The church of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four papal basilicas, was built by Pope Sixtus III (r. 432-440) shortly after the Council of Ephesus (431) agreed to promote the veneration of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.
The mosaic in the apse of the church, which has been hailed as the finest medieval mosaic in Rome, depicts the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. It is the work of the painter and mosaic maker, Jacopo Torriti, and was completed in 1296.
In the centre of the mosaic, Mary shares a throne with Christ, who places a crown on her head. The scene is set in a roundel with a star-studded blue background representing the firmament. The sun and moon are under the footstools of Christ and Mary.
Christ's crowning of the Virgin Mary is being witnessed by a host of angels and saints. Pope Nicholas IV (r. 1288-92) and Cardinal Jacopo Colonna have also inveigled an invitation.
The mosaic is signed in the left hand corner: IACOB(U)S TORRITI PICTOR H(OC) OP(US) MOSAIC(UM) FEC(IT).