This is one of the 13 mosaics along the upper band of the left
wall of the nave that follow the life of Christ. Deliyannis (154)
identifies it as the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican: In
the Temple, the Pharisee brags to God about his piety, while the
publican prays "O God be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus says only
the publican will go home "justified" because "every one that
exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself,
shall be exalted (Luke 18:9-14)."
In the mosaic, one might guess that the man on the left is the
publican, bending his head and striking his breast as if in
supplication, while the man on the right would be the Pharisee,
standing upright in orant position.
But if this is so, it is not clear why the publican, or someone
just like him with the same clothes, beard, and hair, appears
again, apparently as an associate of Caiaphas, in the panels on Jesus' trial before
the Sanhedrin and the Way of the Cross.
Possibly the man on the right is really the publican, posed orant
because truly praying, while the other gestures to him saying, "O
God I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican."
This is the only scene in the entire series from the life of
Christ that does not have Jesus in it.
See also a view of the entire
left wall with commentary on the iconography of Jesus and
the apostles in these mosaics.
More of the Public Life of Jesus
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