Madonna and Child –Theodora

Title: Madonna and Child -Theodora

Date: 5th or 6th century

Location: St. Celements Rome

Fourth Century Basilica

Byzantine Fresco

Discovered by Fr. Joseph Mullooly in 1857.

This fresco is believed to originally be a portrait of Empress Theodora , painted in the 5th or 6th Century. She is in the basilica probably only because her husband, Emperor Justinian gave litergical gifts to Pope John II (533-535). His image should be in the paralleling niche, but is not found there. These two would have their images present because of Pope John’s gifts bestowed to San Clemente’s church to embellish and decorate the basilica. In the 9th century Theodora’s portrait was modified into a Madonna and Child. There was the addition of a chair and the Child in her lap with the extension of her left arm to hold Him. On either side of Theodora were two ladies who were probably members of the imperial court. Their figures were transformed into saints Euphemia and Catherine, each with crowns of Martydrom.


A short Guide to St. Celements of Rome by Leonard Boyle O.P.