In 313 AD the Emperor Constantine formally recognized the Christian religion. Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, this event affected the way people thought and lived their lives. Had a great impact on how rulers viewed their power and used their powers. Such influence was portrayed in Christian art as we know today.
Although Christianity was initially practiced within Semitic populations of the Roman Empire, by the 4th century A.D the Christian religion had a huge impact to the Greeks and also the early Byzantine Empire. But by this time Christian communities had been established in all the important cities in the Roman Empire. In 313 the next emperor Constantine legalized Christianity throughout the empire. He also granted many privileges to the church, by this time over 1/10 of the population of Rome were Christian and the emperors who succeeded Constantine except for one were Christian. By 379 under the rule of Theodosius I Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Therefore with such power given to this new institution, we have the birth of Christian art. The early Church realized how powerful art was to the Romans at that time and they decided to use such power to inspire and teach, for such tools as visual effect could be only transmitted throw art. One of the other reasons was that at the time most of the population was illiterate. Therefore images from the bible would tell the stories of Christ and the twelve apostles.
The art became very important in the life of the church and Christians. It expressed emotions, told stories and honored the dead. A great example is "The Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, who late 4th century. This piece shows two peacocks facing each other, symbol of the after life and also the emblem of Christ, the trinity of the father, son and the holly ghost. The initials Alpha and Omega so beautifully carved shows the great deal of time and effort put from the artist to portray the public role of such figure and the hope to eternal life.
With such support from the state and the Emperor, the church was given a massive financial support, which was invested in the building of the Basilicas. They were used to perform rituals such as worship, baptism, prayers, scripture reading, preaching and recognition of the dead and the after life. The liturgy of the early churches was very plain. They were build on a rectangular classical floor plan. The Basilica floor plan was simple; consisting of a narthex (the outside building short end), apse, transept, and aisle such formation gives the idea of building resembling to the cross. The early Christians were inspiration to represent such building to the cross. Once more this is part of the spiritual journey of Christianity. The other model was the central plan which would consist of a dome in the middle of the church. Were all the activities would take place. Like the worship and the baptismal ritual. This center plan was more common in the...