501 Treasures of Byzantium: No.12 Peacock floor mosaic, ruins of the Byzantine church in Nahariyah, Western Galilee, Israel, 6th century.

The peacock has a long history of being worshipped as a pagan deity or used as a symbol by royalty and the wealthy. Its use in the art of medieval Europe was also largely symbolic and generally related to Christianity. It is from this Christian perspective and interest in Byzantine art that the image of the peacock first appealed to this author. Adorning the floor and wall mosaics of many surviving Christian and Byzantine churches, you are instantly struck by the peacocks vibrant colors and beauty, in particular its ‘all seeing eye’ feathers. 

One of the most beautiful peacock mosaics (in my opinion) is found at the ruins of the 6th century Byzantine church in Nahariyah. Part of a larger mosaic featuring also other birds, hunting scenes and plants, it boasts up to 17 different coloured tesserae. The church survived early into the 7th century before it was torched during the Persian conquests.