“. . . stones of porphyry, jasper and marble of Thasos . . .”

Cosmati pavement, Westminster Abbey

Before the dubious marvel of Linoleum, there was tile. And a mosaic-like technique called Cosmati, which is used in the pavement before the high altar at Britain’s Westminster Abbey, where by tradition coronations are staged. Done in the reign of Henry III in the 13th century, the design of the recently restored, bejeweled and bespangled pavement follows an elaborate, enticingly complex set of geometric patterns.

Over the centuries since it was first installed, the design has been studied and scrutinized and speculated upon, with some people finding encrypted numerical significance in the pattern(s) on the floor, as well as reading between the lines of its more conventional inscriptions.  If the significance to British coronation ritual attributed to the pavement by some is true, then it seems to be a real-life, historical artifact worthy of the imaginary halls of Mervyn Peake’s ceremonially tortuous Gormanghast; it would also I think be at home in E. R. Eddison’s decadently over-decorated Zimiamvia. (And I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t where fantasist Roger Zelazny found the incept for the Pattern of Amber, a prominent magical plot device in his Amber stories. Could be, I suppose–but of course there are other possibilities.)

Whatever the pavement’s meaning or meanings may be, I think it’s rather pretty myself.

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