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Odoricus

The inspiration for the Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey is usually credited to Richard de Ware, who was elected Abbot in 1258 and travelled to Rome to seek confirmation of his appointment by the Pope. Abbot Ware made a second visit to Rome in 1267-68, when he is likely to have commissioned Italian marble workers – including Odoricus (named in the pavement’s inscription) to visit England and decorate Henry III’s new abbey church.  It is thought that this same Odoricus was responsible for much signed Cosmati work on tombs, ciboria and screens in Italy. 

Detail of small Cosmati tomb in WA

The unusual characteristics of the Westminster pavement, its intricacy and the widespread use of glass may well be explained by the experience and skill of Odoricus in dealing with vertical decoration. Cosmati pavements and therefore horizontal decoration rarely incorporate glass in their designs and are in general not intricate (Cosmati pavements in Italy usually cover the whole church floor, they are not ‘contained’ like those at Westminster). It seems therefore that Odoricus took a very novel approach to the design of the pavement.  He confidently transferred a very familiar technique and fitted it perfectly onto an unfamiliar format. He successfully decorated one of the most important spaces in the church, for an audience entirely unfamiliar with Cosmatesque pavements.