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 Gifts
As the power of Rome declined, that of Constantinople grew. In 535, the armies of Justinian I (482-565), Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565, invaded Italy (mostly occupied by barbarians) and in 540 conquered Ravenna, which became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy. From 540 to 600, the Exarch of Ravenna instigated a major building program of churches in the city and its port township of Classe: they included the Basilica of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The Basilica of San Vitale combines a Roman dome, doorways and stepped towers, with a Byzantine polygonal apse, as well as Byzantine capitals, and narrow bricks. It is world famous for its Byzantine mosaics, the most spectacular and best preserved mosaic art outside Constantinople. For details, see: Ravenna Mosaics (c.400-600). Christian Gifts
Wall painting was substantially cheaper than mosaics and was therefore reserved for poorer churches. Later, however, as economic difficulties grew, it became a more widespread alternative. It was characterized by large-scale 'architectural' compositions - Byzantine muralists typically used an entire wall as their 'canvas' - typically filled with narrative detail without regard to principles of time and place. Famous extant Byzantine Christian murals include: those in the burial chamber (450-500) at Nicaea (Iznik); the Weeping Christ (1164, Church of St Panteleimon, Nerezi, Skopje, Macedonia); the Crucifixion (1209, Church of St Joachim and St Anna, Studenica, Serbia). Christian Canvas Art
Towards the end of the Gothic era, there emerged a rich style of art, among the royal courts of Europe, that acted as a kind of bridge between Gothic and Renaissance culture. Known as International Gothic (c.1375-1450), this style was exemplified by a range of Christian illuminations which reached their peak in works like Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) by the Limbourg Brothers (all died of plague, 1416); the Hours of the Marechal de Boucicaut, by Jacquemart de Hesdin (c.1355-1414), and The Missal of Jean des Martins by Enguerrand de Charenton (Quarton) (c.1410-1466). Christian Canvas Art
Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great. Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers' houses. And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness, was there. (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the Lord. And Solomon and the assembly sought it out. ... Christian Wall Art
The Roman Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation with the Counter-Reformation. Catholic Counter-Reformation Art was designed to communicate the distinctive tenets of the Catholic liturgy and faith so as to strengthen the popularity of Catholicism. It was launched at the same time as Mannerist painting was taking hold in Italy - a highly expressive style that used distortion for effect, as exemplified in Parmigianino's picture Madonna with the Long Neck (1535, Uffizi). Concerned that Catholic art was attaching too much importance to decorative qualities, and not enough to religious values - thus negating its educational effects on churchgoers - the Catholic authorities decreed that Biblical art should be be direct and compelling in its narrative presentation, which itself should be accurate rather than fanciful, and should above all encourage piety. Nudity, and other inappropriate imagery was banned. For an example of a pious Mannerist artsist who adapted his style in line with the Church's teaching, see: Federico Barocci (1526-1612). Christian Gifts
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Since its beginnings during the first century of the Roman Empire, Christianity has spread around the world to become the principal religion, value-system, and social agenda of mankind: at least until the 20th century. Run first by Christ and the Apostles, it gradually gave birth to its own hierarchical organization, the Christian Church, which over time became the largest and most influential patron of the arts. Indeed, from the outset, the Christian Church used many different types of art in order to create an identity for itself, increase its power and thus attract worshippers. In the process it developed its own Christian iconography, relying heavily on architecture (cathedrals, churches, monasteries), sculpture (statues of the Holy Family, as well as prophets, apostles, saints), painting (altarpieces, church murals), decorative art (stained glass, mosaics) and illuminated manuscripts (Gospels, psalters). In fact, during the early 16th century, the Church commissioned so much Biblical art - using money raised through higher taxes, and the 'sale' of benefices and indulgences - that it led to widespread protests: protests that coalesced into the Reformation, and the division of the Church into Roman Catholic and Protestant. Even so, one can say that, in the West at least, the history of art is the history of Christian art.

