A devout Catholic, the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens became the most influential exponent of Counter-Reformation painting in Northern Europe. Famous for his large-scale religious and history paintings, full of sensuous colour and drama, he socialized in the leading circles of European society as both an artist and diplomat. Despite the distance separating Rubens from the ordinary churchgoer, some of his Catholic pictures, like the celebrated triptych Descent from the Cross (Rubens) (1612), are intensely moving, and his impact on later painters was enormous. See also: Samson and Delilah (1610).

Probably the most spectacular form of Christian painting was the church ceiling mural painting (called quadratura), often executed with trompe l'oeil illusionist effects. This decoration of vaulted/domed ceilings of churches began during the Renaissance in Italy. Renaissance examples included: the Sala delle Prospettive fresco (c.1517, Villa Farnesina) by Baldessare Peruzzi; and the Assumption of the Virgin (1524-30) by Correggio, which decorated the domed ceiling of Parma Cathedral. Christian Gifts
19 designers and 31 writers invested their energy and creativity to this collection, each riffing on the timeless, inspired words of Scripture. Each designer worked hard to capture the essence of each verse in its historical and cultural context, and to design in a way that makes clear the way in which the original readers would have understood it. Then, after each design was complete, a writer reflected on each piece of art and the verse that inspired it. The result is 100 pairs of art and devotional that illuminate the words of Scripture. Share Your Faith Products
First built over the legendary burial site of St Peter, during the time of Emperor Constantine I, Saint Peter's Basilica is among the holiest of all Catholic sites. The current building was mostly designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Bernini, and embodies the artistic transition from Renaissance to Baroque. Crowned by a 433-foot high dome, it is packed with priceless works of art, including Michelangelo's marble sculpture Pieta (1500), carved by the artist from a single block of Carrara marble at the age of 25. St. Peter's is strongly associated with the Early Christian church, the papacy, the Counter-Reformation and is considered to be the finest building of its age.

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: ... Christian Wall Art
The writer of these psalms provides us with hope to empower us to climb out of situations that cause our hearts and minds to become disquieted, discouraged or, as we sometimes say in the vernacular, “down.” These encouraging Bible verses tell us we can safely hope in God! They tell us that we will praise Him in the future for His help, as He personally helps us as if face to face. Christian Canvas Art
Other exceptional Christian paintings by modern artists include: The Angelus (1859) by the Barbizon realist Jean-Francois Millet; Christ Before Pilate (1881) by the Hungarian realist Mihaly Munkacsy; Christ's Triumphant Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888), by James Ensor, leader of the Symbolism movement; The Christian Relic (1893) by the Spanish social realist painter Joaquin Sorolla; the unfinished Adam and Eve (1918) by the Viennese master Gustav Klimt; Ecce Homo (1925) by the German Expressionist Lovis Corinth; The Screaming Pope (1953) by Francis Bacon, inspired by Velazquez's Innocent X (1650); Mark Rothko's wall-paintings for the chapel at the St Thomas Catholic University in Houston; Crucifixion 3.85 (1985) by Antonio Saura, inspired by Velazquez's Crucifixion (1631). Christian Wall Art
The Italian Early Baroque painter Caravaggio was one of the heroes of the Catholic Counter-Reformation arts campaign. Not because of his piety, but because he painted Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Saints, with such unbelievable naturalism. Caravaggio's brand of unsophisticated realism was the perfect style for the Church's message. It gave key Biblical events an immediacy which no other painter had achieved. By abandoning the stylistic pretensions of late Mannerism - a style which was understood only by an educated minority, he provided the instant inspirational impact demanded by the Council of Trent. His greatest works include: The Calling of St Matthew (1600), The Martyrdom of St Matthew (1600), Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), Supper at Emmaus (1602), The Entombment of Christ (1601-3), The Crucifixion of St Peter (1601), and The Death of the Virgin (1601-6). His dramatic use of light and shadow was continued after his death by followers of so-called caravaggism. Christian Gifts
Even in Protestant Amsterdam, however, there remained a modest demand for religious paintings. One of the most important commissions received by the young Rembrandt, was five paintings for Prince Frederick Henry of Orange - the leading soldier in the Dutch wars against Catholic Spain - on the subject of Christ's Passion. In addition to his skill as a portraitist, Rembrandt went on to become the greatest religious painter of Dutch Protestantism, noted for works like: The Blinding of Samson (1636), The Sacrifice of Isaac (1636), Susanna and the Elders (1647), Bathsheba Holding King David's Letter (1654), Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph (1656), and Return of the Prodigal Son (1666-69). Christian Gifts
The writer of these psalms provides us with hope to empower us to climb out of situations that cause our hearts and minds to become disquieted, discouraged or, as we sometimes say in the vernacular, “down.” These encouraging Bible verses tell us we can safely hope in God! They tell us that we will praise Him in the future for His help, as He personally helps us as if face to face. Christian Canvas Art
In short, the sole purpose of Counter-Reformation art was to glorify God and Catholic traditions, and promote the sacraments and the saints. Thus Michelangelo's Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel was heavily criticized for its nudity, for showing Jesus without a beard, and for including the pagan character of Charon. Paolo Veronese's painting The Last Supper was (not unreasonably) attacked for including extravagant costumes, drunken Germans and dwarfs along with a huge crowd of people. In fact, Veronese simply side-stepped the issue by renaming the picture Feast in the House of Levi.
