Christian art is probably one of the oldest and prettiest religious art that you can find across the world. The whole spawn of time dates back to the 3rd century, and all the way to today, our modern times. Christian art is beautiful, mystical, unique, and most importantly loved by every person that appreciates beautiful art, even if that person is a non-believer. We need to cherish the beauty and the uniqueness of the Christian art. Especially the early Christian art. Because early Christian arts tell us a story of how it all have started. It gives us a window to the time when Christianity was still a young religion that was still finding its way across the world. Without further ado, we will try to explain you the meaning and nature of early Christian art. So let us start with this article.
Start of early Christian art
Early Christian art, or better know as Paleochristian art is the art that was produced under the Christian patronage from the earliest period of the Christian religion. The time it was first started was around 260. to 525. The saddest thing is that only Christian art from the 2nd century onwards had survived, so we can`t exactly tell when the first piece of Christian art was created. After the 550 years. Christian art is classified as Byzantine, or even of some other regional types. The problem is that we can`t exactly pinpoint when Christianity as religion has been established and when the first works of art were made in the name of Christianity. At that time, Christianity was the religion of the lower classes, which was probably the result why we can`t find any earlier piece of Christian art. The first believers didn`t have the resources or the knowledge to create art, especially the one that could last till this day. And there were only a few followers of Christianity at that time, which, again, lowered the chances that someone could find such an old part of Christian art. The way that first Christians did their own art was probably by masking it under pagan iconography. Only Christians would know the meaning of that peace of art. That is way early Christians used the same artistic methods as the all surrounding pagan cultures. The medias that were used include fresco, mosaics, sculptures and manuscript illumination.
Early Christians had used Roman forms and Roman styles of the art. Later styles have included the proportional portrayal of the human body and the impressionistic presentation of the space. The most examples of early Christian art are frescos in the catacombs of Rome. In the time when Christians had to keep their religion secret because it was still illegal. Early Christians have adapted Roman motifs and made them their own, they gave them a new meaning. But they have also created their own iconography, like for example the fish, which was origin symbol of Christianity.
Symbolism of early Christian art
During the early time of Christianity, while the Christian religion was under the prosecution of the Roman Empire, Christian art was intentionally ambiguous and furtive. With using the pagan culture symbols, Christian art was safely hidden from potential exposure to the authorities of the Roman Empire. Only Christian believes were able to know the real meaning of the art that they have made. Originally, Jesus was represented indirectly by pictogram symbols such as fish, peacock, Lamb of the God. This symbols only had a meaning for the Christians. While Romans didn`t know or understand the nature of those art symbols (pictograms).
Early Christian art was very interesting, but also very simplistic. In many cases, Christians used pictograms as the way to show their affiliation to the Christian religion. Some of the art was hidden under the pagan motives so that it would not be recognized by Romans. This shows how effective and smart early Christians were. How they were able to create art that fooled all non-Christian people. How they have used the simple art styles to put their marks in the catacombs of Rome. And with time, Christian art had become more and more complexed. We will maybe talk about it some other time.