|Cosmati work on the floor of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.|
Cosmati work (also referred to as Cosmatesque) is a type of specialised decorative work that typically includes inlays of coloured stones (marbles and porphyries), glass, gilding and so on laid in a bed of mortar. Unlike mosaics, where the pieces are generally small cubes, Cosmatesque features materials of different shapes fitted together to make a pattern in a style developed in Italy.
Cosmati work was frequently used in Italian Romanesque architecture including floors, pulpits and other decorative work. It appears most frequently in buildings constructed around Rome and Naples in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Roman marble workers of this period were known collectively as the Cosmati. This naming convention originates with the name “Cosma”, which is a recurring name of several families and generations of Roman marble workers.
Cosmatesque decoration is not entirely confined to Rome, or even to Italy. There are two Cosmatesque pavements at Westminster Abbey, the finest of which is found in the sanctuary in front of the high altar. This pavement has been described as one of the pre-eminent works of art of medieval England. Some of the stones were acquired from Roman-period archaeological sites. This intricate 13th-century floor lay hidden under carpet to protect its fragile surface for over a hundred years, until a two-year restoration project (2008–10) by the abbey brought it back to life.
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