The Great Pavement of Woodchester

The Great Pavement of Woodchester - The Orpheus - Roman Mosaic Floor

The original Roman Great Pavement of Woodchester is believed to have been laid in around 325 A.D. It is by far the most elaborate of the several hundred Roman Mosaic Floor s known in Britain and the largest in Europe, north of the Alps.

The first recorded reference to this mosaic is in Gough’s ‘Additions to Camden’s Britannia’ published in 1695. This followed the visit to the site by Edward Lluyd, the Celtic scholar, two years earlier. In 1797 Samuel Lysons referred to the intricate mosaic as “The Great Pavement” and this name has been used in all published material since.

“For size and richness of ornaments this Roman Mosaic Floor is, I believe, equaled by few of those discovered in other provinces of the Roman Empire and is undoubtedly superior to any of the same kind found hitherto in this country”

Samuel Lysons ‘An Account of Roman Antiquities Discovered at Woodchester’ 1797.


The Story of Orpheus

The Great Pavement depicts the story of Orpheus, the quasi-divine musician and singer of Greek mythology whose music had the power to move trees and subdue wild creatures.

Orpheus is seated in the open side of the central octagon on the North/South axis of the floor. He wears a Phrygian cap, a striped tunic and breeches and a flowing cloak which billows from his shoulders. Immediately outside the octagon is a circle of birds including pheasants, peacocks and doves. Outside the bird zone is a band of laurel leaves encircled by a guilloche. The most dramatic feature of the mosaic is the animal circle. This contains eleven beasts stalking around the floor: a Lion, Lioness, Wild Boar, Horse, Elephant, Tiger, Gryphon, Bear, Leopard, Stag and Tigress, then follows the mask of Neptune with lobster claws sprouting from his head. On either side of him are the beautiful acanthus scrolls said to symbolize the waves of the sea. The circles are enclosed within a square border and four pairs of water nymphs are placed in the spandrels. At each corner of this central square is a stone pillar base. Outside the central square are twenty four geometric panels. Almost all the standard patterns used by the Roman mosaicists are to be found in this floor.

The Great Pavement of Woodchester is one of some fifty Roman mosaic floors depicting Orpheus charming wild creatures. These have been found in all parts of the Roman Empire and range in date from the second century to the fifth.

Link to Another Orpheus Pavement

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The Great Pavement of Woodchester

The Great Pavement of Woodchester Roman Mosaic Floor

Stock Number: 11162

A 20th Century Roman Mosaic Floor reconstruction of the Great Roman Pavement of Woodchester. Especially noteworthy for its opulent design comprising approximately 1.6 million individually fired clay tesserae. Researched and made by Robert and John Woodward in the 1970’s.



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Approximate Dimensions

  • Depth: 1432 cm (563.78 inches)
  • Width: 1432 cm (563.78 inches)




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