Until the adoption of Christianity by Constantine Christian art derived its style and much of its iconography from popular Roman art, but from this point grand Christian buildings built under imperial patronage brought a need for Christian versions of Roman elite and official art, of which mosaics in churches in Rome are the most prominent surviving examples. Christian art was caught up in, but did not originate, the shift in style from the classical tradition inherited from Ancient Greek art to a less realist and otherworldly hieratic style, the start of gothic art.
Heavily influenced by sculpture, Gothic painters were also busy creating works of religious art, but not inside churches, where enormous stained glass windows now provided the colour and Biblical illustration that previously had been provided by murals: see, for instance, the translucent stained glass art inside Chartres Cathedral (c.1194-1250). Instead Gothic painters focused on illuminated manuscripts, such as the French Bibles Moralisees (c.1230-40), Le Somme le Roi (1290), the Manesse Codex (1310), Heures de Jeanne d'Evreux (1328), Psaltar of Bonne of Luxembourg (1349), the English Amesbury Psalter (1240), Queen Mary Psalter (1330) and the Arundel and Luttrell Psalters (1340). These are just a few of the many Books of Hours, Missals, Psalters, Apocalypses, Bibles and other illuminated gospel texts that emanated from monastic scriptoria of the period. See, in particular, works by Jean Pucelle (1290-1334). For more, see: History of Illustrated Manuscripts (600-1200). Scripture Art
Other exceptional Christian paintings by modern artists include: The Angelus (1859) by the Barbizon realist Jean-Francois Millet; Christ Before Pilate (1881) by the Hungarian realist Mihaly Munkacsy; Christ's Triumphant Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888), by James Ensor, leader of the Symbolism movement; The Christian Relic (1893) by the Spanish social realist painter Joaquin Sorolla; the unfinished Adam and Eve (1918) by the Viennese master Gustav Klimt; Ecce Homo (1925) by the German Expressionist Lovis Corinth; The Screaming Pope (1953) by Francis Bacon, inspired by Velazquez's Innocent X (1650); Mark Rothko's wall-paintings for the chapel at the St Thomas Catholic University in Houston; Crucifixion 3.85 (1985) by Antonio Saura, inspired by Velazquez's Crucifixion (1631). Share Your Faith Products
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). Christian Gifts
The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ... Share Your Faith Products
In addition, there are numerous expressionist works by the French Catholic painter Georges Rouault, notably his series of The Holy Face, the Crucifixion and Christ Mocked, which make him one of the most important Christian artists of the 20th century. A similar accolade could be bestowed on the Russian fantasy painter Marc Chagall, whose imaginative Jewish art and scenes from the Old Testament were followed later by his series on religious themes - The Bible Message - now on display at the Cimiez Museum, in Nice. Chagall also produced a number of stained-glass designs for the cathedrals of Metz (1968), and Reims (1974), as well as the Hadassah Synagogue near Jerusalem. In addition, he was noted for the tapestry art that he designed for the Knesset. Scripture Art
So-called Northern Renaissance art (c.1430-1580) was dominated by the school of Flemish Painting, part of the broader movement of the Netherlandish Renaissance. In simple terms, the Northern Renaissance started with a bang, rapidly establishing itself as the foremost school of oil painting, and thereafter gradually declined. The altarpiece art of painters like Jan van Eyck (see his Ghent Altarpiece, 1432) and Roger van der Weyden (Descent from the Cross, 1440), as well as the unbelievably intricate works of Hugo van der Goes (Portinari Altarpiece, 1475), were rarely equalled, except by the extraordinary visionary pictures of Hieronymus Bosch - see Garden of Earthly Delights and Haywain Triptych - (avidly collected by the austere Catholic monarch Philip II of Spain), and the complex genre paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Census of Bethlehem, 1566; Massacre of the Innocents, 1564; Parable of the Blind, 1568).

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. ... Share Your Faith Products
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. ... Christian Gifts
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. Share Your Faith Products
Protestantism taught a low-key, personal form of worship that focused on the direct relationship between God and man, without making a fuss about go-betweens like Popes, Bishops and other church employees. It also placed little or no importance on decorative or ceremonial aspects of religion. Because of all this, Protestant art favoured low-key moralistic depictions of ordinary day-to-day life, or simple narrative scenes from the Bible, rather than dramatic theological scenes involving the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Other acceptable scenes included depictions of sinners forgiven by Christ, in line with the Protestant view that salvation is only possible through the grace of God. Protestant art also tended to be smaller-scale than Catholic art, reflecting a more modest, personal approach to religion. For the same reason, book illustration and prints became more popular, while Catholic paintings and sculptures became the object of physical iconclastic attacks, as exemplified by the beeldenstorm, an episode of mob destruction which broke out in 1556. But Protestant church authorities were equally aware of the power of art to educate and influence worshippers. As a result they made maximum use of various forms of printmaking, which allowed images to be made widely available to the public at a very low cost.