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: ...
During the development of Christian art in the Byzantine Empire (see Byzantine art), a more abstract aesthetic replaced the naturalism previously established in Hellenistic art. This new style was hieratic, meaning its primary purpose was to convey religious meaning rather than accurately render objects and people. Realistic perspective, proportions, light and color were ignored in favor of geometric simplification of forms, reverse perspective and standardized conventions to portray individuals and events. The controversy over the use of graven images, the interpretation of the Second Commandment, and the crisis of Byzantine Iconoclasm led to a standardization of religious imagery within the Eastern Orthodoxy. Share Your Faith Products
Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; ... Christian Canvas Art
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. ...

In addition, there are numerous expressionist works by the French Catholic painter Georges Rouault, notably his series of The Holy Face, the Crucifixion and Christ Mocked, which make him one of the most important Christian artists of the 20th century. A similar accolade could be bestowed on the Russian fantasy painter Marc Chagall, whose imaginative Jewish art and scenes from the Old Testament were followed later by his series on religious themes - The Bible Message - now on display at the Cimiez Museum, in Nice. Chagall also produced a number of stained-glass designs for the cathedrals of Metz (1968), and Reims (1974), as well as the Hadassah Synagogue near Jerusalem. In addition, he was noted for the tapestry art that he designed for the Knesset. Christian Canvas Art

David built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites: of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, with 120 of his brothers; ...

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ... 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
Only in the New World were significant numbers of new churches erected. The type of architecture chosen was generally revivalist: see, for instance, the neoclassical-style Baltimore Basilica (1806-21), the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe; the decorated Gothic-style St Patrick's Cathedral, New York (1858-79), designed by James Renwick; Richard Upjohn's Trinity Church, New York (1841-6), another masterpiece of Gothic revivalism; and Trinity Church, Boston (1872-77), designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in a revivalist Romanesque style.

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Protestantism taught a low-key, personal form of worship that focused on the direct relationship between God and man, without making a fuss about go-betweens like Popes, Bishops and other church employees. It also placed little or no importance on decorative or ceremonial aspects of religion. Because of all this, Protestant art favoured low-key moralistic depictions of ordinary day-to-day life, or simple narrative scenes from the Bible, rather than dramatic theological scenes involving the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Other acceptable scenes included depictions of sinners forgiven by Christ, in line with the Protestant view that salvation is only possible through the grace of God. Protestant art also tended to be smaller-scale than Catholic art, reflecting a more modest, personal approach to religion. For the same reason, book illustration and prints became more popular, while Catholic paintings and sculptures became the object of physical iconclastic attacks, as exemplified by the beeldenstorm, an episode of mob destruction which broke out in 1556. But Protestant church authorities were equally aware of the power of art to educate and influence worshippers. As a result they made maximum use of various forms of printmaking, which allowed images to be made widely available to the public at a very low cost. Christian Canvas Art
The rapid rise of Arab power during the 7th century and the consequential economic difficulties suffered by the Byzantine Empire, led to a reappraisal of Arab culture and Islamic art. During the 8th century (726-787) and the 9th century (814-842), this culminated in two "Iconoclasms", when a ban was imposed on all figurative artworks. This went down very badly with Byzantine mosaicists. Many emigrated to Rome who were firmly opposed to Iconoclasm. Others, paradoxically, went to Arab cities where they produced some of the finest ever abstract mosaics. See, for instance, those in the Islamic Dome of the Rock (688-91, Jerusalem) and the Great Mosque (715, Damascus). Share Your Faith Products

So-called Northern Renaissance art (c.1430-1580) was dominated by the school of Flemish Painting, part of the broader movement of the Netherlandish Renaissance. In simple terms, the Northern Renaissance started with a bang, rapidly establishing itself as the foremost school of oil painting, and thereafter gradually declined. The altarpiece art of painters like Jan van Eyck (see his Ghent Altarpiece, 1432) and Roger van der Weyden (Descent from the Cross, 1440), as well as the unbelievably intricate works of Hugo van der Goes (Portinari Altarpiece, 1475), were rarely equalled, except by the extraordinary visionary pictures of Hieronymus Bosch - see Garden of Earthly Delights and Haywain Triptych - (avidly collected by the austere Catholic monarch Philip II of Spain), and the complex genre paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Census of Bethlehem, 1566; Massacre of the Innocents, 1564; Parable of the Blind, 1568).


