First built over the legendary burial site of St Peter, during the time of Emperor Constantine I, Saint Peter's Basilica is among the holiest of all Catholic sites. The current building was mostly designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Bernini, and embodies the artistic transition from Renaissance to Baroque. Crowned by a 433-foot high dome, it is packed with priceless works of art, including Michelangelo's marble sculpture Pieta (1500), carved by the artist from a single block of Carrara marble at the age of 25. St. Peter's is strongly associated with the Early Christian church, the papacy, the Counter-Reformation and is considered to be the finest building of its age.

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. Scripture Art
An interesting feature of Christian drawing from the Baroque period were the architectural drawings, prints and paintings of church interiors. Three of the leading exponents of this genre were: the Haarlem artist Pieter Saenredam noted for his architectural accuracy and his pictures of whitewashed church interiors (Interior of the Buurkerk, Utrecht, 1645); Emanuel de Witte, who was less concerned with technical accuracy and more interested in the atmosphere of the church (Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, 1680); and the Italian view painter (vedutista) Giovanni Paolo Panini (Interior of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, 1731). Scripture Art
After El Greco came Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), an artist strongly influenced by Spanish Quietism, who specialized in large-scale sacred paintings for Religious Orders like the Carthusians, Capuchins, Dominicans, and others. Zurburan's contemporary Jusepe Ribera (1591-1652) was a key figure in the Neapolitan School of Painting (1600-56), and an early follower of Caravaggio. Works by both these painters are famous for their visual truthfulness, bold chiaroscuro and tenebrism, which gave them great drama and intensity. See also: Christ Crucified (1632) by Diego Velazquez.
Much of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire is Christian art, although this in large part because the continuity of church ownership has preserved church art better than secular works. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Roman Catholic Church commissioned and funded production of religious art imagery. Christian Gifts
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. Christian Canvas Art
Unless otherwise indicated, all content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Contact me: openbibleinfo (at) gmail.com. Cite this page: Editor: Stephen Smith. Publication date: May 9, 2019. Publisher: OpenBible.info. Scripture Art
As the power of Rome declined, that of Constantinople grew. In 535, the armies of Justinian I (482-565), Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565, invaded Italy (mostly occupied by barbarians) and in 540 conquered Ravenna, which became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy. From 540 to 600, the Exarch of Ravenna instigated a major building program of churches in the city and its port township of Classe: they included the Basilica of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The Basilica of San Vitale combines a Roman dome, doorways and stepped towers, with a Byzantine polygonal apse, as well as Byzantine capitals, and narrow bricks. It is world famous for its Byzantine mosaics, the most spectacular and best preserved mosaic art outside Constantinople. For details, see: Ravenna Mosaics (c.400-600). Scripture Art
Fewer churches meant less sculpture and less ecclesiastical decoration. But some new works did appear, such as Christ the Redeemer (1926-31), the huge soapstone statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Designed by Heitor da Silva Costa, and sculpted by Paul Landowski, it is the largest Art Deco statue in the world. Other noteworthy pieces of modern Christian sculpture include: Tarcisius, Christian Martyr (1868, Musee d'Orsay, marble) carved by Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiere; Genesis (1929-31, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) and Adam (1938, Harewood House), both by Jacob Epstein. Scripture Art

