript of the Christian Bible written in the mid-4th century and contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament.3

The writing support in use at this time and in this place was papyrus. I was able to obtain some papyrus for this project and it was very interesting to work with. It was finicky about ink (sumi ink worked best), and very textured but very durable.

  1. Wikipedia: Basilica of San Vitale
  2. Codex Sinaiticus
  3. Greek Numbers and Numerals (Ancient and Modern)
  4. Palmer, Michael: Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts
  5. Image by Roger CulosOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Image of the Emperor Justinian mosaic from the Basilica of San Vitale, Italy
  6. Image by Petar Milošević Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image of the Sacrifice of Isaac mosaic from the Basilica of San Vitale, Italy

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