Concordia Apostolorum

These images of Peter and Paul, which suggest that they ruled in joint sovereignty, have been commonly termed concordia apostolorum and are meant to recall Rome's other sets of twin founders—Romulus and Remus, Castor and Pollux, and Caesar and Augustus. Damasus applied the concept and imagery of concordia apostolorum to a broad artistic program as part of his propagandizing effort to promote Rome's apostolic primacy. Peter and Paul embracing each other in symmetric unity with their arms intertwined appeared in mosaics, paintings, the minor arts, and on inscriptions.

During the period of widespread conversion to Christianity and the legal suppression of paganism (380-480 C.E.), several Christian basilicas depict Peter and Paul in an embrace that represented the concordia apostolorum. Among these is the church of Saint Pudentiana, which is said to have been the first bishopric of Peter, the center of his life and ministry in Rome. Its singularly beautiful fourth-century mosaic portrays Peter and

Paul on either side of Jesus, who sits among the apostles in an imperial Roman tunic, more like an emperor than the Messiah. Peter is represented with a full beard and thick white hair, a stout fisherman; Paul is swarthy, with a dark beard and receding hairline, a Pharisee. The setting is the heavenly Jerusalem, a sacred mount from which the rivers of paradise flow down. In the clouds above the scene are the symbols of the four evangelists—Matthew, the angel; Mark, the lion; Luke, the ox; and John, the eagle. This symbolism is called the tetramorfo, the four evangelists depicted together, which occurs here for the first time. The early church was often represented as the melding of two great traditions—Jews and gentiles—and in this mosaic a woman symbolizing the ecclesia ex gentibus, "church of the gentiles" crowns Paul, and the female personification of the church of the ecclesia ex circumcisione, "church of the circumcision," crowns Peter. These respective missions—Paul to the gentiles and Peter to the Jews—are sometimes antagonistic when they are described in the New Testament. In Gal 2.11-14, for example, Paul complains that Peter has hypocritically disregarded the law by eating with gentiles. Yet, here, relocated from Jerusalem to Rome, the church is (re-)founded by Peter and Paul in perfect concordia, "harmony."

Damasus promoted the concept of Rome's apostolic primacy by other artistic expressions of concordia apostolorum. On sarcophagi, Peter and Paul appear in various scenes depicting their martyrdoms: Peter is portrayed carrying the cross en route to his own crucifixion, in imitation of Jesus, and Paul is shown opposite a soldier who is ready to strike him with an unsheathed sword. In some instances, the apostles are shown next to each other; in other instances they are on opposite sides of the scene and frame a central image. In almost all the examples of sarcophagi from the latter fourth century that include representations of Peter and Paul, however, it is easy to discern the quality of concordia between them.

The theme of the concordia apostolorum also appears in carved ivory and silver as well as in glass and bronze. Several ivory boxes and caskets produced at Rome contain scenes of Peter and Paul flanking Jesus. By their balanced portrayals they illustrate the mutual spirit of concordia between them. Such boxes were often commissioned by the Christianized Roman aristocracy to dedicate as ex-voto gifts, offerings that were promised beforehand (from the Latin, ex voto suscepto, "from the promise made") and then delivered when a prayer or request was granted. The glass medallions featuring the apostles facing each other in concordia (an image of joint sovereignty that was commonly used by the tetrarchs) had similar uses and reflect a particularly Roman and local tradition. Found almost exclusively in the catacombs where they were offered for the dead, they were produced as souvenirs for pilgrims in Rome.

Damasus shrewdly marketed the claim for the primacy ofRome through the compelling imagery of the concordia apostolorum. He was resourceful in exporting it, too. The image appeared on portable glass cups and ivory boxes, articles pilgrims might purchase to use at one of the shrines as an ex-voto offering or to carry home as a souvenir. Damasus' program of propaganda was extensive, but his audience was limited. If he wanted to rule as pope of the primate see, he would also have to convince the church leaders of the other sees that this preeminent status belonged unequivocally to Rome.

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  • ahmad
    What does concordia apostolorum?
    7 years ago

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