Christian Art

For thousands of years, major factors that influence a society are the effects
of such things as religion, government, and art. When people study history, art
does not seem to play such an important role. However, art helps us understand
how a society feels, thinks, and looks at the surroundings which in they live.

Ecclesiastical art or commonly know as Christian art dates back to the first and
second centuries. The first influences of Christian art were believed to be

Roman in nature. While other historians feel that the Christian art influence
came from the east, particularly the Orient. The first know works of Christian
art were found in the Roman catacombs. The works found there were considered to
be done during the first or second century. A problem with finding at art in a

Christian nature is very complicated during the first and second centuries, due
the religion still being small. During this time it is believed to be more
decoration then really art. Historians feel that the first glimpses of art are
not pagan, but rather ornamentation. There also seems to be no real pattern of
items that can be considered Christian other then a noticeable recurrence of
vines. Symbolism is seen more in the second century in public cemeteries. These
works of art were rather different then pagan art during this same time. Two
examples of this would be the dove and the fish. Both of these symbols could be
recognized by normal people, but were not used in pagan decoration, thus having
to be brought about by some type of Christian influence. After the triumph of

Constantine, and around 313 A.D. to the fifth century came the main birth of

Christian art. Examples would include art seen on the walls of Roman catacombs,
also the believed figure of Christ changed from a beardless good shepherd to a
bearded man. Christ also was depicted as standing or sitting with an attitude of
authority. During this time period, the Greek monogram of Christ was forged into

Greek monuments and even into the coinage of the time. The crucifixion of Christ
was not yet used or really know during the centuries leading up to the fifth
century. However, the first representations of the crucifixion were merely a
plain cross with the figure of a lamb. The known symbol of Christ hanging from a
cross was seen somewhat in the fifth centuries on such things as carved on the
doors of Sta. Sabina in Rome or in the British Museum Ivory. This again was
still rarely found and was not in common use till it started to appear in
frescoes or mosaics after the time of Justinian (527-565). From the third to
fifth century, the Christian church was still using a lot of decoration forms of
art. Most of these designs are of glass, or mosaic in nature. Each of these
glass structures had representations of Christ and the Apostles, as well as
drawings in gold leaf which referred to the miracles that Christ performed. The
mosaics and glass structures of the time were rather beautiful. Between the
fourth and tenth centuries, the use of color was introduced. The first color
mosaics appeared in the catacombs, but later spread to the churches, oratories
and places of worship. The church also discovered that the use of mosaics
possessed an overwhelming since of attention, which other methods of decoration
lacked. The time it took to make a mosaic was long and tedious. After the
original design was drawn by the artist, the hard work was over. After the
artist was finished, other craftsmen would finish the job by placing the correct
stone in the proper place. The artist was not needed for this part and was
really free to go and persue other works for other churches. The best example of
making a mosaic is simply painting by numbers. Mosaics were also part of the
structure in which they decorated. Mosaics did not fade in color nor were they
effected by light or atmosphere; they seem to light up any part of a room in
church. Examples of mosaics still around today can be found at Mount Athos, near

Constantonople, and most importantly Ravenna, in Sicily, Rome. The reason why it
is so easy to see such mosaics in Ravenna is due to the out of the way location
is possesses. In Ravenna, there are many works that still exist today and are in
their original condition. The most original and untouched mosaic exists in the
baptistery, which dates back to the fourth century. In the baptistery,