Christian art

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Romanesque medallion in the Minden Cathedral Treasury

Christian art , in the art history as Ars Sacra ( lat. For "Sacred Art") refers, in a general sense encompasses all areas of artistic creation, the Christian content on the subject, which have expressed in various media - from music of all Areas of the fine arts (especially painting , sculpture and architecture ) to small art (church treasures, tools and vestments).

Image theology and image aesthetics

Fra Angelico: The Bethlehemitic Child Murder (around 1450)

Christian art, as it is understood by the Christian community (image theology), must be distinguished from the religion-neutral view of art history (image aesthetics). In the first case, Christian art is defined in such a way that it bears testimony to the biblical story and the contents of faith and addresses the viewer as a believer, indeed admonishes: religion is content. In the latter case, Christian art is defined as the individual testimony of an artist who at a certain time in a certain place presented his view on a Christian topic - in this case the viewer is addressed as an esthete and collector, for whom style and painterly quality are important .

Image theology and image aesthetics was the research focus of the Cologne theologian Alex Stock . His main concern was to convey the visual arts as a focal point and medium of theological debate. Stock demonstrated this not only in Christian iconographic works of art, but also in studies of modern and contemporary artistic phenomena.

historical development

Historically, Christian art first developed as image theology. In the iconographic dispute between the Eastern and Western Churches ( Byzantine iconographic dispute ), the Eastern and Western iconography separated . In the Eastern Churches, icon painting was cultivated as Christian art , which has retained a uniform style to this day (Byzantine iconography, Russian and Greek icon painting). In the West, the sensual, recreating the worldly painting developed, which gave the beautiful style and the individual artist's hand ever more importance. Since the Renaissance, the seductive image that appeals to the senses has become more important than the admonishing religious image.

In the Reformation iconoclasm , paintings, sculptures, church windows and other sculptures with depictions of Christ and the saints as well as other church decorations - sometimes also church organs - were removed from the churches, some were sold or confiscated, destroyed or damaged.

The still valid approach in the East that Christian art should be created by believing artists for believing Christians was propagated in the West by the Nazarenes at the beginning of the 19th century . They founded a romantic art movement in Vienna and Rome with the aim of renewing art in the spirit of Christianity from the rediscovery of old Italian and German creativity. The representatives of this style were predominantly close to Catholicism and influenced the art of the entire Romantic period .

Types of Christian Art

The Illumination was once an important element of Christian art (in this beginning of the Gospel of John in the Book of Kells , the 9th century)

Since the 3rd century, the image of Mary has been the most common subject in Christian art. It gives the devotion to Mary a pictorial expression. Scenes from the life of Mary , for example the English greeting , are often taken up in the pictures and sculptures . Since the 13th century, the representation as a protective cloak Madonna , who offers the believers protection under her extended cloak, has also been widespread. The black Madonnas are a special representation that is found frequently in France . They come from the Romanesque and Baroque periods . Mary symbols can also be found outside the representations of Mary , for example the Hortus conclusus .

The oldest extant fully plastic figure of the Virgin Mary in Western art is the Golden Madonna , which was created around 980. The Darmstadt Madonna , the Sistine Madonna and the Stuppacher Madonna date from the time of religious Renaissance painting .

The crucifixion of Christ takes up another large area . The forms of representation are also varied here. The pictorial representation of the crucifixion together with Mary and the apostle John is called the crucifixion group.

In the Eastern Churches, especially the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine Rite , icons are of great importance. In addition to images of Christ , icons of Mary are probably the most common motif. The Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev is considered to be one of the highlights of Russian iconography . In the western church, images of grace and devotional images are comparable to icons . The miraculous image of Mariahilf by Lucas Cranach the Elder is in the high altar of Innsbruck Cathedral . In addition to the depictions of Christ and Mary, images of saints have also been traceable since early Christian times .

The mercy seat is a special representation of the Holy Trinity from the Middle Ages . So-called Luke pictures are attributed to the evangelist Luke .

Church building can be found as a special form of sacred architecture in Christian art . The architecture of church buildings is often characterized by rich symbolism. Examples are the Bernward door and the Christ column in Hildesheim Cathedral . The shape of a triptych was often used to design winged altars . Figures of saints and protective mantle figures are not only set up in churches .

Collections (selection)

See also


  • Jutta Seibert: Lexicon of Christian Art. Themes, shapes, symbols . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1989, ISBN 3-451-08364-7 .
  • Heinrich Laag : Small dictionary of early Christian art and archeology (Reclam Knowledge Volume 8633). Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-15-008633-7 .
  • Hanns Peter Neuheuser: Approaches to sacred art. Narratio and institute of the medieval Christ birth image. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar 2003, ISBN 3-412-09601-6 .
  • Ralf van Bühren : Art and Church in the 20th Century. The reception of the Second Vatican Council . (= Council History, Series B: Investigations). Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-76388-4 .
  • Reiner Sörries : Late Antiquity and Early Christian Art. An introduction to the study of Christian archeology (= UTB Art History. Volume 3521). Böhlau Verlag, Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-8252-3521-5 . (detailed review in: H-Soz-u-Kult by Florian Sonntag [1] )
  • Alex Stock : Questions about images. Theological viewpoints (IKON. Image and Theology), Paderborn 2003
  • Titus Burckhardt : On the essence of sacred art in the world religions . Origo, Zurich 1955. Strongly expanded new edition as: Sacred Art in the World Religions . Chalice, Xanten 2018, ISBN 978-3-942914-29-1 .


Web links

Commons : Christian Art  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  2. Engelbert Kirschbaum (ed.) U. a .: Lexicon of Christian Iconography. Freiburg, 1971. Volume 3, keyword “Maria, Marienbild”, p. 157.
  3. ^ Pothmann: The Essen church treasure from the early days of the monastery history. P. 138.