How is it that the artist can create on canvas a picture that to the viewer is a door that he can step through. Once through that door, the viewer experiences from all of his senses: the gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of laughter, the smells of Autumn, or an emotion. All of these wonderful sensations seemed to have been felt through all the other different senses; but actually were felt through the one sense, the sight. This is the beauty experienced through the eyes of the beholder. And this is indeed the gift of art. 

Years 400-1400


In the 4th century, the Edict of Milan allowed public Christian worship and led to the development of a monumental Christian art. Christians were able to build edifices for worship larger and more handsome than the furtive meeting places they had been using. 

Existing architectural formulas for temples were unsuitable because pagan sacrifices occurred outdoors in the sight of the gods, with the temple, housing the cult figures and the treasury, as a backdrop. 

As an architectural model for large churches, Christians chose the basilica, the Roman public building used for justice and administration. These basilica-churches had a center nave with one or more aisles at each side and a rounded apse at one end: on this raised platform sat the bishop and priests, and also the altar. 

Although it appears that early altars were constructed of wood (as is the case in the Dura-Europos church) altars of this period were built of stone, and began to become more richly designed. 

Richer materials could now be used for art, such as the mosaics that decorate Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and the 5th century basilicas of Ravenna, where narrative sequences begin to develop.

Much Christian art borrowed from Imperial imagery, including Christ in Majesty, and the use of the halo as a symbol of sanctity. 

Late Antique Christian art replaced classical Hellenistic naturalism with a more abstract aesthetic. The primary purpose of this new style was to convey religious meaning rather than accurately render objects and people. 

Realistic perspective, proportions, light and colour were ignored in favor of geometric simplification, reverse perspective and standardized conventions to portray individuals and events. 

Icons of Christ, Mary and the saints, ivory carving, and illuminated manuscripts became important.

Early Christian:  







The Crossing of the Red Sea Dura-Europos, 244-245 CE,

Catholic Art 

Catholic art is art related to the Catholic Church. This includes visual art (iconography), sculpture, decorative arts, applied arts, and architecture. Usually expressions of Catholic art illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form Catholic teachings.


Catholic art has played a leading role in the history and development of Western art since at least the 4th century. The principal subject matter of Catholic art has been the life and times of Jesus Christ, along with people associated with him, including his disciples, the saints, and motives from the Catholic Bible.

The earliest surviving artworks are the painted frescoes on the walls of the catacombs and meeting houses of the persecuted Christians of the Roman Empire.


The Church in Rome was influenced by the Roman art and the religious artists of the time. The stone sarcophagi of Roman Christians exhibit the earliest surviving carved statuary of Jesus, Mary and other biblical figures. The legalization of Christianity with the Edict of Milan (313) transformed Catholic art, which adopted richer forms such as mosaics and illuminated manuscripts. 

The iconoclasm (literally means "image breaking") controversy briefly divided the Western Catholic Church and the Eastern Catholic Church, after which artistic development progressed in separate directions.


"During the eighth century, mounting discomfort with the place of icons in Christian devotion grew into a major controversy in the Byzantine world and, in 726, Emperor Leo III imposed iconoclasm, initiating the systematic destruction of images of saints and sacred stories on icons and in churches, as well as the persecution of those who made them and defended their use.. 


His successor, Constantine enforced these policies and practices with even greater fervor. Iconoclasm endured as imperial policy until 843, when the widowed Empress Theodora reversed her husband Theoplilus' policy and reinstated the central place of images in Byzantine devotional practice...


Iconophiles (means literally "lovers of images"): In 843 AD, the place of images in worship was again secure: Icons proclaimed Christ as God incarnate ....But iconoclasm is not restricted to Byzantine history. It appears from time to time throughout the history of art"...

The reformers during the Protestant Reformation were opposed to icons or images in art form and many works of Catholic art were destroyed. To the reformers they viewed imagery as idolatry, when to the Catholic (Western) Church, it was an educational tool as many people did not know how to read and Bibles were not yet in print. It was also used as inspiration to worship and for meditation upon the Gospels.


Romanesque and Gothic art flowered in the Western Church as the style of painting and statuary moved in an increasingly naturalistic direction.

The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century produced new waves of image-destruction, to which the Catholic Church responded with the dramatic, elaborate emotive Baroque and Rococo styles to emphasise beauty as a transcendental.


In the 19th century the leadership in Western art moved away from the Catholic Church which, after embracing historical revivalism was increasingly affected by the modernist movement, a movement that in its "rebellion" against nature, counters the church's emphasis on nature as a good creation of God.

Christian art is nearly as old as Christianity itself. The oldest Christian sculptures are from Roman sarcophagi, dating to the beginning of the 2nd century.


As a persecuted sect, however, the earliest Christian images were arcane and meant to be intelligible only to the initiated. Early Christian symbols include the dove, the fish, the lamb, the cross, symbolic representation of the Four Evangelists as beasts, and the Good Shepherd.


Early Christians also adapted Roman decorative motifs like the peacock, grapevines, and the good shepherd. It is in the Catacombs of Rome that recognizable representations of Christian figures first appear in number.


The recently excavated Dura-Europos house church on the borders of Syria dates from around 265 AD and holds many images from the persecution period.


The surviving frescoes of the baptistry room are among the most ancient Christian paintings. We can see the "Good Shepherd", the "Healing of the paralytic" and "Christ and Peter walking on the water". A much larger fresco depicts the two Marys visiting Christ's tomb.

Art History, Marilyn Stokstad, Michael W. Cothren, 4th Edition, Vol I

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List of Catholic Artists -

Romanesque artists

Gothic artists

List of Gothic artists 

BYZANTINE 400-1400


Byzantine art refers to the body of Christian Greek artistic products of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire,[1] as well as the nations and states that inherited culturally from the empire. Though the empire itself emerged from Rome's decline and lasted until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453,[2] the start date of the Byzantine period is rather clearer in art history than in political history, if still imprecise.


The beauty of the Byzantine Art was displayed in mosaics and became, oftentimes, an integral part of architecture.



Mosaic in the Aspe of San Vitale: Christ, still beardless is sitting on the world globe surrounded by angels and saints.

One of the most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople – the image of Christ Pantocratoron the walls of the upper southern gallery. Christ is flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The mosaics were made in the 12th century.


Transfiguration of Jesus. Allegorical image with Crux gemmata and lambs represent apostles, 533–549, apse of Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe


Galla (Mosaics): Yrs 425-430

Galla Placidia Mausoleum – Smalti & Mosaic Gold – Byzantine Mosaics – Ravenna, Italy 


Built in 425-430 AD, the structure is designed in the shape of a Greek cross, and has a cupola that is entirely in mosaics, representing eight apostles and symbolical figures of doves drinking from a vessel. The other four apostles are represented on the vaults of the transverse arm; over the door is a representation of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, young, beardless, with flowing hair, and surrounded by sheep; opposite, there is a subject that is interpreted as representing Saint Lawrence. Thin, translucent panels of stone admit light into the structure through the windows.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a highly important Byzantine mausoleum in Ravenna, Italy. It is one of the eight structures in Ravenna that were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996. As the UNESCO experts reasoned, “it is the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect”.

The inside is relatively small and extremely simple. The mausoleum was intended from the very start to be covered with mosaics, and these are the oldest in Ravenna. The eye is seduced by the brilliance of the colours, which mask the architecture and create an illusionistic effect.




                                                                                                                                               Interior view, showing the southern lunette.

The Good Shepherd.




                                                                                                                                             Ceiling mosaic Garden of Eden.

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Early Renaissance: 1400

The Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci

 Leonardo da Vinci's late 1490s mural painting 


This painting is about the betrayal of Christ and the institution of the Eucharist. The apostles are arranged in four groups of three with Chris in the center as the focal point with his body in the form of a triangle, symbolic of the Trinity. 

 From left to right, according to the apostles' heads:

Judas is wearing green and blue and is in shadow, looking rather withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. He is clutching a small bag, perhaps signifying the silver given to him as payment to betray Jesus, or perhaps a reference to his role within the 12 disciples as treasurer.[10] He is also tipping over the salt cellar. This may be related to the near-Eastern expression to "betray the salt" meaning to betray one's Master. He is the only person to have his elbow on the table and his head is also horizontally the lowest of anyone in the painting.

Peter looks angry and is holding a knife pointed away from Christ, perhaps foreshadowing his violent reaction in Gethsemane during Jesus' arrest. He is leaning towards John and touching him on the shoulder, perhaps because in John's Gospel he signals the "beloved disciple" to ask Jesus who is to betray him.[11]

The youngest apostle, John, appears to swoon and lean towards Peter.

Thomas is clearly upset; the raised index finger foreshadows his incredulity of the Resurrection.

James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation.

Both Jude Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer to their initial questions.

