Christian Artwork

a history of early christian art

Before 100 CE, Christians were a persecuted minority, so the chances of them being allowed to create art at this time were rather slim. Early Christian art is divided into two distinct periods: Before 313 CE and after 313 CE, as this was the year of the Edict of Malan.


To hide the meaning of these early Christian artworks, artists represented the figure of Jesus symbolically with pictogram symbols such as the peacock, lamb, fish, or anchor.

art before 313 ce

Art from this period often created “abbreviated” scenes, where well-known religious incidents were represented by one to four figures.


Constantine set about constructing churches, such as the Church of St. Peter in Rome, as well as many churches in the newly named capital city of Constantinople.


Christian artists from the Early Renaissance started adding a touch of realism to their art.

famous religious renaissance art

Madonna and Child  (c. 1300) Duccio di Buoninsegna

The Last Supper  (c. 1495) Leonardo da Vinci

The Creation of Adam (1512) Michelangelo

The Tower of Babel  (1563) Pieter Bruegel the Elder

notable early christian artworks

Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

Moses Striking the Rock (1624) Joachim Anthonisz Wtewael

Adoration of the Magi  (1481) Leonardo da Vinci

Transfiguration  (1516 – 1520) Raphael