The Peoples of the World

The sculptures of the tympanum were equally beautiful but not so disturbing as those of the newer church. Here again, the tympanum was dominated by an enthroned Christ; but at his sides, in various poses and with various objects in their hands, were the twelve apostles, who had received from him the mission to go forth and preach among all peoples. Over Christ's head, in an arc divided into twelve panels, and under Christ's feet, in an unbroken procession of figures, the peoples of the world were portrayed, destined to receive the Word.

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, a Cappadocian father. From a fresco at Kariye Camii, Istanbul.

From their dress I could recognize the Hebrews, the Cappadocians, the Arabs, the Indians, the Phrygians, the Byzantines, the Armenians, the Scythians, the Romans. But, along with them, in thirty round frames that made an arc above the arc of twelve panels, were the inhabitants of the unknown worlds, of whom only the Physiologus and the vague reports of travelers speak slightly. (336)


Eco, UmbertoThe Name of the Rose. London: Picador, 1984 [Italy, 1980].


Peoples of the world recognizable from their outfits. What screams Scythian, or is so Cappadocian? Are we so distinct now? Or, on the other hand, how accurate was the dress reported, if travelers' accounts of fantastical creatures was so off the mark?