In Pictures: The Making of the Giant Platytera Mother of God Mosaic Icon at Romania’s National Cathedral

Ștefana Totorcea | 07 February 2021

Painter Daniel Codrescu and his team are working tirelessly on the mosaic painting of Romania’s National Cathedral. They offered a photo feature of the making of the Platytera Mother of God mosaic icon in the sanctuary.

The name of the icon means in Greek “Higher than the heavens”. This icon is usually of great dimensions and painted on the sanctuary apse interior wall, to emphasize the unique intercession done by the Mother of God for all mankind.

The Platytera Mother of God mosaic at Romania’s National Cathedral is 16 meters high. It is the biggest mosaic painting of the Mother of God in Romania and one of the biggest in the Orthodox world.

As all important works, the iconographic project of the altar started on paper:

Of the above project, the semidome mosaic painting was completed and at present the team is working on the lower registers of the apse.

Starting with the highest and going downwards, the three registers present the following iconography:

  1. The Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was a foreshadowing of the Mother of God in the Old Testament
  2. The establishing of the New Testament through the Partaking of the Apostles
  3. The lowest register is dedicated to Romanian holy hierarchs.
Based on the project, the team made at first the big mosaic paintings – at the workshop.

First there were the “mirror” drawings made on paper. Over them mosaic tesserae (pieces) were mounted, with their golden part towards the paper support.

The mosaic painting which was mirror-mounted at the workshop was then applied on the specially prepared wall.

After applying the mosaic painting on the wall and cleaning the paper support on which it had been mirror-mounted, a mosaic looking like the project emerged – with the golden part of the tessarae towards the onlooker.

The clothing of the Mother of God before being applied on the sanctuary apse wall. Red is the colour of love and sacrifice.
The Mother of God is represented with a red (human) vestment over the blue robe (a symbol of divine nature, as she carried the Son of God inside her).
Snapshot from the applying of the mosaic on the sancturay apse wall.
Detail of the vestments of the Mother of God, after applying the mosaic painting and adding the golden background around it.
The Mother of God on the throne is 16 meters high, while the archangels on her sides are almost just as tall. Here, one of the archangels before being applied on the sanctuary apse wall.
The image above allows an estimation of the dimensions of the archangels’ wings compared to the height of an average man.
A big chunk of mosaic makes each feather of the archangel’s wings.
Historical snapshot: Holy Archangel Gabriel seen through the scaffolding.
Same, after removing the scaffolding.
The last details at the feet of Archangel Michael.
The semidome over the sanctuary apse of Romania’s National Cathedral seen after removing the  scaffolding.
“In the church of your glory staying, it seems like in Heaven, Mother of God!”

The team is currently working on the lower registers of the sanctuary apse, where the project includes representations of the prophets, of the apostles and of the holy Romanian hierarchs.

Work has also started on preparing the wall of the southern apse, where mosaic painting works  will start around Easter time.

If you want to be part of the project, you can donate for the mosaic painting of Romania’s National Cathedral:

Account owner: Patriarhia Română (The Romanian Patriarchate)

Account numbers

RO91RNCB0075004895030395 (RON)
RO64RNCB0075004895030396 (EUR)

Bank: BCR – Banca Comercială Română

Photo courtesy of Daniel Codrescu

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