The Early Spread of Christianity• Although Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus inRome, it was not until 300 years later (in 313 CE) thatChristianity was recognized by the Roman Empire(Constantine I, Edict of Milan).• Early Christian Art does not refer to art made byChristians in the time of Jesus, as no such artworks exist.Instead, it refers to the earliest surviving artworks depictingChristian themes, which are typically Roman works fromthe third and fourth centuries.• Although Augustus and later Tiberius ruled Rome duringJesus’ lifetime, there were also local administrators ofJudaea (the region where Jesus primarily lived) who wereunder Roman control, namely King Herod and PontiusPilate. The Spread of Christianity Between 300 and 800 CE
Basics of ChristianityChristians believe that:• Jesus is the son of God, born of a human woman known as theVirgin Mary (immaculate conception). The Holy Trinity is made up ofthe Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit• The Christian Bible is made up of the Old Testament (which is sharedwith Judaism) and the New Testament.• During Jesus’ lifetime, he performed a number of miracles, andpreached his religious philosophies of love, charity, a personalrelationship with God, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of lifeafter death to people throughout Judaea.• Jesus’ twelve closest followers were his disciples (apostles).• Four of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are knownas the evangelists because they wrote accounts of Jesus’ life that arenow part of the New Testament (known as the Gospels).• At age 33, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples (Judas) andcrucified (put to death on a cross).• After three days in limbo, Jesus was resurrected, and after fortymore days, he ascended to heaven. Jesus’ death and resurrectionenabled the forgiveness of human sins.
Christian Symbols• Dove - The Old Testament dove is a symbol of purity,representing peace when it is shown bearing an olivebranch. In Christian art, a white dove is the symbolicembodiment of the Holy Spirit and is often showndescending from heaven, sometimes haloed and radiatingcelestial light.• Lamb or Sheep-The lamb, an ancient sacrificial animal, symbolizes Jesus’sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God, its pouring bloodredeeming the sins of the world.-The Lamb of God (Agnes Dei in Latin) may appear holding across-shaped scepter and/or a victory banner with a crosssignifying Christ’s Resurrection.-The lamb sometimes stands on a cosmic rainbow ormountaintop.-A flock of sheep represents the apostles – or all Christians– cared for by their Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Christian Symbols• Four Evangelists - The evangelists who wrote the New TestamentGospels are traditionally associated with the following creatures:- Saint Matthew = man or angel - Saint Mark = a lion- Saint Luke = an ox - Saint John = an eagle• Monograms - Alpha (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) andomega (the last) signify God as the beginning and end of all things.This symbolic device was popular from Early Christian timesthrough the Middle Ages.- Alpha and omega often flank the abbreviation IX or XP. The initialsI and X are the first letters of Jesus and Christ in Greek. The initialsXP, known as the chi rho, were the first two letters of the wordChristos.- These emblems are sometimes enclosed by a halo or wreath ofvictory.
Christian Symbols• Cross - The primary Christian emblem, the cross,symbolizes the suffering and triumph of Jesus’ crucifixionand resurrection as Christ.- It also stands for Jesus Christ himself, as well as theChristian religion as a whole.- Crosses have taken various forms at different times andplaces, the two most common in Christian art being theLatin and Greek.• Fish - The fish was one of the earliest symbols for JesusChrist. Because of its association with baptism in water, itcame to stand for all Christians. Fish are sometimesdepicted with bread and wine to represent the Eucharist.The simplified Ichthys symbol was used amongst earlyChristians as a means of secret identification.
