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out that the symbolic nature of the bronze serpent constituted an image-like archetype of Christ's cross.3 For these theologians, the decisive factor was that the image of the serpent referred to Christ and hence to something more exalted. The image was legitimised by typology.

At the beginning of the third century, Clement of Alexandria was faced with the problem of Christian art from a completely different standpoint. He advised newly baptised Christians, who customarily gave each other signet rings upon being baptised, to have a dove, a fish, a ship with billowing sails, a lyre or a ship's anchor engraved on the ring, adding, And if one of them is a fisherman, he will be reminded of the Apostle, as well as of the children that are pulled from the water [of baptism].'4 Jesus said to Simon the fisherman that, having been baptised, from now on you will be a fisher of men' (Luke 5.10). Although the interpretation of the rings' images proposed by Clemens was non-doctrinal, it was nonetheless representative ofthe practice ofa period of free association from motifs and meanings. This practice, together with that of citing typology and history of the salvation to justify the use of images, was gradually adopted by patrons of Christian buildings. However, the church was unable to formulate a conclusively coherent response to the issue of using images, and instead relied on ad hoc decisions; the impetus for the creation of Christian images had its origins outside the church.

The ubiquity of Greco-Roman art in the Mediterranean region forced Christians to take a position, although of course never a definitive one. Italy appears to have been the Mediterranean region that was the most receptive to the making of images. The increased prevalence of Christian motifs such as those found on Roman sarcophagi is nothing short of amazing in the period following the 'Edict of Milan' signed by Constantine and Licinius in 313 and the ensuing conversion to Christianity of the urban upper classes.

However, numerous sarcophagi were invisible because they were often buried. Perhaps the church was able to look the other way when it came to the invisible art' of the sarcophagi, which in any case were a product of private rather than church patronage. In other words, since funeral art was accessible only to survivors of the deceased, it did not belong to the public realm. We simply do not know how the church hierarchy dealt with images during the first quarter of the fourth century.5 The Council of Elvira (a local synod held before 306, near modern Granada) prohibited paintings in churches, stating that anything in an image that was worshipped could not appear in a

3 Justin, Dial. 91.4; Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 2.18.7.

4 Clement of Alexandria (GCS Clem. Alex. 1), Paed. 3.11.59.2, 3.

5 Th. Klauser, 'Erwagungen zur Entstehung der altchristlichen Kunst'.

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