Comparative Artwork

Catacombs of Saint Peter and Marcellinus, Dome of Heaven, Rome, 3rd to 4th Century CE. and Hagia Sofia, Constantinople c.532-537 CE

The two artworks are categorized as Christian art as both of them were built as places of worship. The Catacombs of Saint Peter and Marcellinus is located in Via Casilina Rome. Hagia Sofia is also known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom and is located in Istanbul Turkey. These two pieces of artwork have similarities in that both are considered as the point of connection between the earth and the sky. The Catacomb is the place where saints were buried while the Hagia Sofia has some elements of Christ Pantocrator and also a place where coronation took place. Both of the buildings were built with a Christian orientation. The study seeks to compare and contrast the two artworks based on architecture, symbolism, and culture.

The catacomb was built in the 4th century as ordered by Benedict XIV. The church had a crucible shape with Ionian capitols and articulated into pilaster strips. The interior is made of the Greek cross plan which includes four angular chapels. The catacomb remained a funerary space until the 5th century AD when the cemetery was converted into a pilgrimage site (Hartt 249). The Catacomb is decorated with biblical scenes which are among the biggest in Rome. The church is considered an axis Mundi given that only some privileged individuals can be buried next to the saints. The art indicates that the place was used as a center for worship and a symbol of early Christianity.

Hagia Sophia cathedral was built in the sixth century under the directions of Justinian I. It is one of the Byzantine most essential structures. The structure combines a longitudinal basilica with a central dome supported on the pendentives. Three aisles are present and are separated by columns with great marble piers supporting the dome and galleries above (Hagia Sophia Museum). The building has beautiful mosaics that symbolize the mosaic art which was practiced during the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. The interior is lined with marble slabs that imitate moving water.

Book of Kells.800 CE Chi Rho page Insular art, and the Great mosque (Congregational Mosque) Cordoba, Spain 784-987 CE Islamic art

The book of Kells was completed in 800 AD and designed as a treasure and is the oldest and the most famous book. The book is an illumination of the manuscript of the four Christian gospels. The Chi Rho is considered to be among the earliest forms of Christogram. On the other hand, the congregational mosque is supposed to be an Islamic art and one of the oldest structures that were built between 784 and 987 CE. Both of this artwork have religious meaning thus making them symbolic to Christians and Muslims. They also depict the culture at this particular time in history. The comparison seeks to determine the reason behind the use of ornamentation as an elevation in religious artwork.

The page illuminates the gospel of St Matthews in chapter 1, verse 18 which tells of how Christ came to be born. The page also features well hidden figurative images that include angels, and two mice eating communion wafer. It is one of the insular arts that used intricate and imaginative decoration to give the artwork geometric motifs and spirals (Lubbock par.7-9). Ornamentation was used because both the secular and insular religious patrons expected individual objects to be of dazzling virtuosity. The decoration helped to bring elevation in the art and illumination (Visual Arts Cork). It made it easier to beyond the decorative function and simultaneously reveals and conceals as well as hides and also display.

Congregational Mosque is also known locally as Mezquita-Cathedral. The building is encased in a tapered and squared bell tower. It is also built in ancient Roman columns which strikes a combination of two-tiered and symmetrical arches formed of red brick and stone. The Great Mosques uses decorations to highlight the details (Kleiner 290-292). The Mihrab is exquisitely decorated arch which features gold tesserae that create a combination of reddish brown, dark blue and gold and yellows that form intricate vegetal motifs and calligraphic bands adorning the dome. The Great Mosque is an example of the ability to develop architectural styles basing on regional traditions that are already in existence. The combination of the innovative and familiar makes the Great Mosque to be recognized as Islamic art.

Saint –Chapelle of Paris 1241-48 and Lindau Book cover

Sainte Chappelle of Paris is a holy chapel that was constructed to serve as a palace chapel to the French royal family, and to house sacred relics. The Lindau book cover is a gold front cover which corresponds to the Carolingian art. A comparison of Sainte-Chappelle of Paris and Lindau Book cover will be used to determine the symbolism of these two objects and what they mean.

