Early Christian

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


Follow basilica or centralized plans, avoid images of paganism, so builders do not look to temples as models.

Symbol and Motifs 

The cross is the main symbol and others are the fish, dove, and lamb. Greek letters chi (x) and rho (p) form the monogram of Christ common images include shepherds and sheep to represent Christ, Mary (mother of God), and the apostles and various saints.


Dove and Monogram of Christ



Public Buildings 


Churches, baptisteries, mausoleums, and memorial structures.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia


The apse (houses the alter) Orients to the east because christ was crucified in Jerusalem, the entrance is opposite it on the west.

The apse at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Floor Plans

Most churches follow the Roman Basilica plan.

Old Basilica of St. Peter


Walls are of plain brick or stone with little articulation except doors and windows. The center of the nave is high to accommodate clerestory windows. Windows are rectangular or arched.

St. Paolo Fuori le Mura


Carved wood or bronze, surface decor may enrich the portals.

Door at St. Paolo Fuori le Mura


Gabled on basilicas and domed on central plans, with rust colored clay tiles usually cover the surface.


Churches have many wall that require embellishment, so they feature wall decoration on an unprecedented scale.

Public Buildings 


Black and white, gray, or colored marble.


the nave arcade, Triumphal arch, and apse display marble panels, frescos, or mosaics.

St. Paolo Fuori le Mura


Early Christians mosaics are of glass rather than the early marble. Glass gives an intense range of colors, but little tonal variation. Colors include blue, green, purple, red, and gold. The glittering glass surface dematerializes the walls and creates the impression of a heavenly realm populated with celestial beings.


Reused roman or new classicizing columns. Capitals and columns frequently do not match.

Column at St. Clemente


feature exposed timber trusses or beams.

St. Paolo Fuori le Mura

Is limited. The most important pieces are the storage items found in churches. Richly decorated with carving, gilding, and frequently, jewels.


Stools are more common then chairs and resemble Roman prototypes.


Emblems belonging to christian faith decorated furniture as well as architecture. Examples include: the peacock (immortal life), grape vines, and the cross.

Early Christian Sarcophagus


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