Christian Art Before the Peace of the Church


Sarcophagus with Dionysiac Scene, early 3rd c. AD, marble, 50.8 cm height, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
mithras relief

Mithras Slaying the Sacred Bull, c. 150-200, limestone, 24 5/8” x 37 1/2”, Cincinnati Art Museum

mithras sculpture

mithras detail

Mithras Slaying the Bull, British Museum, London

Detail of the Bull with scorpion, dog, and snake
mithraeum ostia

Mithraeum, Ostia Antica
Followers of Mithras joined together in small congregations thus the small size of their meeting halls.
dura church

Reconstruction of the Christian community house at Dura-Europos, Syria, ca. 240–256
dura baptistry

dura detail

Baptistry, Christian House, Dura Europos
(det. lunette)
dura syn


Interior of the synagogue at Dura-Europos, Syria, with wall-paintings of Old Testament themes, ca. 245–256. Tempera on plaster. Reconstruction in National Museum, Damascus
(det. Aaron and the Tabernacle)

beth alpha

beth alpha det

Beth Alpha Synagogue, 6th century, Israel
jonah statues

jonh statue det

So-called Cleveland Statuettes, marble, c. 270-280, supposedly found in Central Turkey

Jonah Reclining under gourd vine (detail from group)

sol invictus

sol invictus room

Christ as Sol Invictus, detail of a vault mosaic in the Mausoleum of the Julii, Rome, Italy, mid-late third century

The lower vault walls included mosaics of Jonah, fisherman, and Good Shepherd confirming the Christian nature of the mausoleum and the syncretic nature of the Sol Invictus image.
isola sacra


Isola Sacra
The above-ground mausolea at this site are so well preserved because they were covered in sand for centuries, caused by the silting of the Tiber river.

Catacomb of Pamphilus gallery with sealed cubicula
Cubiculum with plastered surface and painted inscription identifying the deceased (not the same image shown in class)

catacomb vessel

catacomb doll

Objects inserted in the cement that seal catacomb loculi. These objects from daily life may have served as symbolic reminders of the connection between the home of the living and that of the dead.

So-called Chapel of the Sacraments, Catacomb of Callixtus, Rome
velatio velatio 1

velatio 2 velatio 3

Cubibulum of the Velatio, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome
Think about the way the images work together in a compehensive program.

The Good Shepherd, the story of Jonah, and orants, painted ceiling of a cubiculum in the Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Rome, Italy, early fourth century
-synchretism, typology, program

sarc jonah
The Story of Jonah, marble sarcophagus, approx. 2’ x 7’, late third century, Lateran Museum

Endymion Sarcophagus, 3rd century, Metropollitan Museum of Art
Compare the figure of Endymion to the way Jonah is depicted as he reclines under the gourd vine.
Think about the sources that the earliet Christians looked to for inspiration and models in the creation of Christian images.

sarc maria antiqua
Sarcophagus from Santa Maria Antiqua, c. 270

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