While the Church offered many believers, especially the poor, anhonourable burial and tomb through the creation of the catacombs, affluent Christians continued to construct hypogea and mausoleums along the major roads outside the cities and decorated these with paintings and stucco. It is interesting to note that in Rome, where the production of pagan marble sarcophagi, richly decorated with reliefs, had since the second century been an important medium for the 'upper classes' to express their wishes and concerns about the after-life, sarcophagi were also chosen by wealthy Christians. Christian sarcophagi were mainly found in private mausoleums, or were placed beneath church floors, as was frequently the case. Burial in a church floor (such as in Sebastiano on the Via Appia, SS. Pietro e Marcellino, or S. Agnese) was available only to the rich. The idea was to secure the saint's intercession after resurrection. This explains, for example, why the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, the prefect of Rome (d. 359), was found in a perfect state of conservation in 1595 in the presbyterium of Old St Peter's: the sarcophagus was never visible to the public at all; it was buried immediately after the death of the prefect.

Sarcophagi were primarily expressions of the wishes of wealthy individuals, who nonetheless must have made some kind of arrangements with the head of the sarcophagus workshop and with one ecclesiastical authority or another. We can only speculate as to the nature of these arrangements. However, the fact that one of the earliest Christian sarcophagi,51 the bathtub sarcophagus in S. Maria Antiqua in Rome (250-70), depicts Jonah at rest alongside the baptism of Christ indicates that theology must have been a factor in choosing themes for sarcophagus ornamentation. At the same time, the scope of the Jonah scene is expanded here to a pastoral with grazing sheep, while two fishermen tinkering with a fish trap have been included in the aquatic scene that depicts Christ's baptism. The three central figures - the female orans, the teacher with the scroll, and the shepherd - are part and parcel of the traditional iconography of third-century pagan sarcophagi.

While Christian sarcophagi before Constantine were essentially one-of-a-kind creations, their evolution followed a radically different course after 313. From this point on, sarcophagi decorated with traditional pagan motifs faded into the background, while massive numbers of serially produced Christian sarcophagi began appearing on the market. Inasmuch as sarcophagi were ordered solely by members of the affluent upper class, it is safe to assume that

51 G. Bovini and H. Brandenburg, Repertorium der christlichantiken Sarkophage; J. Janssens, Vitae morte del cristiano; U. Volp, Tod und Ritual.

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