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The Catacomb of St. Peters and Marcellinus -
200 CE Rome, Italy
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|Form: The catacombs were a series of underground tunnels dug into the soft volcanic rock beneath Rome. Some of the tunnels were connected as an overall network system. The small spaces were most often used as tombs in which the bodies were kept in crypts and in niches carved directly into the rock. The cells or rooms for these tombs were often decorated with frescoes although in terms of the illusionistic and over all quality of the frescoes were not as fine as those found in Pompeii.This particular fresco is on the ceiling of one of the chambers. It is a symmetrical design that fits the contours of the ceiling. The over all shape is a medallion (circular form) which contains another circle. Radiating from the inner circle is a cruciform (cross like) design that terminates in lunettes (small half circles). Each of the empty spaces contained by the design hold a scene or a figure. The figures all stand the orant pose but those inside the half circles and the central circle contain slightly different scenes.|
The central circle contains a naturalistically rendered image of a figure standing in contrapposto pose. His over all pose follows the schema of the sculpture of the Moscophoros. The surrounding lunettes show scenes from the story of Jonah and the Whale.
Iconography: The imagery is neither wholly Roman, Jewish or Christian but instead a kind of composite of the best qualities of each. The contrapposto pose and nude figures done in the Roman style demonstrate that the the ideas of kalos and beauty from the Greek classic periods have not completely faded. The image of the youth carrying the lamb, is a borrowing from the Moscophoros image dealing with a sacrificial lamb but also refers to the Jewish and Christian ideas concerning King David from the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of the images of Christ as the "Good Shepherd." The use of Old Testament themes to illustrate New Testament stories is referred to by Stokstad as typological exegesis. (Go to Stokstad page 293 for more on Jonah)
Context: Stokstad has an excellent description of the context that these frescoes would have been found in on page 293.
- Catholic: means “universal”
- Triad of Three cultures ideas: Roman, Greek, Jewish
- Greeks and Romans gave it:
- Plays for morality,
- Symbols of dome and circle (iconography),
- Saints, Bldgs.,
- State religion w/ pope @ head, roads, technology, laws, language
- Jews gave it:
- monotheistic faith,
- Bible (Old Testament),
- 10 Commandments
- Vulgate: common version of the Bible
- Christ: means “annointed”, blessed one
- Philosophical points: it’s all about love, be nice to one another, forgiveness, guilt
- So popular b/c: afterlife is rewarding, Jesus and apostles from lower class so people relate, rulers are dictators, (antiwar, afterlife, forgiveness).
- Edict of Milan: legalized Christianity
- Nicene Creed: standard Catholic (universal) philosophy
- Jesus was not a prophet but actually God on Earth
- Holy Trinity is three beings all of same vehicle;
- God- creator,
- Jesus- incarnate flesh,
- Ghost- spirit
- Jesus’s #1 Main Apostle- Peter (Petrus) (“rock”, 1st pope)
- “On this rock I will build this church,” said Jesus.
- Bishops become priests and cardinals are important bishops that elect pope.
- Psalms: songs
- Prophecy: coming of messiah
- Apocrypha: history added on, leads up to birth Christ, family tree
- Acts: apostles’ stories after life Christ
- Letters: lives of apostles
- Revelation: apocalypse