in the period following the 'Edict' the entire imperial entourage as well as all government officials began to orient themselves towards Christianity.

It is unlikely that buyers of sarcophagi had much to say in choosing the decorative programmes that accompanied them into the hereafter. Instead, the church, in the guise of art-friendly clerics, was probably asked nolens volens to express its views on the choice of scenes that were carved into sarcophagi. In their capacity as creators of the decorative programmes, the heads of sarcophagi workshops must have also played a role in determining the icono-graphic programme. We should therefore resist the temptation to regard the commercialisation of Christian sarcophagi as a sign of religious belief on the part of their purchasers. Burial in a marble sarcophagus decorated with figurative scenes occurred, from the purchaser's point of view, in a setting that was primarily societal and economic and had little to do with religion or the evolution of a distinct mentality.

Around the turn of the fourth century, figuratively decorated marble sarcophagi began to disappear from the repertoire of Roman Christian art. Sarcophagus ornamentation was an ephemeral phenomenon in the history of art, one that was displaced by the overriding concern on the part of affluent Christians to procure for themselves a burial place in close proximity to a martyr's tomb in a prominent martyr's church. This held true until medieval times. The late fourth-century Apostolic constitutions 6.30.2 encourages Christians to 'gather together without fear in the cemeteries to read from the Divine Scriptures and sing psalms for the martyrs who rest there, for all the saints and for your brothers who rest in the Lord'.

Since the church issued no regulations or prohibitions regarding the use of images, affluent private citizens were often buried with objects decorated with Christian scenes. Thus, for example, fragments of gold-glass bowls decorated with Christian scenes were found in the catacombs embedded in the mortar adjacent to the graves. They are demonstrably the vestiges of vessels and bowls that may well have been baptismal gifts for affluent citizens, who took these memoria of their conversion with them into the beyond. Fourth-century wooden boxes whose metal fittings are ornamented with Christian themes were found at Dunaujvaros (Intercisa) in Hungary. These were apparently jewellery boxes that belonged to prominent Christian women, who likewise carried these memoria of their affluence with them to the grave.

Wealthy Christians sought consolation not only in art but above all from martyrs and saints. In the early fourth century an affluent matron named Asclepia from Salona-Marusinac seems to have interred the relics of the martyr Anastasius in the lower level of her two-storey family mausoleum, thus

0 0

Post a comment