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Art and Christianity

ART over the ages has been an expression of the characteristic attitudes of the people of an age. Art deals with our emotion as well as our intellect: it is another kind of non-verbal language and expression of human creative talent especially in a visual form for example painting and sculpture. This piece features on an exhibition tagged; Christian Art: Past, present and future..

By NGOZI OWOH

SUFFICE it to say that art began when God created the entire universe, its settings and all that is in it. The Bible made it clear in Genesis 1 vs. 31 that, “God saw all that he had made and it was very good” God the greatest artist of all, a God of beauty and order, he transferred this same creative force into man. In Exodus 35 vs. 30-33, God instructed Moses with respect to building of the tabernacle.

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See the Lord has chosen Bazalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of craft – to make artistic design for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship”

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This is why man at any point of his existence expresses himself through his works of art. Man lives and thinks in social relationships, so that the art form of any age is determined by the class which sets the standard for cultural state. Art is part of life, that is to say, art is concerned with every aspect of human activity.

The early Christian art was that which was left in the catacombs in AD 306 when Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity. The catacombs were network of galleries and chambers beneath the ground which were dug by the persecuted Christians; they served as a place of worship and a place for burying their dead.

It may also interest you to note that on the ceiling of these catacombs were paintings done by some artists who were Christian converts. The theme of their work was from the Old Testament and Jesus as the good shepherd.  By this acceptance of Christianity by the Emperor, the early Christian artists covered all available space within and outside the church walls with paintings which were meant to advertise the new faith and to instruct the new converts.

After Christianity was adopted as a state religion by the   Emperor Constantine, there was need for a place of worship. The church was designed by the Byzantine architects which was the basilica system of building. This period saw the introduction of decorations within the interior of the basilica in the form of paintings, gleaming mosaics and sometimes frescoes with themes taken from the scriptural stories.

The decoration of walls of the basilica with round arches in the 11th -12th century was later known as Romanesque Art. In the 12th -14th century, gothic Art (which originated in France) was noted for its sophistry in architectural design with the emergence of stained glass windows which are still in existence in some of our churches today. The Renaissance period was an epoch in Art movement which made a leap in art practice from the 1st century AD till the period of Renaissance.

The word Renaissance means “Rebirth”; it means a change of outlook and the end of the middle ages. This period was between 1400-1500 AD. The Renaissance artists broke free from the original idea of art which was to teach religion to Christians.


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