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Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...



Roger Stalley

Site of an obscure Early Christian settlement formerly known as Kilclispeen (St Crispin’s Church) in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. The only remains are two outstanding stone crosses and the base of a third (c. 750–900), which are situated in a graveyard below the village. The crosses belong to a well-defined regional group and were constructed of three characteristic elements: a square base with sloping sides, a shaft with an unusually wide ring and a peculiar, rather ill-fitting, conical cap (the latter missing on the south cross). With its capstone, the north cross measures 3.7 m in height. The form of the Ahenny crosses is emphasized by a bold cable ornament along the outer contours. Projecting from the main faces are sculpted bosses, the most prominent feature of the ‘Ahenny school’. The ring and shaft of the crosses are covered with dense patterns of carved ornament, including interlace, spirals, frets, entangled beasts and interlocking men. Much of this decoration can be compared with the metalwork and manuscript illumination of the period, and it appears that the sculptors were in effect transposing altar or processional crosses into stone. With the addition of pigment, the analogy with metalwork would have been complete. In contrast to the shafts and rings, the bases bear figure sculpture in low relief. That on the north cross is best preserved and represents Adam and Eve with the animals in the Garden of Eden, a chariot procession (a theme repeated on other Irish crosses), seven ecclesiastics (possibly symbolizing Christ’s mission to the Apostles) and an enigmatic funeral procession with a headless corpse....



C. Walters

Site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryūt in the province of Asyūt, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk Apollo in the late 4th century ad and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The site was excavated intermittently between 1901 and 1913 by the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo; most of the structural finds were removed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and the Louvre in Paris. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches. A number of two-storey structures were excavated, of which the ground floors were probably chapels and the upper floors served as living quarters, as in the monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara (...



Michael Morris

[Lat. Calvaria: ‘skull’; Aramaic Golgotha]

Site in Jerusalem where the crucifixion of Christ took place and name given to representations of that event. It is identified as the Place of the Skull in the New Testament Gospels and was at that time located outside the city walls, not far from a gate and near a road, a garden and at least one tomb. These landmarks of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection have been revered by Christians since at least the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine the Great excavated the area and erected on top of it the basilican church of the Holy Sepulchre (c. 325–36; see Jerusalem, §II, 2). The rock of Calvary, originally 4 m high, was cut and reshaped to serve in the basilica as a pedestal for a great jewelled cross placed on top of it. Calvary’s elevation does not appear in the earliest depictions of Christ’s crucifixion, but it gradually develops in art, for example in the ...


Roger Stalley

Site of an early Christian monastery in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Set in a steep valley on the eastern edge of the Wicklow Mountains, the monastery owed its origin to St Kevin (d ad 618), who chose this wild, lonely spot as the site of a hermitage. A century later it had become a flourishing monastery, teeming with pilgrims and students; it retained its vitality until the end of the 12th century despite the sequence of fires, plunderings, and other disasters mentioned in the annals. The chief relics of the ancient monastery are an impressive round tower and the ruins of at least nine Romanesque or pre-Romanesque churches scattered for about 2 km along the valley. The intractable archaeological and chronological problems associated with the monuments are compounded by the restorations and rebuildings carried out by the Board of Works in 1875–9.

It is generally agreed that St Kevin’s original hermitage lay to the west, beside the upper lake; some interesting structures on the cliff side include the foundations of a ...


Lucy Der Manuelian and Armen Zarian

Site located in the village of Aparan, Armenia, which includes ruins of a palace and Early Christian basilica (4th–5th centuries). The site is first mentioned by Ptolemy as ‘Casala’ and later became part of the Nig region of the historic province of Ayrarat. A Greek inscription by King Trdat III (reg 287–98) of the Arsacid dynasty indicates that he gave this area to the Gnt‘uni feudal princes, who constructed a palace and administrative centre there. Excavations were undertaken by A. Sahinyan between 1944 and 1947. The architectural details of the basilica indicate that it was built in the late 4th century ad and transformed into the Christian church of the Holy Cross (Sourb Khatch; 20.87×10.0 m) by the addition of an eastern apse probably at the end of the 5th century. Later additions are the rectangular chamber at the north-east corner of the church, a vaulted hall constructed along the north wall and a small basilica adjacent to the hall. The complex is constructed of black tufa facing a rubble core, and it rests on a three-stepped platform made of large blocks of basalt. The exterior walls of the basilica, the apse, the transverse arches of the south aisle, and portions of the north chamber and hall have been preserved, but the barrel vaults and tiled pitched roof have collapsed. The interior is divided into three aisles by three pairs of T-shaped piers. The projecting eastern apse is pentagonal on the exterior but horseshoe-shaped on the interior....



M. Yaldiz

[Karakhoja; Qočo; Chin. Gaochang]

Site 47 km south-east of Turfan in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. The most important complexes of monasteries in the Khocho area are Idikutshahri, Lenger, Senghim and Bezeklik. To the west of the town is the Chinese necropolis of Astana. The earliest evidence of settlement in the area is that a ruler of the Tujue dynasty, probably of Turkish origin, had an inscription placed on a temple of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, in Khocho in ad 445. Chinese, Sogdians and Tokharians also lived here between the 5th and 7th century. Khocho was occupied by forces of the Tang dynasty in 640. A brief Tibetan interregnum (c. 790–843) ended when the Uygurs established their kingdom here. From the evidence of their manuscripts and art objects, the Uygurs not only observed the Buddhist cult but also practised Nestorian Christianity and Manichaeism (see also Central Asia §II 1., (v)...


