The labyrinth tiles in Capella Sansevero where built between the mid 1760s to c. 1771 (according to http://www.museosansevero.it/floor/?lang=en). They look like this: Sansevero floor tiles

I saw the same pattern in Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii. Here's a picture: Villa dei Misterii Fresco

The patterns are almost the same, and it seems unlikely to be a coincidence, specially when both buildings are quite close.

As far as I can find, the Villa was not excavated after 1909, so it would not have been known when the Capella was built. From what I've read, several buildings in Pompeii were excavated around this time, but the frescoes of these places were removed and the buildings buried again. Since the fresco in Villa is in great condition and relatively far away from the rest of Pompeii, it seems unlikely that it was unearthed and buried.

Maybe this is a somewhat common pattern and could have been found somewhere else? Or is it just a coincidence?

  • I'm assuming your assumption is correct, and that the pattern exists/ed elsewhere.
    – user31561
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 8:38
  • The problem is with your assumption that it's unlikely to be a coincidence. Such patterns are fairly obvious, and likely to be independently developed.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


These are meander patterns that had many variations and were very common in classical Greek and Roman art. The Romans took them from the Greeks and made their own variations, and in turn they were used by neo-classical architects and artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

There is an interesting article on how they work here

I believe (I'll try to find a reference) that Roman builders and painters would use pattern books for this sort of thing

  • In particular, the swastika-like device was commonly used in these patterns and concentric squares aren't exactly a trademark-able idea. Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 16:50
  • Andrea Palladio popularised a return to the architectural principles of the classical era. His dates are 1508 to 1580. Cappella Sansevero dates back to 1590, so it is possible its builders had read Palladio's 'Four Books of Architecture'. I wonder if they contain descriptions of meanders Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 14:44

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