General characteristics of early Christian art
Find in this article General characteristics of early Christian art.
Early Christian art literally means “the first Christians”. This term covers all figurative expressions related to new religion, spread in the 1st century Palestine in the entire Roman Empire. For almost two centuries the faithful Christians have professed a religion that was not recognized by the Central Government, Indeed many emperors met and deeply opposed the new cult, for this the faithful would gather in private homes (Domus ecclesiae) or in underground cemeteries, the catacombs. The earliest evidence of painting or sculpture does not have characters that differ with respect to Roman art. The first Christian faithful Roman citizens were converted to the new faith, sharing culture, language and traditions with the Romans by pagan faith.
The big difference lies in the meaning that art takes. The early Christian art is no longer apt to celebrate the power or to decorate private and public buildings but to show the basic contents of the new faith.
The early Christian art fades at the beginning of the sixth century, After the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
We continue this vision of the General characteristics of early Christian art with some details on catacombs.
Christianity introduced the interment of the deceased, for this reason the cemeteries require very large spaces and was also necessary to dig underground cemeteries outside the city, the catacombs. The word catacomb, of Greek origin in the specific character of cave or cavity of these places. The latter are structured on several levels and are connected by a network of tunnels, calls ambulatory, in whose walls are dug the graves, the Loculi, the cubicles that housed the tombs of wealthy families or Crypts, where were buried martyrs or bishops. The catacombs were very important because they were allowed to keep the first testimonies of Christian art, very often contained symbolic images or writings relating to the deceased. The painting technique that we can observe is extremely rapid and immediate, with colourful strokes and a purely spiritual Fund message.
We conclude this analysis of General characteristics of early Christian art with the definition of the main symbols used.
There are two symbologies: abstract symbols and figurative symbols.
Abstract symbols feature shapes and symbols that distance from the natural world, as the cross or the Greek letters alpha and omega.
Figurative symbols are recognizable signs and figures or reference characters and events in the Bible.