No other Italian artist embodied Catholic Baroque art better than Gianlorenzo Bernini, whose output of religious art included the sculptural masterpiece The Ecstasy of St.Teresa (1645–52), inside the specially designed Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The Baroque idiom spawned a melodramatic style of architecture, exemplified by Bernini's design for Saint Peter's Square (1656-67) and the approaches to St Peter's Basilica in Rome. A favourite of Urban VIII, and a rival of Francois Duquesnoy (1594-1643) and Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), Bernini's stature in Rome (though not his creativity) was matched by that of the French-born Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the founder of French Classicism, whose religious paintings included The Martyrdom of St Erasmus (1628), The Plague on Ashdod (1630), The Israelite Gathering Manna in the Desert (1639), The Boy Moses Tramples the Pharaoh's Crown (1645), and The Holy Family on the Steps (1648). Christian Gifts
A third type of Christian art which appeared in Ireland during the Middle Ages was High Cross Sculpture (c.750-1150 CE). Consisting of different-sized monuments, all based on the standard design of the Celtic-Cross. Decorated either with abstract patterns or narrative scenes from the bible (rarely both), these monuments constitute the most important set of free-standing sculpture produced between the fall of Rome (c.450) and the start of the Italian Renaissance (c.1400). Scripture Art
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation to fight for the hearts and minds of those Christians who had 'gone over' to Protestantism. To this end, the Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) - founded by S. Ignatius Loyola and commonly known as the Jesuits - was formally established in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as an important teaching body and missionary order. Jesuit art was suitably inspirational. First, the architect Giacomo Barozzi (Vignola) was commissioned to design a church for the new order - The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Il Gesu) (1568-73) - for which the Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Gaulli painted the fabulous trompe l'oeil ceiling frescoes. Another Jesuit church, the San Ignazio, was the setting for what is arguably the greatest example of quadratura painting ever created - The Triumph and Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola (1691-4) by Andrea Pozzo. There exists no greater exemplar of Counter-Reformation painting, and no better example of the differences between Protestant and Catholic art. Christian Gifts
“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: ... Christian Gifts
A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ... Christian Gifts
Protestantism taught a low-key, personal form of worship that focused on the direct relationship between God and man, without making a fuss about go-betweens like Popes, Bishops and other church employees. It also placed little or no importance on decorative or ceremonial aspects of religion. Because of all this, Protestant art favoured low-key moralistic depictions of ordinary day-to-day life, or simple narrative scenes from the Bible, rather than dramatic theological scenes involving the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Other acceptable scenes included depictions of sinners forgiven by Christ, in line with the Protestant view that salvation is only possible through the grace of God. Protestant art also tended to be smaller-scale than Catholic art, reflecting a more modest, personal approach to religion. For the same reason, book illustration and prints became more popular, while Catholic paintings and sculptures became the object of physical iconclastic attacks, as exemplified by the beeldenstorm, an episode of mob destruction which broke out in 1556. But Protestant church authorities were equally aware of the power of art to educate and influence worshippers. As a result they made maximum use of various forms of printmaking, which allowed images to be made widely available to the public at a very low cost.
Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great. Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers' houses. And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness, was there. (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the Lord. And Solomon and the assembly sought it out. ...
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” ... Christian Gifts
And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns. People will come there with bows and arrows because all the land will be briars and thorns. As for all the hills which used to be cultivated with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but they will become a place for pasturing oxen and for sheep to trample. Share Your Faith Products
Architectural sculpture was another important feature. Column statues and reliefs of figures from the Old Testament, as well as depictions of Christ and other members of the Holy Family, were commonplace. Gothic sculpture developed in a series of small creative steps. First came an increased realism, visibly different from the rather wooden look of the Romanesque idiom; then we see more graceful figures with soft drapery; then figures with a solid, upright appearance, with more restrained gestures. Finally came figures with dainty postures and thick drapery hanging in long V-shaped folds. Among the greatest sculptors were Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278) and Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310). Scripture Art
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