The Sainte Chappelle is an expression of Gothic architecture of the French, and it was a royal chapel. The chapel is made of stained glass art that transforms its stone walls into a shimmering wall of light. It was built between 1241 and 1248 by King Louis IX as a house for Holy Relics. It symbolized secular prestige and religious piety of the French monarchy (Cohen 66-92). The Chapel was built based on the architecture at this time, and it is studded with allusions to royalty as represented by the numerous coronation scenes heraldic motifs and presence of Louis IX wearing Christ’s crown.

A variety of Christian art is also used for decoration including sculpture, decorative art, and stained glass. The chapel is classified as Carolingian art which is also Christian art. The style of Sainte-Chappelle is an expression of the French Gothic architecture and art. It would then be used as a model for all the other holy chapels that built later by Louis (Willsher par. 2). The chapel was consecrated and dedicated to housing the sacred cross. The windows of Sainte Chappelle were destined to glorify the relics of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns.

The Lindau book cover has quadrants willed with interlaced animal motifs and the four corners are gilded reliefs of the figures of the four evangelists. A cross is outlined with an elegant beaded silver wire. The cross bears sacred inscriptions which indicate its Christological significance (Brown 322-325). The objects are symbolic in that they are representations of Carolingian art. These architectural features of the cover allude to the jeweled heavenly Jerusalem.

Sachi Great Stupa, 2nd century -1st century BCE Buddhist Art and the Great Mosque, Damascus, Syria, 715 CE, Caliph al-Walid

Both the Great Stupa and the Great Mosque are religious artworks that have various symbolic meaning. Moreover, these arts are considered to be iconic. Sanchi is categorized as Buddhist art while Al Walid is an Islamic piece of art, but both of them have religious meaning. A comparison of Sanchi and the Great Mosque seeks to determine why the two artworks are iconic based on theological reasoning.

The Sanchi is a Buddhist monument that is located Vidisha India it was discovered 1818. Its construction is estimated to have begun in the 3rd century. Four gateways pierce the massive stone railing that encloses the dome and elaborate carvings that adorn it. Sanchi is iconic in that it is crucial to early Buddhism (Cultural India). The Stupa consists of a hemispherical dome symbolizing the dome of heaven that encloses the earth. The dome is surmounted on rail unit arranged in a square that represents the World Mountains. The mast that rises is used as a symbol of the cosmic axis while bearing umbrellas to represent different heavens.

The Great Mosque of Damascus is also known as the Umayyad mosque and is located in the Damascus. It is one of the oldest and largest mosques globally. It is considered to be the fourth holiest place in Islam (Przezak). The mosque was built between 705-715 AD. By Al Walid I. The mosque is has a transept with an octagonal dome that is at the center. Marble grills cover the windows in the south as an interlace of Islamic architecture (Kleiner 292-293). Mosaics also covered the walls to depict a fanciful landscape. The mosque is iconic because Muslims believe it is the place where Isa will return at the end of the days. Moreover, the location of the mosque is a place dedicated to John the Baptist who is honored by Muslims and Christians.

Works Cited

Brown, Katharine R. From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.
Cohen, Meredith. The Sainte-Chapelle and the Construction of Sacral Monarchy: Royal Architecture in Thirteenth-Century Paris. Cambridge UP, 2016,
Cultural India. “Sanchi Stupa.” Information on Indian Culture, Tradition & Heritage, Cultural India, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
Hagia Sophia Museum. “History | Hagia Sophia Museum.” Ayasofya Müzesi, Hagia Sophia Museum, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
Hartt, Frederick. History of art. Abrams, 1974.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages:The Western Perspective, Volume 1. Cengage Learning, 2016.
Lubbock, Tom. “Anonymous: The ‘Chi-Rho’ from ‘The Book of Kells’ (c.800).” The Independent, The Independent, 16 May 2008, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
The Morgan Library & Museum. “Jeweled upper cover of the Lindau Gospels.” The Morgan Library & Museum, The Morgan Library & Museum, 30 Sept. 2013, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
Przezak, Adam. “Great Mosque of Damascus | Mosque, Damascus, Syria.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
Visual Arts Cork. “Monogram Page (Chi Rho), Book of Kells: Analysis.” Visual Arts Encyclopedia, Visual Arts Cork, Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.
Willsher, Kim. “Sainte-Chapelle Stained Glass Window Restoration Completed.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 20 May 2015, Accessed 12 Dec. 2017.