Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Stags Drinking

This is a detail from the interior of St Bartholomew's Church, Ballsbridge. I have been trying to track the origins down with some success. The stags feature on the floor of the apse mosaic which appears to be modeled on the Church of San Clemente in Rome. San Clemente also features stags although in a different position. The image itself is said to be based on Psalms 42:1, "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God." or "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God." There are various translations! Interestingly, the two stags drinking from the water of life has a practical origin. Stemming from the edict of Emperor Theodosius II in 427AD some images such as Christ were not considered appropriate for a church floor, so various other scenes took their place. The stags motif is thought to be an absorption of Greek art into Christan use and there also appear to be examples from Pompeii. This all seems reasonable, but I cannot find a good citation other than for early Christianity. The discerning visitor will find St Bartholomew's interesting as did I. If you're passing don't miss the chance to see inside.