Church Organization • As Christianity spread, the hierarchy of the Church became more organized. Christian communities were organized by geographical units, along the lines of Roman provincial governments. • Parish – a smaller Church unit, run by a priest • Diocese – a larger unit made up of several parishes, run by a bishop (who was a senior Church official) • The bishop’s headquarters were known as sees or seats, and where usually located in large cities or capitals. A bishops church is a cathedral, from the Latin word for “chair.” • Several sees were overseen by an arch-bishop. • The arch-bishop of Rome eventually became the Pope, who was the head of the Western Church. • The arch-bishop of Constantinople became the head, or patriarch, of the Eastern Church. • In 1054, the Eastern and Western Churches split to becomePope Benedict XVI in his the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. awesome Popemobile
Religious Beliefs Affect Art• As it was forbidden in the ten commandments to carve orworship false idols, Jewish and, later, early Christian artistsmade few religious sculptures.• Christian rites prompted the development of specialbuildings, such as churches (because Christians worshippedtogether in large groups) and baptistries.• The Christian Church began to use the visual arts toinstruct its followers as well as to glorify god.• Because Christianity claimed to have arisen out ofJudaism, its art incorporated many symbols and narrativerepresentations from the Hebrew Scriptures and otherJewish sources. This process of artists assimilating imagesfrom other traditions (whether intentionally or not) andgiving them new meanings is known as syncretism.• One example of a syncretic image is the use of orantfigures (people with outstretched arms) on the right, whichwere depicted in pagan, Jewish, and Christian art. Good Shepherd, Orants, and Story of Jonah Painted ceiling of the Catacomb of Saints Pietro and Marcellino, Rome. 4th Century.
Christian Funerary lunette Traditions• Because of the emphasis on resurrection, the Christians medallionsought to preserve the body after death. Instead ofcremation, they preferred to be buried in a catacomb.• In the catacombs, long rectangular niches called loculihold 2-3 bodies. Wealthier families created small roomscalled cubicula off of the main passages to house theirsarcophagi.• The catacombs were carved out of the tufa bedrock, thenplastered and painted with religious imagery.• This cubicula features a central medallion, featuring adepiction of a Good Shepherd, whose pose has roots inGreek sculpture. In its new context, the image was areminder of Jesus’ promise: “I am the good shepherd. Agood shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John10:11).• The medallion is surrounded by four lunettes, or semi-circular areas framed by an arch, depicting the story ofJonah who was swallowed then spit up by whale, ametaphor for resurrection.
Sarcophagus of Junius Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Rome, Italy. Bassus C. 360. Marble. 3’ 10” x 8’• Junius Bassus was a mid-fourth century prefect of Romewho was baptized just before his death.• Reliefs decorate only one long side and both short sides.• Long side consists of a total of ten scenes, divided intotwo registers of five scenes, each separated by a column.• The depictions are of biblical stories. Jesus appears in thecentral scene of both registers.• Of what previous Roman artwork is the upper depiction ofJesus reminiscent? How so?• Of what Roman artwork(s) is the lower depiction of Jesusreminiscent? How is it different?• What biblical story is depicted in the niche on the bottomrow, second from left? How does that story relate to Jesus?• The upper left image depicts Abraham offering his sonIsaac as a sacrifice, a fore-telling of Jesus being offered assacrifice for the sins of humanity.
Christ as the Good Shepherd • Although Christians mostly avoided sculpture in the round that depicted religious themes, there are a few examples, but they are smaller in scale than traditional Greco-Roman sculptures. Christ as theGood Shepherd • The depiction of Jesus as a shepherd is an example of a c. 350 syncretic image. In Pagan art, he was Hermes the shepherd orMarble. 3’ high Orpheus among the animals, but Jews and Christians saw him as the Good Shepherd of the twenty-third Psalm, which stated “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack.” • Pose is contrapposto. • Christ is depicted as youthful. Emphasis in early Christian art was on the life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus, rather than on his suffering and death.
Early Christian Architecture• Before the Edict of Milan, Christians worshipped togetherin private homes. After the Edict of Milan, they quicklybegan to build sizeable churches that met the demands ofthe Christian liturgy (the official ritual of public worship).• The churches needed to be large for two reasons. 1. Toaccommodate the rapidly growing number of Christians. 2.To create a monumental setting for worship & glorification.• Because Constantine believed the Christian god helpedhim defeat Maxentius, he became a prolific builder ofChristian churches in both Rome and Constantinople.• The Constantinian churches in Rome were built on thepresumed graves of early Christian martyrs, which, due toRoman burial practice, were all on the outskirts of the city.• Building Christian churches on the outskirts of the cityalso helped avoid confrontations between traditionalRoman worshippers and Christians.
