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 Wall Art
In 313, after almost three centuries of precarious existence (and a tradition of art limited to rings, seals, plus some paintings in the catacombs), Christianity was finally permitted to exist. In this year, the Roman Emperors Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, which legalized Christian worship. Then, in 380, Christianity's future was assured when Emperor Theodosius I, the last Roman Emperor to rule over all the empire, declared that henceforth it was the empire's sole authorized religion. During the 5th century, under pressure from barbarian attacks, the Roman Empire split into two halves: east and west. The eastern half, centered on Constantinople, adopted the Eastern Orthodox Church, becoming world-famous for its icon painting and mosaics; the western half remained in Rome, and continued to follow the Roman Church. The latter blossomed under Charlemagne and the Ottonians, and fully re-established itself with its huge building campaign of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals (c.1000-1350). Later, in 1517, the Dutch pastor Luther launched the religous revolution, known as the Reformation, culminating in the formation of a more modest, less hierarchical form of Christianity, known as Protestantism, since when the Roman Church has been referred to as Roman Catholicism. Christian art encompasses both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, as well as the earlier offshoot, the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Mosaic art was the most important feature of Byzantine art for almost a thousand years: comparable with sculpture in Ancient Greece, the painted panel of the Northern Renaissance, or the altarpiece in 16th century Venice. Shimmering in the candlelight and sometimes decorated in gold leaf, these exquisite glass jigsaws were governed by rigid rules as to colour, size and composition, mosaics had two key aims: to beautify the house of the Lord (and overawe the spectator), and to educate illiterate worshippers in the Gospel story. The individual mosaic pieces (tesserae) were often deliberately set unevenly, to create movement of light and colour. Share Your Faith Products
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” Christian Canvas Art
King Solomon was king over all Israel, and these were his high officials: Azariah the son of Zadok was the priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha were secretaries; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the army; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan was priest and king's friend; ...
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
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ... Share Your Faith Products
By the middle of the 18th century, Catholic countries were becoming overstocked with cathedrals, churches, abbeys, monasteries and convents - in the case of certain cities like Naples, almost absurdly so. As a result, ecclesiastical commissions began to dry up. At the same time, with the advent of the 18th century Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and political upheavals like the French Revolution of 1789, the European Christian Church lost ground to nationalism, socialism and other value systems. What's more, it raised less money to spend on religious statues or other forms of church art. By the 19th century, the Church was less important as a patron of the arts than kings and noblemen, while the middle class demand for portraits, topographical landscapes and other secular works, was increasing rapidly. Painters could enjoy a prosperous career simply by focusing on portrait art, or various types of landscape painting, without ever painting a religious subject - something hitherto unknown in Catholic countries, though long regarded as normal in Protestant ones.

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. ...

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


Russian art of the 19th century produced some outstanding works of Christian painting. Leading painters included: the Ukrainian Anton Losenko (1737-73), Professor of History Painting at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts (see his Renaissance-inspired works Miraculous Catch and Abraham's Sacrifice); and the influential Alexander Ivanov (1806-58), whose works included The Appearance of Christ to the People (1837-57) a huge canvas which took 20 years to complete. Later in the century, several members of the Itinerants group produced some remarkable Christian paintings, characterized by a unique spiritual intensity. They included: The Last Supper (1863) by Nikolai Gay; The Raising of Jairus's Daughter (1871) by Ilya Repin; Christ in the Wilderness (1872) and Laughter ("Hail, King of the Jews!") by Ivan Kramskoy; Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1887) by Vasily Polenov.
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

Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” Christian Gifts


Protestant aesthetics achieved a highpoint during the Dutch Baroque era (c.1600-80). This period, known as the Golden Age of Dutch art, witnessed the ultimate development of the realist style adopted earlier by Flemish painters. Although portraits and landscapes were also popular, the period is best known as the high point of Dutch Realist genre painting, and what is known as still life painting (arranged tableaux). Leading genre painters of the Protestant Reformation came from a variety of schools. Adriaen van Ostade and the Catholic artist Jan Steen represented the Haarlem school; Jan Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch represented the Delft school; Hendrik Terbrugghen and Gerrit van Honthorst belonged to the Utrecht school; Gerrit Dou represented the Leiden school; Samuel van Hoogstraten and Nicolaes Maes were members of the Dordrecht school; and Carel Fabritius, Gerard Terborch, and Gabriel Metsu belonged to the Amsterdam school. Christian Gifts

The Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation to fight for the hearts and minds of those Christians who had 'gone over' to Protestantism. To this end, the Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) - founded by S. Ignatius Loyola and commonly known as the Jesuits - was formally established in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as an important teaching body and missionary order. Jesuit art was suitably inspirational. First, the architect Giacomo Barozzi (Vignola) was commissioned to design a church for the new order - The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Il Gesu) (1568-73) - for which the Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Gaulli painted the fabulous trompe l'oeil ceiling frescoes. Another Jesuit church, the San Ignazio, was the setting for what is arguably the greatest example of quadratura painting ever created - The Triumph and Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola (1691-4) by Andrea Pozzo. There exists no greater exemplar of Counter-Reformation painting, and no better example of the differences between Protestant and Catholic art. Christian Gifts
“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 Canvas Art
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
Gothic art, too, was all about Christian architecture. It was indebted to a revival of science and mathematics, notably Euclidian geometry. While the Romanesque was noted for its massiveness of scale, thick walls, narrow windows and dim interiors, Gothic architecture dazzled with its soaring vaults, huge stained glass windows and spacious, well-lit interiors. Using pointed arches to spread the weight of the ceiling, and revolutionary flying buttresses to support the walls, it allowed architects to create a church which fully reflected the glory of God. The Gothic style first appeared in the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, near Paris (begun 1140), and within less than a century had revolutionized cathedral design across Europe. For the ultimate expression of religious Gothic architecture, see: Sainte Chapelle (1241-48) in Paris. Christian Wall Art

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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
The Lord said to Moses, “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. ... Christian Wall Art
Ravenna remains the best single source of surviving mosaics. These include: Christ as the Good Shepherd mosaic (450, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia); the Baptism of Christ mosaic (6th century, Arian Baptistery); the Queen Theodora mosaic (547, Basilica San Vitale); Christ Before Pontius Pilate mosaic (550, Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Classe). In Istanbul, see the floor mosaics (400-550) at the Imperial Palace; the South Gallery mosaics (c.1260) in Hagia Sophia; and the Dormition of Mary mosaic (1310, Church of the Chora Monastery). Elsewhere in the Byzantine Empire, see the mosaics at Hagios Demetrios (650) in Saloniki; and the outstanding early 12th century apse mosaics in Torcello Cathedral, Venice. Christian Gifts
Belonging to the Romanticism wing of German 19th-Century art, the Nazarenes were a group of idealistic Vienna-trained painters, whose spiritual pictures recalled German medieval art and early Renaissance painting. Leading members included Friedrich Overbeck, Franz Pforr, Wilhelm von Schadow and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. They were dubbed Nazarenes because of their biblical dress, long hair and devout way of life. Christian Wall Art
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