Cameraphoto/Art Resource, NY

“Swarms of living creatures” fill the waters and birds fly “across the dome of the sky” (Genesis 1:20), in this detail from the Creation Cupola in the Church of San Marco, Venice (see cover). At right, a youthful depiction of God as Christ the Logos blesses the five winged figures (their feet rest on lotus blossoms and a sinister crocodile), who watch over his work on the fifth day of Creation.

Although the mosaic dates to the 13th century C.E., it is based on scenes included in a Christian manuscript of Genesis made in Egypt around 500 C.E. Named after a former owner, the Cotton Genesis was virtually destroyed by fire in 1731.

The San Marco mosaics provide one of our best sources of the appearance of more than 300 original illuminations in the Cotton Genesis, and they offer strong evidence that days were personified in early Christian art.