Old Saint Peter’s Old Saint Peter’s Vatican Hill, • Constantine’s greatest Roman church was Old Saint Rome, Italy Peter’s (so-called because it was replaced with a new Begun c. 320 building, now known as Saint Peter’s Basilica, in 1506). • Built on the graveyard in which it was believed that Saint Peter, the “rock” and founder of the Church, and first Bishop of Rome (thusly, the first Pope) had been buried.transept narthex atrium • Large enough to accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 worshippers. • The church enshrined Peter’s tomb, which is considered to be the second most hallowed sites in Christendom, second only to the Holy Sepulcher (site of Christ’s resurrection). • Resembled Roman basilicas more than temples • Early Christian basilica-plans all had a longitudinal axis. • Worshippers entered through the narthex (vestibule, lobby). • The end containing the apse included a transept, or cross- aisle perpendicular to the nave, between the nave and apse. • Austere exteriors, but lavish interiors. 300’ long nave.
Santa Sabina chancel arch• Built 100 years after Old St. Peter’s, Santa Sabina issimilar in style, but much smaller.• Brick exterior is similar to Aula Palatina in Trier,Germany.• Corinthian columns support an arcade down each sideof the nave, drawing attention to the chancel arch (thearchway separating the nave from the apse) at the end.• As with Old St. Peter’s a clerestory lets in light beneaththe timber (wood) roof.• Interior decorated with frescoes and mosaics.• This church still has its original wooden doors. Santa Sabina Rome, Italy c. 430
Santa Maria Maggiore Santa Maria Maggiore• The first major church in the west dedicated to the Virgin Rome, ItalyMary (name translates to Saint Mary Major). c. 430• The year prior to its construction, the Council of Ephesusconvened to debate whether Mary had given birth to theman Jesus or to God as man. The council ruled that thedivine and human coexisted in Christ and that Mary was thebearer of God (Theotokos).• Nave: Ionic colonnade. Clerestory. Geometric circularmosaic floor. Coffers in the ceiling.• Mosaics depicting Old Testament stories decorate theupper walls of the nave (near the clerestory).• Mosaics in early Christian churches 1. instructedworshippers about biblical stories (didactic), and 2. glorifiedGod and Heaven through their beauty and splendor.
Parting of Lot and Abraham• Tesserae were made from glass deliberately set unevenlyin the panel to glitter and gleam in the clerestory light.• Larger tesserae were used (than in Roman floor mosaics)so that worshippers could easily see the scene from below.• This scene depicts the biblical story of Lot and Abraham.Because both men have large herds, conflicts were arisingamongst their herders, so they decided to part ways.Abraham gave his nephew Lot first choice of directions, andthen went the opposite way. Lot chose poorly, goingtowards Sodom, a city that was eventually destroyed byangels for its sinfulness.• Abraham is shown being lead by his son, Isaac, and Lot isbeing lead by his two daughters.• The artist shows the divide between groups clearly, andcreates a sense of depth by using a “head cluster.”• The artist attempted some modeling and shading. The Parting of Lot and Abraham• Abraham turns towards a church; Lot turns towards a city. Mosaic in the nave of Santa Maria Maggiore Rome, Italy. C. 430.
Santa Costanza • Central-plan design (circular, under a dome) • Originally a mausoleum for Constantina (who was Constantine’s daughter), it was converted into a church. • Brick exterior • In the center of the dome was an altar. Surrounding the dome was the ambulatory, a ring- shaped barrel-vaulted corridor, separated from the center by 12 double columns. • Interior was once decorated with many mosaics, but most are lost. The mosaics included Old andSanta Costanza New Testament images, as well as some that Rome, Italy borrowed imagery from Roman funerary art (but c. 350 re-interpreted in a Christian way).
