Cock and Tortoise

Guida Aquileia

Cock and Tortoise
Perhaps the best-known part of Bishop Theodore’s mosaic in the north hall is the clash between the cock and the tortoise. The bird, with ruffled plumage, is about to attack the tortoise, which cowers in its shell; between them, atop a colonnette, stands a splendid cup: the wrestling prize in the ancient tradition. The meaning here is clear: the cock, the harbinger of light, is an allegory of Christ, while the tortoise, the “dweller of Tartarus” (i.e. the underworld), symbolises the forces of darkness.