Besides their sheer, colorful beauty, what makes these inlaid marble floors so special? Known as Cosmatesque, these floors began appearing in Roman churches in the Middle Ages, starting in the 12th Century. Where did the beautiful colored marble come from? The answer is simple: it was pilfered from ancient Roman temples, along with columns and statues, and re-used (or reworked) into new things. Colored marble from all over the empire had been a symbol of wealth and pride in ancient Rome, and now it was adapted by the new power that ruled the Eternal City: the church.
So, as you wander through some of Rome’s magnificent churches, take a break from gazing at all the wonderful things on the walls and ceilings, and look down now and then, because these floors are worth your attention for their artistry and beauty … and as you admire them, remember that something as simple as a floor can be a symbol of Rome’s multi-layered history.