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Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Art. Three ancient religions that arose in the Near East continue to inspire peoples spiritual life in the Western.

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Presentation on theme: "Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Art. Three ancient religions that arose in the Near East continue to inspire peoples spiritual life in the Western."— Presentation transcript:

1 Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Art

2 Three ancient religions that arose in the Near East continue to inspire peoples spiritual life in the Western world today… Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They are called “religions of the book” because they all have a book that is holy to their religion

3 Western World, Near East, Middle East and Far East

4 Jewish, Christian and Muslim art use elements from Greeks, Romans and Near Eastern themes and forms in varying degrees. Jews and Christians use the visual arts teach their followers through narratives and symbols and glorify their religious services through ornamental enrichment of buildings and books.

5 Muslims also use ornamental forms and abstract styles, but prefer to convey meaning through words rather than through images.

6 The Jewish people trace their ancestry to a tribe of Semitic people called the Hebrews who lived in the land of Canaan (named Palestine by the Romans)

7 According to the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) God promised Abraham that Canaan would be the homeland of the Jewish people. Jewish settlement of Canaan probably began about 2,000 BCE. Exodus, the second book of the Torah, Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan.

8 Before going into Canaan, Moses was given the Ten Commandments. These carved tablets were kept in a gold covered wooden box called the Ark of the Covenant.

9 Solomon built a temple to hold the Ark. The Temple was the spiritual center of Jewish life. In 586 BCE, the Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, exiled the Jews and carried off the Ark. When the Persians conquered the Babylonians in 538 BCE, the Jews were allowed to come back into Canaan and build a second temple. An artist’s idea of Solomon’s Temple

10 From that time forward, Canaan existed primarily under foreign rule, and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. In 70 CE Roman forces destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Relief sculpture from the Arch of Titus

11 Jews continued to live in dispersed communities throughout the Roman Empire. Most of the Earliest surviving examples of Jewish Art date from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, much of it found in catacombs below the streets of Rome. The menorah (seven branched lamp) form probably derives from the ancient Near Eastern Tree of Life, symbolizing both the end of exile and the paradise to come. Arc of the Covenant 

12 Catacombs

13 Synagogue’s were often built in the style of a Roman basilica, and were often filled with paintings of stories from the Torah.

14 Christianity began with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew born sometime between 8 and 4 BCE. The Christian New Testament describes the life of Jesus in it’s first four books called the Gospels (the Good News).

15 At age 30, Jesus began his ministry, and gathered twelve apostles to carry on his work after his death. Jesus limited his teachings primarily to Jews; his apostles took the teachings to non- Jews.

16 Despite sporadic persecutions, Christianity persisted and spread throughout the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine permitted Christians freedom of worship with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE. By the fourth century, Christianity had become the official religion of the empire, and non Christians became the targets of persecution.

17 Constantine ordered a basilica to be built over the place where Christians believed Peter was buried. Peter had founded the first Christian community in Rome.

18 Old Saint Peters is called “old” because it was completely replaced by a new building in the 1500’s. nave Able to hold at least 14,000 worshipers, it remained the largest of all Christian churches until the eleventh century. Reconstruction drawing of Old Saint Peter’s, Rome, c ; atrium added in later 4 th century.

19 Clerestory windows Atrium

20 In the nave of Old Saint Peter’s

21 The beauty and the richness of early Christian churches can still be found in several 5 th and 6 th century buildings in Ravenna, Italy. Page 172

22 In the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Saint Lawrence, to whom the building was probably dedicated, is shown holding a cross beside the fire and grate where he was literally roasted.

23 The Halo, or circle of light, behind his head was used by artists to identify royalty or holy people The rocky band at the bottom is a device used to separate the divine image from the worshipers (the divine from the secular)


25 In 395 CE, the Roman Empire split permanently in two becoming the Western (Roman) Empire and the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire which lasted until The Emperor Constantine moved the capitol to Byzantium and changed the name of the city to Constantinople. Eventually, the Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy.

26 During the 5th and 6th century, the Italian peninsula was invaded by the Visigoths, Vandals, and Ostrogoths. Rome was sacked twice (in 410 and 455) The Western (Roman) Empire collapsed in 476 and Italy fell to the Ostrogoths.

27 In Constantinople, Justinian began a campaign of building and renovation. Little remains of his architectural projects with the exception of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom).

28 The embodiment of both imperial power and Christian glory, the Hagia Sophia floor plan is based on a Roman style basilica united with a circular planned church.

29 A historian of the time, Procopius, stated that the dome seemed to hang suspended on a “golden chain from heaven.” It was rumored that Hagia Sophia was constructed by angels, but mortal builders achieved the feat in only five years. The dome seems to float because of the ring of clerestory windows at its base. This was a very daring plan because of the high level of earthquake activity in Turkey.


31 Originally a Christian church, Hagia Sophia became a Mosque in 1453 when the Turks conquered Constantinople. In 1924, the Turkey became an independent nation and Hagia Sophia was made into a Museum.

32 An important Byzantine church built outside of Constantinople is San (Saint) Vitale. It is basically a dome covered octagon, a centrally planned church.

33 Completed after Justinian conquered Italy, San (Saint) Vitale was dedicated in 547 CE. It is well known for its architecture and its beautiful Byzantine mosaics.

34 Justinian and his wife Theodora never went to Ravenna, but they are portrayed in two mosaic panels that face each other in San Vitale.

35 In these panels, the Emperor Justinian, and his wife Theodora, are presenting gifts (a platter, chalice and jeweled book) as precious offerings to Christ-emulating the Magi. Notice the Magi on the hem of Theodora’s gown. (page 178 and 179)

36 Both Justinian and Theodora wear royal purple, and none of the people cast shadows, although they stand in pools of light.

37 Christians required large numbers of books for religious services, for public education, and for personal study and meditation. Until printing was invented, all books were manuscripts. That is, they were written by hand on parchment, specially prepared animal skin.

38 If the manuscript had decorations or illustrations it, it is called an illuminated manuscript.

39 Many Eastern Christians prayed to Christ, Mary and the saints while looking at images of them in manuscripts or on painted panels called icons. Icons were accepted as aide to meditation and prayer. The images were thought of as intermediaries between worshipers and the holy personages they depicted.

40 Early icons are rare, but the Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels is one of the finest. This seating of the baby Jesus on the lap of his mother suggests that she has become the imperial throne for her son…and earned Mary the title of Seat of Wisdom.

41 In the eighth century, there was a battle between the iconoclasts and the iconodules. The iconoclasts believed that people had put too much meaning into the icons, and so ordered icons to be destroyed. But, icons played such an important role in popular worship that iconoclasm did not last long. In 843 CE Theodora reinstated the veneration of images, and icons play an important role in later periods.

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