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The Descent from the Cross (van der Weyden)







The Descent from the Cross c. 1435. Oil on oak panel, 220cm × 262 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid

The viewer identifys with the suffering of Christ and Mary. The doctrines of Denis the Carthusian also emphasized the significance of the Virgin Mary and her belief in Christ at the moment of his death. Denis expresses the conviction that the Virgin Mary was near death when Christ gave up his spirit; Van der Weyden's painting powerfully conveys this idea.[11]









Detail: Mary of Clopas, Saint John the Evangelist                                          Detail: Mary Magdalene

and Mary Salome (according to Campbell) [Art historian]

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament - Raphael














The Disputation of the Sacrament, is a painting by the Italian Renaissanceartist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1510[1] as only the first part of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican


In the painting, Raphael has created a scene spanning both heaven and earth. Above, Christ is surrounded by an aureole, flanked by the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist to his right and left (an arrangement known as the Deësis).


Other various biblical figures such as Peter (far left, holding keys), Adam (far left, bared chest), Paul (far right, holding book and sword) and Moses (right, with horns of light and holding tablets of the Ten Commandments) are to the sides. God the Fathersits above them all in the golden light of heaven and adored by angels. Below Christ's feet is the Holy Spirit, to whose sides are books of the four Gospels held open by putti.

Below, on an altar sits the monstrance.


The altar is flanked by theologians who are depicted debating Transubstantiation.[3] Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity is the Holy Eucharist, which is discussed by representatives of the Church; among them are the original four Doctors of the Church (identified by their names inscribed into their halos), with Pope Gregory I and Jerome seated to the left of the altar and Augustine and Ambrose to the right, along with Pope Julius IIPope Sixtus IVSavonarola and Dante Alighieri. Pope Sixtus IV is the gold dressed pope in the bottom of the painting. Directly behind Sixtus is Dante, wearing red and sporting a laurel wreath (symbolizing his greatness as a poet).[4]


The bald figure reading a book and leaning over a railing in the left hand corner could be Raphael's mentor and Renaissance architect Bramante.

Virgin of the Rocks -Leonardo da Vinci 


The scene is  a rocky grotto, where four figures are sitting together on the stone floor in a pyramid form.

To the right Archangel Gabriel is seated with a gaze, pointing to the child-figure of Saint John, who is worshiping his Lord. Angel Gabriel seems to tell us to imitate St John in worship. With his other hand, the angel supports the Christ Child sitting next to him. At the apex of the pyramid sits the Virgin whose hand is raised, palm-down, over the head of the infant Christ, as if giving him a blessing, as Mother . 

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Trinity (Andrei Rublev)





1411 or 1425-27

The Trinity (Russian: called The Hospitality of Abraham) is an icon created by Russian painter Andrei Rublev in the 15th century.[1] It is his most famous work[2] and the most famous of all Russian icons,[3] and it is regarded as one of the highest achievements of Russian art.[4][5] Scholars believe that it is one of only two works of art (the other being the Dormition Cathedral frescoes in Vladimir) that can be attributed to Rublev with any sort of certainty.[1]


The Trinity depicts the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1–8), but the painting is full of symbolism and is interpreted as an icon of the Holy Trinity. At the time of Rublev, the Holy Trinity was the embodiment of spiritual unity, peace, harmony, mutual love and humility.[6]

And so in the center is seated the Son, or Word of God. His clothes are the typical bright red cloaked in blue, often seen on Icons of Jesus Christ, representing the Divine (red) and human (blue) natures. Over his right shoulder there is a band of gold; as Isaiah prophesied: the Government shall be upon his shoulder.


Towering above Him is the oak of Mamre, yet within this icon is revealed as a foreshadowing of the Cross, or tree, from which Jesus would be hung. The oak tree behind the angel reminds us of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden as well as the cross upon which Christ saved the world from the sin of Adam. The tree seems to bow towards the Father.

In the background is a house, representative of the house of Abraham.

Of the Three, the Father on the left of the picture is the only figure to be unbowed, displaying a fatherly authority over the other Two. The first angel wears a blue undergarment, symbolizing the divine nature of God and a purple outer garment, pointing to the Father’s kingship.

The Son of God is shown as though in conversation with the Father, which is what is revealed to us in the Gospels.

The Father looks forward, raising his hand in blessing to the Son. 

The third angel is wearing a blue garment (divinity), as well as a green vestment over the top. The color green points to the earth and the Holy Spirit’s mission of renewal.

All Members of the Holy Trinity are shown equal in size,

In the center of the icon is a table that resembles an altar. Placed on the table is a golden bowl or chalice that contains the calf Abraham prepared for his guests and the central angel appears to be blessing the meal. All of that combined reminds us of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The reverse perspective seems to draw the subjects of the icon toward us rather than away from us as in the traditional perspective.