Mausoleum of Costanza, ceiling mosaics.
Mausoleum of Costanza
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dedication: Saint Constantia (307/17-354ad)
built: c.350ad
burials: Costanza and her sister Helena (wife of Emperor Julian)
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The Mausoleum
The soul was thought to travel beyond the sky once it was freed from it's physical constraints. The sky, especially the starry night sky, was interpreted as being an immense sphere, the outer surface of which contained the whole of the material Universe. Beyond it was the immaterial, divine world. For this reason a mausoleum was often circular in form; an earthly sphere for the body, to match the celestial sphere in which the soul now lived.
Costantia is thought to have been a daughter (or possibly a niece) of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine. Her mausoleum embodies the first stage of a fusion between pagan society and the new Christian Rome, though it's form is entirely in line with classical mausoleums like that of Augustus, Hadrian and Cecilia Metella.
Apse Mosaics
The only recognizable christian images in the decorations of the mausoleum are the two side apses depicting God the Father on the north side, and Christ the Son on the south. These mosaics are believed to date to some years later than the building, although still somewhere around the beginning of the 4th century. The visual language owes much to earlier times, with the blonde Christ reminiscient of Hippocrates the healer, and God looking much like Jupiter enthroned. The poses of the disciples flanking the main figures seem to have been modelled directly on the courtesans surrounding Constantine in the reliefs of his arch.
Ceiling Mosaics
The mosaics that decorate the ceiling of Costanza's mausoleum were almost certainly designed as an integral part of the building. They have no recognizable christian symbols and seem to have followed a preestablished form for buildings of this kind. The interior of the circular structure is divided into twelve sections by equally spaced sets of columns, and the mosaic ceiling design follows these divisions, suggesting the celestial circle of the zodiac divided into it's twelve constellations. There are six different designs, each repeated twice, with vines and birds among the more prominent motifs.