Harvesting of Grapes • This mosaic, located in the arch above the ambulatory, depicts putti harvesting grapes and making wine, with a central portrait bust. Another portrait bust image was on the opposite side, and the pair may have represented Constantina and her husband. • Syncretic imagery: In Greco-Roman mythology, wine is associated with Bacchus, but in Christian imagery it is associated with the Eucharist. • Putti are similar looking to cherubs, the second order of angels. The difference is that cherubs are sacred (as angels), whereas a putti are profane. They represent Eros, and are usually depicted as trying to lure humans into profane love, rather than spiritual love between worshipper and God.Harvesting of GrapesMosaic in theambulatory vaultof Santa CostanzaRome, Italyc. 340
Ravenna• Theodosius I:-issued an edict establishing Christianity as the officialreligion of the Roman Empire (380)-Banned worship of the old Roman gods (391)-Abolished the Olympic Games (394)• After Theodosius’ death in 395, power passed to his twosons: Arcadius ruled the East; Honorius ruled the West.• In 404 Honorius moved the capital from Milan toRavenna, to escape the Visigoths who threatened to attackfrom the northwest.• In 410, the Visigoths (lead by Alaric) captured Rome.• In 476, the Visigoths (lead by Odoacer) captured Ravennato become the first Germanic king of Italy.• Odoacer was overthrown by Theodoric, king of theOstrogoths, who established his capital at Ravenna in 493.• Ravenna fell to the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 539.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia • The so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Honorius’ half-sister, is a small cruciform (cross-shaped) structure, with barrel-vaulted arms and a tower at the crossing. • Although it was long believed to be the tomb of Galla Placidia, we know now that it was built about 25 years before her death. It was probably originally a chapel to the martyred Saint Laurence. • The chapel adjoined the narthex of the now greatly altered palace-church of Santa Croce, which was also cruciform in plan. • The chapel’s cross-arms are of unequal length, giving it a slightly longitudinal axis. However, since both cross-arms are short, the emphasis is really on the vertical axis of the crossing tower (which appears domed from the inside). • As such, this building is a fusion of both the central-plan and basilica-plan styles, a design that would become veryThe Mausoleum of Galla Placidia popular in the years to come.Ravenna, Italy • The interior was decorated extensively with mosaicsc. 420
Mausoleum Mosaics • The mosaics in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia depict saints and apostles. • The upper image is of Jesus as the good shepherd. Instead of holding a sheep, Jesus sits amongst the flock. The sheep look up at him lovingly. A halo rings his head. • The lower image depicts Saint Laurence, who was put to death on a fiery grill (and was subsequently made the patron saint of bakers). He holds a cross on his shoulders to represent hisThe Martyrdom of St. Laurence & The Good Shepherd salvation in Christ, and a halo encircles his head to indicate hisMosaics from lunettes in the Mausuleum of Galla Placidia sainthood.Ravenna, Italy, c. 420
Sant’Apollinare Nuovo• Built by Theodoric in 504 as a baptistry, the building wasrededicated in the ninth century as Sant’Apollinare Nuovo,when it acquired the relics of Saint Apollinaris.• The upper portion of the nave walls are richly decoratedwith three levels of mosaics (only the upper two of whichare from Theodoric’s time).• Hebrew patriarchs and prophets stand between theclerestory window.• Scene’s from Christ’s life alternate with decorative panelsin the top row.• The mosaic to the right depicts the Miracle of the Loavesand Fishes.• The halo behind Jesus’ head now includes a cross, and isthus known as a nimbus.• Jesus’ pose is direct and frontal. He is clothed in imperialgold and purple, and is shown without a beard. Sant’Apollinare•The artist has depicted the sky with a heavenly golden Nuovoglow, rather than regular blue. Ravenna, Italy, c. 526• There is some shading, but the figures are much flatterthan previous mosaics.