Frightened by persecution, early Christian Art was abstract and vague in order to hide and protect the beliefs and ideas of (as well as) the artists, patrons and audience themselves. As Christians weren’t allowed to practice publicly or be buried inside of Roman walls, art was often reserved for catacombs. Pope Gregory stated that art should be instructional as well as faithful, but the persecution of the time dictated that it too must be ambiguous. Artists often used seemingly vague symbols like lambs and doves. After the Edict of Milan however, Christianity became acceptable and eventually spread across the Roman Empire.Order now
The Emperor Constantine decided to make it the official religion of the empire and commissioned a monumental church: Old St. Peter’s Church. Built on top of what is believed to be St. Peter’s burial site, this church once could house 3,000 to 4,000 worshippers. The exterior wasn’t elaborate like the pagan temples but its interior had frescoes and mosaics, marble columns, chandeliers and gold and silver vessels on jeweled altar cloths for use in the Mass. Christian churches rejected the designs that governed the Greco-Roman temples not only because they were pagan but also because of practical purposes.
All pagan rituals took place outside but the Christians needed a building that could accommodate large numbers of people for congregation. Christian churches had 6 parts: the nave, aisles, apse, transept, narthex and atrium. They were usually built with axial planning and gathered most of its light from clear story windows. Churches evolved into monumental and elaborate structures equaling or outdoing the pagan temples before them.
Christian paintings, frescoes and mosaics however, were still governed by abstraction. They usually depicted Old Testament themes