propagating the architectural style of its houses of worship in such a multifarious and comprehensive manner.
Even though there was never any serious opposition to the sumptuous-ness of church and baptistery architecture, avowed opponents of pictorial representations emerged in all eras, including individuals such as Epiphanius of Salamis from Palestine. As a rule, figurative paintings and mosaics were used in moderation in fourth-century ecclesiastical spaces because the church was still dealing with the problem of religious images (see above). Hence it is not surprising that the Liber pontificalis ('The book of the popes'), which was composed in the sixth century, makes no mention of cycles of pictures in connection with early Christian churches. This book's sole reference to a decorated, coffered ceiling in gold occurs in the chapter on Pope Sylvester, in which it is twice mentioned that gold ornamentation was applied to the ceiling of the Lateran church at the behest of Constantine; the same statement is made about the ceiling in St Peter's.48 The Liber pontificalis does not mention an apse mosaic at all; the apses of the Lateran church and of St Peter's were probably faced with marble. The earliest (accidentally) preserved figurative apse mosaic in a church is in S. Pudenziana (384-99) and depicts Christ and the apostles.49 In the heavens, however, we see not God the Father but rather a bejewelled crucifix, placed on the hill of Golgotha, with the Tetramorphs of the Apocalypse. The depiction of the sole figure of Christ was deliberately eschewed in order to avoid criticism for making images of God. When Christ is depicted with the apostles, he is primarily portrayed in the role of teacher. But his golden tunica and pallium make him look like a king or an emperor.
The earliest preserved mosaic programme in a papal church is that in S. Maria Maggiore (432-40). In this mosaic, the discourse regarding the divine nature of Jesus and the Mother of God is realised with the aid of imperial iconography. In order to lend Mary credibility as the bearer of God (theotokos), she is clad in an imperial diadem, a bejewelled collar, and an embroidered trabea (the female toga). The infant Jesus is placed on the imperial throne. The actual birth of Jesus was not depicted since this event required no proof. In the mosaic, the Holy Family is received in Egypt like an imperial legation. This unprecedented and irreproducible iconography was not the product of an ecclesiastical decision but instead sprang from the mind of a theological 'maverick'. The uniqueness of the programme lies in the fact that a cycle on
48 Liber pontificalis 34 (ed. Duchesne, i: 172 and 176).
49 C. Ihm, Die Programme der christlichen Apsismalerei.
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