Medieval Europe + Byzantine
- The Good Shepherd in Early Christianity — Hermes recast
- The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna
- Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (quiz)
- Santa Maria Maggiore
- Santa Sabina
- Santa Sabina (quiz)
- Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome
- Santa Maria Antiqua Sarcophagus
- Santa Maria Antiqua Sarcophagus
- Santa Maria Antiqua
- Santa Pudenziana
- Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus
- Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (quiz)
- Basilica of Santa Sabina, Rome
Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, marble, 359 C.E. (Treasury of Saint Peter's Basilica) Please note that due to photography restrictions, the images used in the video above show the plaster cast on display in the Vatican Museum. Nevertheless, the audio conversation was recorded in the treasury in Saint Peter's Basilica, in front of the original sarcophagus. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker http://www.smarthistory.org/sarcophagus-of-junius-bassus.html. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
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- Why would the central picture of Christ be with Peter and Paul next to him. It seems more likely to be a depiction of Christ teaching in the temple when he was a young boy.(36 votes)
- This is called the Traditio Legis. It's a common iconography in early Christian Art.(26 votes)
- To me it seems an unchristian thing to be standing on the heads of others' gods to show off or show superiority in some way. Am I mistaken ?(9 votes)
- We tend to cultivate this idea that Christianity is a religion of the meek and tolerant (e.g.: Nietzche's criticism), but in fact Christianity embraces a very broad spectrum of religious beliefs and approaches. That was especially true, it turns out, of a 4th century church that was still evolving, and was flirting with state power and politics.
This is from Wikipedia's page on christianity in the fourth century:
"Constantine's sons banned pagan State religious sacrifices in 341 but did not close the temples. Although all State temples in all cities were ordered shut in 356, there is evidence that traditional sacrifices continued."
- is this the real or replica version?(4 votes)
- actually, the one that is shown in the video is a replica version. as far as I understand, it was/is not allowed to photograph or videotape the original sarcophagus.(11 votes)
- Would this have originally been placed in the catacombs or in a church?(5 votes)
- Because this was made after the Edict of Milan (313 AD) it would have most likely been in a church. Catacombs were used when Christianity was outlawed and they had to hide their religion and their buried dead.(5 votes)
- I really wish that they had commented more on the pillars and arches around the figures. Why the alternating patterns? Were the figures there to create more three dimensionality?(4 votes)
- The purpose of the pillars and arches was primarily to separate each scene and register.
For more info on this technique, see the earlier talk in Art History on "Sumerian Art: Great Lyre. -
- Above the upper register there is some text running the length of the sarcophagus. What is the inscription and language? What does is the translation?
On the top of the sarcophagus there are some objects, one looks like a scrap of scripture, the other possible a cushion, what are those objects?(3 votes)
- The inscription is in Latin, and it gives information about Junius Bassus. For example, it says that Junius converted to Christianity shortly before his death. Hope that helps :)
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcophagus_of_Junius_Bassus(3 votes)
- Is a sarcophagus the same as a tomb?(1 vote)
- A sarcophagus could also be a large stone container into which a generally wood coffin containing the body would be placed. The sarcophagus would then be placed in a burial chamber or tomb. The sarcophagus was generally carved or painted, and especially in pagan cultures, often with protective spells and/or curses.(4 votes)
- What/who is the bearded depiction at Christ's feet? What is it holding? Perhaps cloth to rub Christ's feet? (around1:16)(1 vote)
- They say who it is in the explanation, it is a Pagan river God, showing the Kingly nature of Christ over all things.(4 votes)
- What kind of tools would they use to carve these reliefs ?(2 votes)
- Carving technique is explained in this video:
