Junius Bassus the younger, as city prefect, was “the highest official residing in Rome, head and leader of the Senate” at the time of his death, making his sarcophagus an important, and rare, example of Christian conversion amongst the elite; the senatorial class of Rome were amongst the last to convert, remaining predominantly pagan until the end of the fourth century CE (Malbon, The Iconography of the … Further small reliefs on the lid, and heads at the corners, are badly damaged. But they demonstrate to the viewer how the heavenly crown could be achieved by ordinary Christians, although the Imperial persecutions were now over. Marble, 3′ 10.5″ by 8′. Christ as the Good Shepherd. Not only was it among the earliest visuals of Jesus of Nazareth in the newly Christian world, but it is also special because it provides Christian scenes on a coffin. His family held high political positions. The Sarcophagus was once located in Old St. Peter's Basilica.  The other scenes may be the Three youths in the fiery furnace, the Raising of Lazarus, Moses receiving the tablets and Moses striking the rock.. 349. This sarcophagus belonged to Junius Bassus, a Roman prefect who died in the year 359. Museo Tresoro, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican. Towards the end of the third century a new form of art started to emerge from the secretive places early Christians in Rome would gather to practice their so forbidden religion. Our mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. The Arrest of Christ. By the middle of the fourth century Christianity had undergone a dramatic transformation. Some figures are portrayed frontally, but certainly not all, and they are not shown in a thoroughly Late Antique manner; the scenes are three-dimensional and have depth and background .... drapery hangs on recognizable human forms rather than being arranged in predetermined folds; heads are varied, portraying recognisably different people. Next lesson. message” (Elsner, “The role of early Christian art,” p. 86).  There was already a tradition, borrowed from pagan iconography, of depicting Christ the Victor; in this work that theme is linked to the Passion of Jesus, of which the entry to Jerusalem is the start, a development that was to play a great part in shaping the Christian art of the future. Marble, 120 x 140 x 120 cm. On a damaged plaque surmounting the lid is a poem praising Bassus in largely secular terms, and the inscription running along the top of the body of the sarcophagus identifies him, and describes him as a "neophyte", or recent convert. Adam and Eve themselves made no sacrifices, but behind Eve is a lamb, and beside Adam a sheaf of wheat, referring to the sacrifices of their two sons, Cain and Abel. Nevertheless, the audio conversation Donate or volunteer today! Other sources connected with this document: Inventing Christian Rome: the role of early Christian art, Image and Rhetoric in Early Christian Sarcophagi: Reflections on Jesus’ Trial, Life, death and representation: some new work on Roman sarcophagi, Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (CIL VI, 32004). Junius Bassus himself was an important figure and a senator who was in charge of the government of the capital when he died in 359. The short ends of the sarcophagus are decorated with traditional pagan scenes representing the Four Seasons, with putti or Cupids harvesting. It has been described as "probably the single most famous piece of early Christian relief sculpture. The Iconography of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. The style of the work has been greatly discussed by art historians, especially as its date is certain, which is unusual at this period. His father had been Praetorian prefect, running the administration of a large part of the Western Empire. Marble, Treasury, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. A striking sarcophagus in the museum. 359. The remains of a mask representing Luna, the moon, at the right-hand end of the lid is presumed to have complemented one of Sol, the sun, at the far left end (Malbon, The Iconography of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, p. 5). A large, white marble sarcophagus, decorated with figurative reliefs on three sides. The lower scene loosely follows the entry ("adventus") of an emperor to a city, a scene often depicted in Imperial art; Christ is "identified as imperator by the imperial eagle of victory" in the conch moulding above the scene. The arrangement of relief scenes in rows in a columnar framework is an introduction from Asia Minor at about this time. These figures are carved in very high relief and separated by an elaborate and ornate framework of columns, entablature, gables and arches. Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (pg 230-31) from Rome, Italy, ca. The Last Supper. The sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is a prominent example of early funerary Christian art, completed in 395 CE. The double registers and intercolumniations create niches for ten individual figurative reliefs, which combine in a complex iconographic programme that uses both Old and New Testament stories. Attracting converts in the urban populations, Christianity appealed to the faithful’s desires for personal salvation; however, due to Christianity’s monotheism (which prohibited its followers from participating in the public cults), Christians suffered periodi… The angel standing behind Abraham in the Sacrifice of Isaac is depicted similarly, and without wings. " The sarcophagus was originally placed in or under Old St. Peter's Basilica, was rediscovered in 1597, and is now below the modern basilica in the Museo Storico del Tesoro della Basilica di San Pietro (Museum of Saint Peter's Basilica) in the Vatican. The ten niches contain scenes of biblical characters and stories; on the top level, from left to right, the scenes depict the sacrifice of Isaac, the arrest of Peter, Christ enthroned, with disciples to each side, the arrest of Christ, and the judgement of Pilate. Carved for a Roman city prefect who was a newly baptized Christian at his death, the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is not only a magnificent example of “the fine style” of mid-fourth-century sculpture but also a treasury of early Christian iconography clearly indicating the Christianization of Rome — and the Romanization of Christianity. The sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is decorated with sculptural relief showing Christ as a Roman emperor standing on the head of the Pagan god of the heavens, to identify Christ as the ruler of the cosmos. As recorded in an inscription on the sarcophagus now in the Vatican collection, Junius Bassus had become a convert to Christianity shortly before his death. Christ hands Peter a scroll, probably representing the Gospels, as emperors were often shown doing to their heirs, ministers or generals..  Even allowing for "the gradual appropriation of a popular type of Christian tomb by upper-class patrons whose standards asserted themselves increasingly both in the content and in the style of these monuments", Kitzinger concludes that the changes must reflect a larger "regeneration" in style.. When Junius Bassus died at the age of 42 in the year 359, a sarcophagus was made for him. Both scenes also took place in Rome, and this local interest is part of the balance of Christian and traditional Roman gestures that the sarcophagus shows. Museum of St. Peter's Treasury, Rome. Many still believed, like Tertullian, that it was not possible to be an emperor and a Christian, which also went for the highest officials like Bassus. In the bottom row: Job on the dunghill, Adam and Eve, Christ's entry into Jerusalem, Daniel in the lion's den (heads restored), Arrest or leading to execution of Paul. Carved for a Roman city prefect who was a newly baptized Christian at his death, the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is not only a magnificent example of "the fine style" of mid-fourth-century sculpture but also a treasury of early Christian iconography clearly indicating the Christianization of Rome--and the Romanization of Christianity. The sides have more traditional Roman scenes of the Four Seasons represented by putti performing seasonal tasks such as harvesting grapes. Exact location unknown; close to the crypt of St Peter, Rome. Each and every single one of the carvings represents Bible stories, including ones such as Adam and Eve, or the sacrifice of Issac. The Old Testament scenes depicted were chosen as precursors of Christ's sacrifice in the New Testament, in an early form of typology. Ernst Kitzinger finds "a far more definite reattachment to aesthetic ideals of the Graeco-Roman past" than in the earlier Dogmatic Sarcophagus and that of the "Two Brothers", also in the Vatican Museums. Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, marble, 359 C.E. The sarcophagus has ten scenes in … Site Navigation. This is the currently selected item. The carvings are in high relief on three sides of the sarcophagus, allowing for its placement against a wall. He had recently become a convert to Christianity, which had only been legal in …  The reeds behind Paul probably represent the boggy area of the city where Paul's execution was traditionally believed to have happened. On top of the sarcophagus, we can see an inscription. The Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is a marble Early Christian sarcophagus used for the burial of Junius Bassus, who died in 359.It has been described as "probably the single most famous piece of early Christian relief sculpture." THE ICONOGRAPHY OF THE SARCOPHAGUS OF JUNIUS BASSUS Lauren J. Sapikowski (Dr Kathleen Schowalter) Department of Art, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia 24450. Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, 359 C.E., marble (Treasury, St. Peter’s Basilica) Such an individual was Junius Bassus. Test your knowledge .  Pilate, perhaps worried by Jesus's reputation for miracles, is making the gesture Italians still use to ward off the evil eye. Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. 2.8: Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Last updated; Save as PDF Page ID 75638; Christianity Becomes Part of the Establishment; Establishing Formulas for Representing Christian Figures; Old Testament and New Testament Together; Martyrdom; Competing Styles; Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus… Together with the Dogmatic sarcophagus in the same museum, this sarcophagus is one of the oldest surviving high-status sarcophagi with elaborate carvings of Christian themes, and a complicated iconographic programme embracing the Old and New Testaments.
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