Garo Nalbandian

THE FAIREST FOWL. More than 30 birds, their feathers a myriad of colors, are featured in the Bird Mosaic, one of the best-preserved Byzantine mosaics from the Near East. At the bottom center stands a tree planted in a silver amphora. Its branches and vines, replete with grape clusters, spread throughout the pavement with tendrils curling to form roundels in which various birds sit. No bird is the same; both common and exotic fowl appear—ranging from ducks, geese, storks, pigeons, doves and pheasants to elegant peacocks, an eagle and even a parrot in a cage. Housed in the Armenian Chapel of St. Polyeuctos in Jerusalem near Damascus Gate, the sixth-century pavement bears an inscription: “To the memory and salvation of the souls of all Armenians whose names are known by God alone.”a Below this mortuary chapel lies a mass grave of Armenian soldiers; the mosaic honors their memory.