- I have just finished watching all the videos on ancient Greek and Rome, and I have seen, that they were very talented artists. They have learned so much about human proportions, drawing, sculpturing and so on - but suddenly Christianity comes, and it seems like the artists in that period takes a step back or "forget" about the knowledge the greek and roman artists provided (e.g. on this sarcophagus where the heads are too big or on this drawing http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/image-294779-galleryV9-kgzo-300x197.jpg (where it's not naturalistic like the romans/greeks) or with the gem figures on the royal portal on Notre Dame (I'm not sure if I spelled this right....), they are very stiff - especially the draperies). Why didn't they hold on to the greek and roman traditions for drapery, paintings and so on, that seemed almost alive?(2 votes)
STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in St. Peter's Basilica, and we're looking at a famous early Christian sarcophagus. It's the tomb of Junius Bassus. Now it's a little complicated because what people generally see is the copy that the Vatican has in their museum. But we're in the Treasury, and this is the actual sarcophagus. BETH HARRIS: And so Junius Bassus was a Roman prefect in around the mid fourth century. STEVEN ZUCKER: Right. We know he had his position in 359. BETH HARRIS: So we're looking at a very early moment, soon after Constantine has made it legitimate to be a Christian in the Roman Empire. And Constantine is in the process of, in a way, making Christianity or leading toward Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire, which will happen in the end of the 300s. STEVEN ZUCKER: So this is an early example, then, of a kind of openness and really a magnificent rendering of the iconography of Christian tradition. BETH HARRIS: Right. And what's interesting is that it doesn't look the way that we expect to, in a way, because Christ is here in the center represented with probably Peter and Paul, or two figures on either side of him. STEVEN ZUCKER: It looks likely Peter and Paul, yes. BETH HARRIS: But he looks very useful, like the young philosopher-teacher. STEVEN ZUCKER: He's even holding a scroll in his hand. BETH HARRIS: And he's seated and frontal, though not entirely frontal. So I guess what I'm saying is that things that we normally associate with representations of Christ, where he looks like an emperor who's older, and he's got a beard-- here he's represented very youthful. Although he's seated and frontal, he does have a kind of naturalism and movement to his body. His left leg comes forward a little bit. His head is slightly turned. And he's got his foot above an image of a river god. STEVEN ZUCKER: Which is interesting because it shows Christianity surmounting the old polytheistic traditions of the ancient Romans. BETH HARRIS: Using the iconography of ancient Roman pagan art in a new Christian context. STEVEN ZUCKER: I really am interested by the point you made earlier about Christ not fulfilling the physical attributes that we come to expect. And this is so early that, in a sense, those traditions hadn't yet developed. BETH HARRIS: Exactly. STEVEN ZUCKER: They hadn't yet been really constructed and accepted. So this is a very flexible moment. BETH HARRIS: Right. That iconography is being developed. And here, he looks much more like a pagan figure, in a way. STEVEN ZUCKER: That's certainly true because of the classical garb that he wears. And it's interesting stylistically because this sculpture is really showing a pretty high-pitched naturalism in terms of the rendering of the bodies, the contrapposto that we see the figures standing in, and even some of the sort of emotional attributes of figures. BETH HARRIS: There is a kind of naturalism, although we see the beginnings of a kind of early Christian style. There are some hints of what's to come. The heads are a little bit too large for the bodies. The bodies are starting to be a little bit on the stubby side. So it's a very interesting transitional moment. STEVEN ZUCKER: We see some other scenes from the Bible. And we're seeing early expressions of it here, but these are ways of representing the scenes that will become very familiar to us. BETH HARRIS: So we have Adam and Eve on the lower register. STEVEN ZUCKER: Right. BETH HARRIS: And also other Old Testament scenes that would have prefigured the events in Christ's life. Right. So that idea of saying that events in the Old Testament, such as the sacrifice of Isaac, prefigured Christ's own sacrifice for the salvation of mankind, so that way of saying that Christ's life is a fulfillment of the prophecy and the events of the Old Testament. STEVEN ZUCKER: What we're witnessing here is the invention of a new iconography. This Is the invention of a new visual language for the telling of this critical stories. BETH HARRIS: What I'm also noticing is just how deeply carved it is. It is essentially a relief sculpture. But the figures are in very, very high relief. Some of them seem to be entirely separate from the marble ground. And I love these columns with capitals and bringing together of the classical and the beginnings of the Christian.