Roger Stalley

Site of an Irish monastery, Co. Louth, celebrated in the annals in the 10th and 11th centuries as a seat of learning. A round bell-tower, two small ruined churches, and three sculptured crosses remain. Two of the crosses, the ‘West cross’ and ‘Muiredach’s cross’, belong to the group of so-called ‘scripture crosses’. With their well-articulated designs, bold figure style and rich display of Christian iconography—over 40 subjects are depicted—they are among the outstanding sculptures of early medieval Europe.

Muiredach’s cross is named from an inscription at the base of the shaft (west face) asking for prayers for Muiredach who caused the cross to be made. The deaths of abbots with this name are recorded at Monasterboice in 844 and 923, the latter generally assumed to belong to the patron of the cross. Cut from hard quartzy sandstone, the monument is 5.4 m high and survives in almost perfect condition. It consists of three standard elements: a truncated pyramidal base, a main shaft and ring, and a small cap in the form of an oratory or house shrine with gable finials and a shingled roof. The Redemption constitutes the underlying theme of the iconographic programme, with the ...


Lynn T. Courtenay

Site of a fortified grange near Tours, western France, formerly owned by the Benedictine abbey of Marmoutier and noted for the only surviving example of a five-aisled medieval barn in northern Europe. The grange complex is traditionally dated to the abbacy of Hugue de Rochecourbon (1211–27), a date that poses no problems for the masonry structures, but the timber framing of the barn was probably rebuilt at the end of the 15th century.

Standing within a rectangular masonry enclosure with a monumental gateway, the barn measures 51.98 m long internally, 24.4 m wide and 13.5 m to the ridge of the roof. The walls are of ashlar and rubble. The façade, which extends several metres beyond the low side walls, consists of a large gabled wall with a recessed central portal and a central lancet flanked by roundels and rectangular lights. The north gable has two wall buttresses, while the south front is unbuttressed, except for the extended spur walls that stabilize the main gable....


Andrew Poulter

Site in Bulgaria, 15 km south-west of Plovdiv. Under Roman rule it served as an important religious centre, with dedications set up to such Greek divinities as Asklepios, Hygieia and Hera, to the eastern Cybele and Mithras and to the Thracian horseman god. By c. ad 400 there was a church on the site, which was in turn levelled (?c. 500–550) to make way for the Byzantine Red Church, the ruins of which are still standing (h. c. 14 m). The name of the Byzantine church derives from the use throughout of brick construction. Its plan is unusual for the Balkans and comprises a central space of 8 sq. m with apses on each side and encircling single-storey north and south aisles. Four piers connected by arches support the central dome and the half-domes that cover the apses. The eastern apse is deeper than the others, with a barrel-vaulted choir separating it from the nave. At the west end of the church are an inner and outer narthex, the latter containing a quatrefoil ...


Patsy Vanags

Site of a Roman temple incorporated into an Early Christian or early medieval church, c. 15 km north of Spoleto, Italy. The River Clitumnus, with its numerous springs, was sacred in Roman times, and there were many shrines along its course. Spolia from these may have been used in the existing structure. It has some traits in common with Roman temples, most notably its four-columned façade with a pediment above. The framing of the columns with two apparently contemporary square section columns is uncommon, but other aspects of its design mark it out as an Early Christian building (4th or 5th century ad) or an early medieval one (8th or 9th century). The interior has a narrow horseshoe arch in the apse and carved mouldings with early medieval characteristics. The building stands on a podium, but instead of a staircase at the front, a flight of steps on either side leads to a small pedimented doorway giving access to the interior. This unusual arrangement may be due to the siting of the building on a sloping bank, but its bold form, with miniaturized Hellenistic grandeur reminiscent of the Roman sanctuary (late ...



James Graham-Campbell and Erla Bergendahl Hohler

[now Ornes]

Site of a stave church in Sogn, western Norway. The carved ornament on the exterior of the church gave its name to the last of the Viking-period art styles of Scandinavia.

James Graham-Campbell

The present building is a mid-12th-century stave church (see §2 below), but it incorporates decorated timbers from its 11th-century predecessor. These consist of the portal and door, with two planks, in the north wall of the church, the north-west corner post, and the gables at the east and west ends of the church. The portal, planks, and corner post are carved in high, rounded relief (up to 120 mm deep), while the gables and door are executed in the contrasting technique of low, flat relief. The composition schemes and motifs used are, however, the same.

Urnes-style designs are composed of open ‘interpenetrating loops’ consisting of two intersecting loops (or figures-of-eight) or of more complex multi-loop schemes. These patterns of fluent curves are given an additional elegance and sense of movement by the characteristic use of two line widths, which may also gradually swell and taper. The Urnes phase of Viking art represents a re-assertion of the native Scandinavian tradition at the expense of the European influences that had been particularly evident in the preceding Ringerike style phase of the first half of the 11th century, with its lavish use of foliate motifs. The Urnes style is dominated by animal motifs in three main varieties, all of which are used by the Urnes sculptor: a standing quadruped, a ribbon-shaped animal, and a snake. These animals frequently bite one another so as to complete the loop schemes (...