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Bellerophon and the Dragon

Okay, its a trap. Bellerophon does not mess with a dragon but with a Chimera

I am on a 2 weeks mosaic trip along the valleys of the Saone, Rhone and Durance rivers in Southern France, having a great time seeing wonderful mosaics and will share a few of them here. Today is about a theme I particularly enjoy studying : the conservation of patterns through time. And here with Bellerophon and the Chimera we have a perfect example of the continuation, or appropriation of a myth by one culture, or religion, from an other one.

Bellerophon (sometimes Bellerophontes), son of Poseidon famously battled and killed the fantastical Chimera monster, a fearsome fire-breathing mix of lion, goat, and snake. He was also famous for having tamed the winged horse Pegasus, a gift from his father.

Now this sounds a lot like the Christian story of St George killing the Dragon

With Bellerophon in Augustodunum, Capital of the Eduens

Last wednesday I was at the Rolin Museum in Autun where I saw for the first time an awesome Bellerophon mosaic dated from the 2nd or early 3rd century.

roman mosaic of bellerophon killing the chimera

Bellerophon mosaic, Autun

 

With Saint George in Ganagobie on the Via Domitia

And yesterday I visited the 10th century Abbaye of Ganagobie on the first oldest road in Gaul, the Via Domitia. There the 10th century monks laid a tricolor (white, black and red) mosaic built from the remains of local Roman ruins. This medieval mosaic, absolutely unique in France, represents a number of strange monsters, animals and humans. Most of the mosaic was preserved and restored in situ. One of the panels represents Saint George slaying the dragon.

Saint George slaying the dragon, Abbaye of Ganagobie. 10th century mosaic.

Ganagobie’s Saint George

 

Don’t you find amazing how the scene flows in the same manner. The stories are similar , but here they are graphically told in the same manner ! Saint George and Bellerophon both ride from left to right, their spear is oriented in the same manner and pierces the throat of the menacing head of the chimera or dragon.

There are no coincidences. I do not think the monk who laid the Ganagobie mosaic was very knowledgeable about Greek mythology. How is such a resemblance possible ? Please let me know your thoughts !

 

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