“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” ... Christian Wall Art
The most famous Romanesque churches and religious buildings include: Cluny Church II (981, Burgundy); Monastery Church of S. Pedro de Roda (1022, Catalonia); Abbey Church of St Michael, Hildesheim (1033, Germany); Ely Cathedral (1080, England); Pisa Cathedral (after 1083, Italy); La Grand Chartreuse Abbey (1084, Grenoble); Durham Cathedral (after 1093, England); Speyer Cathedral (1106, Germany); Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy (1120, France); Baptistery of St Giovanni, Florence (1128, Italy); Cluny Church III (1130, France); Mainz Cathedral (1137, Germany); Krak des Chevaliers (after 1142, Homs, Syria); Abbey Church of Fontenay (1147, France); Worms Cathedral (1200, Germany); and the Church of the Madeleine (1215, Vezelay). Christian Canvas Art
Probably the most spectacular form of Christian painting was the church ceiling mural painting (called quadratura), often executed with trompe l'oeil illusionist effects. This decoration of vaulted/domed ceilings of churches began during the Renaissance in Italy. Renaissance examples included: the Sala delle Prospettive fresco (c.1517, Villa Farnesina) by Baldessare Peruzzi; and the Assumption of the Virgin (1524-30) by Correggio, which decorated the domed ceiling of Parma Cathedral.
After El Greco came Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), an artist strongly influenced by Spanish Quietism, who specialized in large-scale sacred paintings for Religious Orders like the Carthusians, Capuchins, Dominicans, and others. Zurburan's contemporary Jusepe Ribera (1591-1652) was a key figure in the Neapolitan School of Painting (1600-56), and an early follower of Caravaggio. Works by both these painters are famous for their visual truthfulness, bold chiaroscuro and tenebrism, which gave them great drama and intensity. See also: Christ Crucified (1632) by Diego Velazquez. Christian Canvas Art
Heavily influenced by sculpture, Gothic painters were also busy creating works of religious art, but not inside churches, where enormous stained glass windows now provided the colour and Biblical illustration that previously had been provided by murals: see, for instance, the translucent stained glass art inside Chartres Cathedral (c.1194-1250). Instead Gothic painters focused on illuminated manuscripts, such as the French Bibles Moralisees (c.1230-40), Le Somme le Roi (1290), the Manesse Codex (1310), Heures de Jeanne d'Evreux (1328), Psaltar of Bonne of Luxembourg (1349), the English Amesbury Psalter (1240), Queen Mary Psalter (1330) and the Arundel and Luttrell Psalters (1340). These are just a few of the many Books of Hours, Missals, Psalters, Apocalypses, Bibles and other illuminated gospel texts that emanated from monastic scriptoria of the period. See, in particular, works by Jean Pucelle (1290-1334). For more, see: History of Illustrated Manuscripts (600-1200). Christian Wall Art
Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ... Christian Gifts
Spain is the only European state to have emerged from a religious struggle between Christianity and Islam (Muslim rule over most of the Iberian peninsula lasted 718-1492). Not surprisingly therefore, the school of Spanish Painting produced a form of Christian art which was consistent with the country's uncompromising devotion to the Catholic cause. Its greatest exponent was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. After training in Byzantine icon painting he worked in Venice before making his home in Spain. Here he created a series of ecstatic portraits of Christ and the Saints, whose intensity of expression appealed directly to the spiritual feelings of the spectator. These powerful holy paintings, with their elongated figures, distorted perspective and non-natural colour schemes made El Greco the father of Counter-Reformation art in Spain. His most famous Catholic paintings include: The Trinity (1577-9); The Disrobing of Christ (1579); The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586); Christ driving the Traders from the Temple (1600); the Resurrection (1600), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608). Although they had none of Caravaggio's naturalism, these pictures were spiritual masterpieces, and thus wholly in line with the doctrinal requirements of the Vatican. Christian Canvas Art
Many of these genre paintings contained subtle moral messages about how to live a Christian life, as well as not so subtle messages about the dangers of vice. This low-key Protestant iconography was a complete contrast to the intense Biblical scenes, such as the Crucifixion and the Lamentation, favoured by Catholic art. Still lifes provided another example of this moralistic art. Known as Vanitas painting, this genre consisted of arrangements of food and other objects laid out on a table, complete with symbolic messages that frowned upon gluttony and sensual indulgence. There were two varieties of vanitas paintings: "banquet pieces" (pronkstilleven), or "breakfast pieces" (ontbijtjes). Exponents of pronkstilleven included: Harmen van Steenwyck (1612-56), Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-84) and Willem Kalf (1622-93). While the leading practitioners of ontbijtjes included: Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680) and Pieter Claesz (1597-1660). Christian Wall Art
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