Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




"Upon this Rock I Will Build My Church"

The birth of Christianity



And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Christ to Simon Peter, the Gospel of Matthew (16:18-19)


The mosaics in Santa Costanza also depict secular scenes
such as the harvesting of grapes and the making of wine


Santa Costanza: Interior view


He had indeed failed. Accused by Jewish scribes of blasphemy, Jesus Christ was crucified by Roman soldiers on the mount of Golgotha. To all appearances the son of a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, he claimed to be the Son of God, and for this he died in dishonour on the Cross. But something unheard of happened: three days later, when some women went to his grave to anoint his body with oil, they met an angel who said to them: "... Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said..." (Matthew 28: 5—6). Was Jesus Christ really the Son of God? Certainly his adherents grew in numbers so rapidly that there were soon several thousand of them.

The leader within this first Christian community was Simon, a fisherman from Capernaum. It was Simon whom Jesus Christ renamed the "rock" (Greek: Petros) on which he would build his Church. Our picture shows this scene: Jesus Christ has just made Peter the head of his Church — the first Pope.

Yet Peter had much to overcome and undergo. Forced to flee Jerusalem in AD 42, he carried his missionary activities as far as Rome, where Christians were soon to be persecuted. They refused to practise the cult of worshipping the Emperor, and were therefore regarded as godless, which provoked the hatred of the pagans. Christians were accused of the most evil and shameful things: "When the Tiber rises to the city walls, when the Nile does not flood the fields, when there is famine and disease, the cry immediately goes up: 'the Christians to the lions'," wrote the Roman historian Tertullian. Peter himself was martyred — crucified upside-down — in 64 or 67, on the place where St Peter's Cathedral stands today.

Constantine the Great was the first Roman emperor to be baptised — presumably shortly before he died — and this made it possible for Christianity to become the state religion of the Empire. Early in the fourth century a mausoleum was built on the Via Nomentana, probably as a tomb for Constantine's daughters Costanza and Helena. Today known as Santa Costanza, this round structure is one of the oldest and most significant religious buildings in Rome: here mosaics depicting secular events, such as the grape harvest, can be viewed as well as the finest surviving examples of early Christian art, after the catacombs.

Anonymous, Late Roman
Christ and St Peter
4th century
Santa Costanza, Rome


Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy