Hagia Sophia • Mosaics
Rediscovered in 1934 by Byzantine Institute,
The Zoe Mosaic has a lot to tell us about Empress Zoe. Empress Zoe was the daughter of Constantine VIII who wanted her to marry to Argyros before he died. When she married to Argros, Zoe was 50 and still a virgin. After their marriage, Zoe fell in love with a young stable boy, Michael.
They killed Argyros by drowning him in the bath. And Michael became Emperor. However, about 7 years later, Michael IV died and his nephew Michael V became the Emperor by imprisoning Zoe. This led to a riot against the new Emperor and he was dethroned by Constantine IX Monomachos, the third husband of Zoe. Zoe didn’t have a child during her life.
Therefore, with each husband Zoe had, the faces of the mosaic changed. Interestingly enough, the faces of Zoe and Christ aren’t the original ones, if Michael V destroyed the face of Zoe, why did he also destruct the face of Christ? Maybe, the artist wanted them to be look alike in style.
In the mosaic, Zoe must be 70 years old no matter how she looks like with youthful colors of her skin. She holds an inscripted scroll showing the donations made to the church. The inscription around her says: ‘’Zoe, the most pious Augusta’’The face of the Emperor belongs to her third husband, Constantine XI. He wears a crown with hanging pearl and holds a purse a pokombion. The inscription around him presents, Constantine, in Christ the God, Autocrat, faithful King of the Romans, Monomachos. The Christ figure which is bigger in size than the other figures. He wears a chiton. He is signing benediction with his right hand and holding an ornamented Holy Book with his left hand.