Given its theocratic nature, it is perhaps not surprising that Byzantine culture is more noted for its icons than its murals. First appearing during the early 4th century, these small-scale devotional diptych panel paintings (sometimes called "travelling icons") of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or Saints, proved hugely popular. Church screens (iconostases) were filled with them, as were private homes. After the victory of the pro-figurative Iconodules over the Iconoclasts in 842, the production of icons increased dramatically, and the techniques of icon painting spread to Greece and Russia, notably to Kiev, Novgorod and Moscow. Famous examples of Byzantine icon paintings include: The Virgin Hodegetria (mid 5th century, Hodegon Monastery, Constantinople: now lost); St Peter (c.550, Monastery of St Catherine, Mount Sinai); St Michael (c.950-1000, Tesoro di San Marco, Venice); the Holy Virgin of Vladimir (c.1131, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow); Madonna of Don Icon (c.1380, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) by Theophanes the Greek, founder of the Novgorod school of icon-painting (c.1100-1500); and Mother of God Hodigitria (1502-3) by Dionysius, an early master of the Moscow School of painting (c.1500-1700). Share Your Faith Products
Designed and built by the Austrian architect and master mason Jakob Prandtauer, it combines Italian Baroque elements with traditional Austrian design. Set on high cliffs overlooking the Danube River, its abbey church combines a high dome and twin towers. The abbey's exterior is a mass of undulating surfaces and soaring turrets and towers, while its interiors and hallways were decorated by many of Austria's leading artists. It houses several famous features, including the Marble Hall, the Imperial Staircase and a library containing an extensive collection of rare medieval texts.
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 Gifts
In addition, goldsmithing and precious metalwork reappeared on the Continent, as did sculpture, although the medieval sculpture (at least under the Ottos) tended to focus on church furnishings - altars, tombs, doors, candlesticks, and sepulchres, rather than embellish church architecture. Some murals were also produced, such as The Raising of Jairus's Daughter and Healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman (c.980, Church of St George, Reichenau). Share Your Faith Products
No other Italian artist embodied Catholic Baroque art better than Gianlorenzo Bernini, whose output of religious art included the sculptural masterpiece The Ecstasy of St.Teresa (1645–52), inside the specially designed Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The Baroque idiom spawned a melodramatic style of architecture, exemplified by Bernini's design for Saint Peter's Square (1656-67) and the approaches to St Peter's Basilica in Rome. A favourite of Urban VIII, and a rival of Francois Duquesnoy (1594-1643) and Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), Bernini's stature in Rome (though not his creativity) was matched by that of the French-born Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the founder of French Classicism, whose religious paintings included The Martyrdom of St Erasmus (1628), The Plague on Ashdod (1630), The Israelite Gathering Manna in the Desert (1639), The Boy Moses Tramples the Pharaoh's Crown (1645), and The Holy Family on the Steps (1648).
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, ... Christian Wall Art

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Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; ...
No other Italian artist embodied Catholic Baroque art better than Gianlorenzo Bernini, whose output of religious art included the sculptural masterpiece The Ecstasy of St.Teresa (1645–52), inside the specially designed Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The Baroque idiom spawned a melodramatic style of architecture, exemplified by Bernini's design for Saint Peter's Square (1656-67) and the approaches to St Peter's Basilica in Rome. A favourite of Urban VIII, and a rival of Francois Duquesnoy (1594-1643) and Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), Bernini's stature in Rome (though not his creativity) was matched by that of the French-born Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the founder of French Classicism, whose religious paintings included The Martyrdom of St Erasmus (1628), The Plague on Ashdod (1630), The Israelite Gathering Manna in the Desert (1639), The Boy Moses Tramples the Pharaoh's Crown (1645), and The Holy Family on the Steps (1648).

Ironically, Christian Renaissance architecture was based on designs from pagan Greek architecture, and made liberal use of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Outstanding examples include: the dome of Florence Cathedral (1420-36) and Church of San Lorenzo (1420-69) designed by Brunelleschi; Church of Santa Maria delle Carceri (1485-1506) by Giuliano da Sangallo; Saint Peter's Basilica (1506-1626) by Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Bernini; Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (1562) by Palladio. Christian Wall Art
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