Have you been to North Cyprus? If you happen to be there, try to visit Soli. This place is near Guzelyurt. If you want to see the ruins of Byzantine basilica, Roman-era Theater, and the Greek’s marketplace, you can find them all in Soli. It’s like exploring the time of Constantine the Great. Mosaic has a great influence in the life of Constantine and you can learn about mosaics in the 4th century.
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess and the people there worshipped her. The locals believe that Soli is the birth place of Aphrodite and that Saint Mark was also baptized here by Apostle Paul.
In 313, Constantine made Christian legal. Prior to the Milvian Bridge battle, he saw a very important vision. Through Constantine’s men were outnumbered, they were still able to defeat their enemies thereby saving his followers from persecution. Constantine’s men wore the Christian Cross during the battle and he greatly believed that Christ helped them to achieve victory.
The church of Constantine was patterned after the well-known Roman basilica. After the legalization of the Christians, those who were in hiding came out and they helped one another to put up a worshiping place. People who were not yet baptized stood on the courtyard before the ceremony.
Today, all you will see are the ruins of the basilica. With a guided tour, you will discover the different parts of the basilica. The rounded section of the ruins is known as apse. This is where worshippers stood wearing their brightest clothing. Before the ceremonies, incense bearers perfume the church with sweet smoke. After that, the Bishop in embroidered gold and gorgeous robes enters followed by chanters and candle bearers. With just the description of the tour guide, you can already imagine what took place in the ruins.
During that time, the emperor was worshipped like a God but most of the old Romans didn’t believe that the emperor was God. Later on, the emperor was no longer treated divinely although they still honor him. The emperor ruled the land in behalf of their god. During Constantine’s times, men were elevated in position or status based on their talents. For the advancement of Christians, ability and education were vital. Constantine also chose the families to create mosaic art.
Pieces of small stones can be created into a work of art. The mosaic artists used squares (not bigger than the fingernail). The squares are made from different materials like porphyry and marble. Stones with various colors were also used. Some of the mosaic tiles are ceramic and glass. Most mosaic artists use glass tiles for emphasis.
Drawings of the designs were vital for the completion of the project especially the large scale ones. The squares were called tesserae and they were placed over lime cement. The spaces in between the tiles were also lined with lime cement after the work is done. As you can see, the mosaic lasted for thousands of years and now, the modern world can witness its beauty.
The mosaic in Soli appears to be a goose but it is actually a swan representing Aphrodite. The mosaic artist created the mosaic in honor of the great goddess because during their time, pagan temples were being closed. The artist was a Cypriot and he wanted to preserve the memory of Aphrodite.