Sarcophagus with Monogram of Christ

Sarcophagus with the monogram of Christ, third century. Collection of the Museo Pio Cristiano in the Vatican.

Early Christian sarcophagi follow the tradition of Roman sarcophagi but carry inscriptions or carving relating them to early Christianity. They were produced from the late third century through to the fifth century. They represent the earliest form of large Christian sculpture, and are important for the study of Early Christian art.

The production of Roman sarcophagi with carved decoration spread due to the gradual abandonment of the rite of cremation in favour of inhumation over the course of the second century throughout the empire. However, burial in such sarcophagi was expensive and thus reserved for wealthy families. In the second half of the third century, especially due to increased demand from this group of wealthy Christians, the use of sarcophagi spread widely, with plastic treatments following trends in contemporary sculpture.

Early Christian Sarcophagus

A broad, diverse group of nations ruled by the government of a single nation.

Short written texts, generally inscribed on stone or clay and frequently recording an event or dedicating an object.

Short written texts, generally inscribed on stone or clay and frequently recording an event or dedicating an object.

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