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Late Antique Art

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Late Antiquity

Late AntiquityThe period of Late Antiquity is marked by the transition from paganism to monotheism. It began around 284 AD when Diocletian came to power and split the Roman Empire among four rulers who became known as the four tetrarchs. Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire when Constantines Edict of Milan was passed in 312 AD. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD. Late Antiquity ended around 632 AD with the death of the prophet Muhammad. Historical ContextMuch of early Christian art appeared in catacombs and on sarcophagi, because Christianity was originally prohibited.

Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus

Late Antique Art

Early Christian sarcophagi were influenced by the Romans, Greeks, and Etruscans. The sarcophagi included both the Old and New Testaments.

Sarcophagus of Junius BassusLate Antique Art

Christians decorated the sarcophagi with reliefs like the Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans did. However, there was no longer an effigy of the deceased on the sarcophagus.

Santa Maria Antiqua Sarcophagus Late Antique Art

Christian mosaics were made using the Roman method of embedding tesserae (small squares/rectangles cut from colored stone) into wet cement.

Some of the earliest mosaics in the churches of Rome appear in the Santa Costanza that was built under Constantine as a mausoleum for his daughter Constantina. Although this is a church, there is very little Christian symbolism in the mosaics. The decorative designs with small birds, pottery, and foliage are similar to pagan decorations for buildings.

Late Antiquity Mosaics

Santa Pudenziana is an apse mosaic finished around 388 AD.

The mosaic depicts Jesus Christ sitting on a jeweled throne below a small mountain with his apostles at his sides. This mosaic displays the Roman theme of imperial authority.

Late Antiquity Mosaics

Basilicas were the main architectural buildings of the Late Antique period.

Basilicas were Christian places of worship.While Greek and Roman temples were used to house a statue of a god, Christian basilicas were designed for large groups of believers to worship together.

Old Saint Peters Basilica

Late Antiquity Architecture

One of the main characteristics of Late Antiquity Architecture was the use of spolia.

Spolia is the re-use of old building materials and sculptural decorations on new monumentsThe Arch of Constantine is a prime example of the use of spolia. The re-use of old reliefs linked Constantine to the emperors of the past and showed Constantines imperial power.

Late Antiquity Architecture