Until the legalization of Christianity in 313, early Christian art was relatively scarce. It included fresco painting on the walls of some of the catacombs (burial sites outside the city walls), and "house-church" meeting places; a number of simple architectural designs for structures (martyrium) erected over the graves of martyrs; and a number of sarcophagi, carved with various emblems or reliefs of Jesus, Mary and other biblical figures. In these early times, when Christians were still being persecuted, most Christian Roman art remained (literally) part of an underground culture. What's more, Christianity (along with the imagery used to symbolize or illustrate it) was still evolving from a secret society (whose images were intelligible only to the initiated few) to a public organization (whose imagery was understood by all). Thus, to begin with, Christian painting and, in particular, early Christian sculpture used motifs from both Roman and Greek art: the image of "Christ in Majesty", for instance, derives from both Roman Imperial portraits and portrayals of the Greek God Zeus. It took centuries for Christian iconography to be standardized, and to harmonize with Biblical texts.
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Medieval Christian art on the Continent followed similar paths, albeit a little later. Carolingian art (c.750-900), for instance, (the culture of the Frankish kingdom of Charlemagne I) was inspired by Byzantine rather than Irish models. Monastic scriptoria at Aachen, Paris, Reims, Metz and Tours produced beautiful examples of medieval painting like the Godescalc Evangelistary (c.783), the Utrecht Psalter (c.830) and the Grandval Bible (c.840). Carolingian cuture was followed by Ottonian art, under the Holy Roman Emperors Otto I, II and III (900-1050). Inspired by Carolingian techniques as well as Byzantine elements - like the use of gold leaf - Ottonian art was famous for its lavishly decorated manuscripts, including the Perikpenbuch of Henry II (c.1010), the Bamberg Apocalypse (c.1020), the Hitda-Codex (c.1025) and the Codex Aureus Epternacensis (c.1053). See also: German Medieval Art (c.800-1250).
As it was, Byzantine architecture achieved its distinctive forms during the life of Justinian, who built four major churches in Constantinople, including: the Basilica of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (begun 526); the Basilica of Saint Irene (begun 532); the Basilica of the Apostles (536-46) - whose design was replicated in St Mark's Cathedral in Venice - and the greatest of all, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia (1532-37) (converted to a mosque in 1453, now a museum). Crowned by a massive dome whose weight was carried to corner piers by revolutionary concave triangular sections of stone, called pendentives, and decorated throughout with gold mosaics and multicoloured marble, the Hagia Sophia was the culmination of Roman architecture and a huge inspiration for later buildings throughout the Middle East, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Christian Wall Art
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. ... Christian Wall Art
Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. ... Christian Canvas Art
In the West, the Renaissance saw an increase in monumental secular works, but until the Protestant Reformation Christian art continued to be commissioned in great quantities by churches, clergy and by the aristocracy. The Reformation had a huge effect on Christian art, rapidly bringing the production of public Christian art to a virtual halt in Protestant countries, and causing the destruction of most of the art that already existed.
A devout Catholic, the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens became the most influential exponent of Counter-Reformation painting in Northern Europe. Famous for his large-scale religious and history paintings, full of sensuous colour and drama, he socialized in the leading circles of European society as both an artist and diplomat. Despite the distance separating Rubens from the ordinary churchgoer, some of his Catholic pictures, like the celebrated triptych Descent from the Cross (Rubens) (1612), are intensely moving, and his impact on later painters was enormous. See also: Samson and Delilah (1610). Share Your Faith Products
Baroque murals include the celebrated Aurora fresco (1621-3, Villa Ludovisi, Rome) by Guercino and Agostino Tassi; the Assumption of the Virgin (1625-7) on the duomo of the church of S. Andrea della Valle, by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647); the Palazzo Barberini frescoes by Pietro da Cortona, including Allegory of Divine Providence (1633-9); and the Apotheosis of St Ignatius (1688-94, Sant'Ignazio, Rome) by Andrea Pozzo. Christian Wall Art
Designed and built by the Austrian architect and master mason Jakob Prandtauer, it combines Italian Baroque elements with traditional Austrian design. Set on high cliffs overlooking the Danube River, its abbey church combines a high dome and twin towers. The abbey's exterior is a mass of undulating surfaces and soaring turrets and towers, while its interiors and hallways were decorated by many of Austria's leading artists. It houses several famous features, including the Marble Hall, the Imperial Staircase and a library containing an extensive collection of rare medieval texts. Christian Wall Art
Artists were commissioned more secular genres like portraits, landscape paintings and because of the revival of Neoplatonism, subjects from classical mythology. In Catholic countries, production continued, and increased during the Counter-Reformation, but Catholic art was brought under much tighter control by the church hierarchy than had been the case before. From the 18th century the number of religious works produced by leading artists declined sharply, though important commissions were still placed, and some artists continued to produce large bodies of religious art on their own initiative. Christian Wall Art