Early Christian Art
Facts and interesting information about Medieval Art, specifically
Early Christian Art,
during the Middle Ages
The History of Early Christian Art
Early Christian Art and religious iconography began, about two centuries after
the death of Jesus Christ. Early Christian Art and religious iconography was
originally based on the classical art styles and imagery used by the
Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans. In the period encompassing
Medieval art iconography began to be standardised and to relate more
closely to the texts found in the Bible and became the basis for many of
the images found in Early Christian Art
Art - Symbolism and Icons
The definition of the Christian Symbol or Icon in early
religious Christian Art forms. A Christian sign or icon is an
object, character, figure, or color used to represent abstract ideas or
concepts - a picture that represents an idea and fundamental to
understanding the icons and images found in Early Christian Art. A
religious icon is an image or symbolic representation with sacred
significance. The meanings, origins and ancient traditions surrounding
Early Christian Art symbols date back to early times when the majority
of ordinary people were not able to read or write and printing was
unknown. Many Early Christian Art symbols or icons were 'borrowed' or
drawn from early pre-Christian traditions.
Art - Symbols and Icons of the Evangelists
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the authors of the four New Testament
books telling the story of the life of Christ. They were called the
Evangelists. The Evangelist symbols in early Christian art were found in
manuscripts, sculpture and wall paintings. Their symbols were as
Matthew: Angel (man)
Art Symbols - Anchor
The Anchor represents an emblem of hope.
Art Symbols - Ankh
The word Ankh is an Egyptian word. It is a tau cross with a loop at
the top, used as an attribute or sacred emblem, symbolizing or
representing generation or enduring life. Also called 'crux ansata'. The
emblem was adopted by Christians, from the Egyptians, as a symbol of
Art Symbols - Apple
The Apple is also referred to as the Forbidden fruit symbolizing
sin. The association between 'apple' and 'sin' possibly derives from the
similarity of two Latin words malum and malus meaning “apple” and “sin”
respectively. This led to the to the apple’s connection with the fruit
that was eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The eating of the
Forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which
brought sin into the world.
Art Symbols - Ashes
The To cover the head with ashes was a token of self-abhorrence and
humiliation . This first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. The Roman
Catholic Church remembers Ash Wednesday by having ashes placed on a
person’s forehead by a priest.
Art Symbols - Books
The In Religious Art books in the hands of saints show they where well
educated in the Scriptures.
Art Symbols - Bread and Wine
The Lord’s Supper is symbolized by a chalice of wine with the bread
rising above it. The bread is referred to as the host and is a thin,
round wafer made from bread and used for Holy Communion. The host
usually has the letters I.N.R.I. on it which is an acronym of the Latin
phrase IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDĆORVM, which translates to English as:
"Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews". It also has rays coming from it,
symbolizing that the Real Presence of Christ is in the host.
Art Symbols - Butterfly
The Butterfly Christian Symbol represents and symbolizes the
Resurrection. The butterfly has three phases during its life:
The caterpillar - The caterpillar which just eats symbolises normal
earthly life where people are preoccupied with taking care of their
The chrysalis or cocoon - The chrysalis or cocoon resembles the tomb.
The butterfly - The butterfly represents the resurrection into a
glorious new life free of material restrictions.
Art Symbols - Cedar of Lebanon
The Cedar of Lebanon is the Cedrus Libani an evergreen tree found in
Lebanon and north western Syria that attains great age and height. The
Cedar of Lebanon is representative of Christ and is associated with
Art Symbols - Circle
The Circle Christian Symbol represents eternity. The circle
symbolises eternity as it has no beginning or end. Because of this many
early Christians believed that there was something divine in circles.
Early Astronomy and astrology was connected to the divine for most
medieval scholars, the circular shape of the sun, moon and the planets
were related to God's act of Creation.
Art Symbols - Coins
In Christian Art coins are often shown numbering thirty which
representative of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot.
Art Symbols - Crown
A crown is a royal headdress or cap of sovereignty, worn by emperors,
kings and princes. A Latin cross with a crown of a king resting on top
of it symbolizes eternal life. The Crown Christian Symbol represents
royal authority, and is often used for Christ, the King of Kings. The
image of the crown of thorns is often used symbolically to contrast with
earthly monarchical crowns.
Art Symbols - Eye
The Eye Christian Symbol represents the "all-seeing eye"
representing the eye of God the Father, the all-knowing and ever-present
God. In later examples of Christian art the eye was pictured in a
triangle with rays of light to represent the infinite holiness of the
Art Symbols - Fish or Ichthus
The What is the definition and the meaning of the Ichthus / Fish symbol?
Ichthus is the Greek word for fish (ΙΧΘΥΣ). The initials of the word
Ichthus are also used as a Christian acronym of the following Greek
Using the Ichthus acronym IChThUS means "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior".
Art Symbols - Fleur-De-Lis
The Fleur-De-Lis Christian Symbol with its association with the lily
represents purity, and in turn to the Virgin Mary. As the Fleur-De-Lis
composes of composed of three petals and three sepals it also symbolises
the Trinity. In Christian art Fleur-De-Lis is also the attribute of the
archangel Gabriel, notably in representations of the Annunciation.
Art Symbols - Gate
The In Christian Art an open gate symbolize the entrance to Heaven, a
closed gate symbolize death or exclusion, broken gates symbolize the
powers of hell.
Art Symbols - Goat
The Goat Christian Symbol represents oppressors, wicked men and demonic
forces. The goat also symbolises unrepentant sinners who will be
separated from God on judgment day
Art Symbols - Harp
The Harp Christian Symbol represents music, instruments, joy and worship
in praising God.
Art Symbols - Keys
Pictures of Saint Peter show him holding keys. Two keys represent the
dual authority with which to open heaven to repentant sinners and to
lock heaven to the unrepentant - the ability to grant or withhold
salvation. This power is believed to be bestowed upon every pope who
leads the Roman Catholic Church.
Art Symbols - Lamb
The Lamb Christian Symbol represents Jesus Christ.
Art Symbols - Olive Branch
The Olive Branch Christian Symbol represents an emblem of peace. This
because a dove returned to Noah with an olive branch to let him know
that the flood waters had abated, and that the Great Flood of God's
judgment was over.
Art Symbols - Palm
A branch or leaf of the palm,
anciently borne or worn as a symbol of victory or rejoicing.
Art Symbols - Pearls
Pearls represents the word of God and The kingdom of heaven. Jesus
warned his disciples not to cast Pearls before swine.
Art Symbols - Rock
That which resembles a rock in firmness; a defense; a support; a refuge.
The Rock represents Jesus Christ. A rock can also symbolize obedience to
Christ illustrated by Saint Peter whose name means "rock".
Art Symbols - Scales
The Scales Christian Symbol represents symbol of justice which
correspond to the use in metaphor of matters being "held in the balance"
and may be used to represent the final judgment.
Art Symbols - Tower
The Tower Christian Symbol represents God our Refuge
Medieval Art -
Early Christian Art
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