Ravenna remains the best single source of surviving mosaics. These include: Christ as the Good Shepherd mosaic (450, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia); the Baptism of Christ mosaic (6th century, Arian Baptistery); the Queen Theodora mosaic (547, Basilica San Vitale); Christ Before Pontius Pilate mosaic (550, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Classe). In Istanbul, see the floor mosaics (400-550) at the Imperial Palace; the South Gallery mosaics (c.1260) in Hagia Sophia; and the Dormition of Mary mosaic (1310, Church of the Chora Monastery). Elsewhere in the Byzantine Empire, see the mosaics at Hagios Demetrios (650) in Saloniki; and the outstanding early 12th century apse mosaics in Torcello Cathedral, Venice. Share Your Faith Products
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: Christian Canvas Art
The Orthodox Church of Constantinople, which enjoyed greater stability within the surviving Eastern Empire was key in commissioning imagery there and glorifying Christianity. As a stable Western European society emerged during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church led the way in terms of art, using its resources to commission paintings and sculptures. Christian Gifts
Towards the end of the Gothic era, there emerged a rich style of art, among the royal courts of Europe, that acted as a kind of bridge between Gothic and Renaissance culture. Known as International Gothic (c.1375-1450), this style was exemplified by a range of Christian illuminations which reached their peak in works like Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) by the Limbourg Brothers (all died of plague, 1416); the Hours of the Marechal de Boucicaut, by Jacquemart de Hesdin (c.1355-1414), and The Missal of Jean des Martins by Enguerrand de Charenton (Quarton) (c.1410-1466). Share Your Faith Products
Stained glass production was concentrated in centres like the Rhineland (Germany) and in the Ile de France and Poitiers. Framed for the first time in lead, designs were based on strong colour contrasts (blue, intense reds, yellow). (See also: Stained Glass Art: Materials, Methods.) Famous examples include glass windows like: The Prophet Hosea (1130, south wall of Augsburg Cathedral); and The Crucifixion of Christ (1165, Poitiers Cathedral). Murals were used - as in Byzantine churches - to educate the illiterate churchgoer. Styles were typically dynamic and animated, while Spanish artists created Romanesque murals with a mixture of Spanish and Islamic art. Sculpture appeared mostly on the exterior of churches, in a rather static or wooden style. The most famous Romanesque artist was probably the sculptor Gislebertus (1120-1135), known for his relief work on the portals of Share Your Faith Products
Other famous Gothic buildings included the cathedrals at Laon (1160), Notre Dame de Paris (1160), Chartres (1194), Bourges (1195), Reims (1211), Amiens (1220), Salisbury (1220), Burgos (1220), Westminster Abbey, Lincoln (1230), (1245), Cologne (1248), Freiburg (1275), York Minster (1280), Rouen (1281), Siena (c.1290), Barcelona (1298), Orvieto (1330), Milan (1386), Seville (1402), and others. Share Your Faith Products
It was carved with cherubim and palm trees; and a palm tree was between cherub and cherub, and every cherub had two faces, a man's face toward the palm tree on one side and a young lion's face toward the palm tree on the other side; they were carved on all the house all around. From the ground to above the entrance cherubim and palm trees were carved, as well as on the wall of the nave. The doorposts of the nave were square; as for the front of the sanctuary, the appearance of one doorpost was like that of the other. The altar was of wood, three cubits high and its length two cubits; its corners, its base and its sides were of wood And he said to me, "This is the table that is before the LORD." The nave and the sanctuary each had a double door. Each of the doors had two leaves, two swinging leaves; two leaves for one door and two leaves for the other. Also there were carved on them, on the doors of the nave, cherubim and palm trees like those carved on the walls; and there was a threshold of wood on the front of the porch outside. There were latticed windows and palm trees on one side and on the other, on the sides of the porch; thus were the side chambers of the house and the thresholds. Share Your Faith Products
And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work. He cast two pillars of bronze. Eighteen cubits was the height of one pillar, and a line of twelve cubits measured its circumference. It was hollow, and its thickness was four fingers. The second pillar was the same. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars. The height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits. There were lattices of checker work with wreaths of chain work for the capitals on the tops of the pillars, a lattice for the one capital and a lattice for the other capital. ...

The Roman Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation with the Counter-Reformation. Catholic Counter-Reformation Art was designed to communicate the distinctive tenets of the Catholic liturgy and faith so as to strengthen the popularity of Catholicism. It was launched at the same time as Mannerist painting was taking hold in Italy - a highly expressive style that used distortion for effect, as exemplified in Parmigianino's picture Madonna with the Long Neck (1535, Uffizi). Concerned that Catholic art was attaching too much importance to decorative qualities, and not enough to religious values - thus negating its educational effects on churchgoers - the Catholic authorities decreed that Biblical art should be be direct and compelling in its narrative presentation, which itself should be accurate rather than fanciful, and should above all encourage piety. Nudity, and other inappropriate imagery was banned. For an example of a pious Mannerist artsist who adapted his style in line with the Church's teaching, see: Federico Barocci (1526-1612). Christian Canvas Art

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 Canvas Art


Russian art of the 19th century produced some outstanding works of Christian painting. Leading painters included: the Ukrainian Anton Losenko (1737-73), Professor of History Painting at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts (see his Renaissance-inspired works Miraculous Catch and Abraham's Sacrifice); and the influential Alexander Ivanov (1806-58), whose works included The Appearance of Christ to the People (1837-57) a huge canvas which took 20 years to complete. Later in the century, several members of the Itinerants group produced some remarkable Christian paintings, characterized by a unique spiritual intensity. They included: The Last Supper (1863) by Nikolai Gay; The Raising of Jairus's Daughter (1871) by Ilya Repin; Christ in the Wilderness (1872) and Laughter ("Hail, King of the Jews!") by Ivan Kramskoy; Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1887) by Vasily Polenov. Christian Gifts
“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. ...
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 Canvas Art
He also made two pillars for the front of the house, thirty-five cubits high, and the capital on the top of each was five cubits. He made chains in the inner sanctuary and placed them on the tops of the pillars; and he made one hundred pomegranates and placed them on the chains. He erected the pillars in front of the temple, one on the right and the other on the left, and named the one on the right Jachin and the one on the left Boaz.

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).
Thus says the Lord, “Go, buy a potter's earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— ... Christian Gifts
"If you happen to come upon a bird's nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. Share Your Faith Products
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. Christian Canvas Art
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. Scripture Art
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