Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title Conches in Early Christian Art: Borders of Spatial Perception
Author email
About author Medennikova, Aleksandra Evgen’evna — M. A., Ph. D. student. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory, 1, 119991 Moscow, Russian Federation.
In the section Byzantine and Eastern Christian Art DOI10.18688/aa199-2-20
Year 2019 Volume 9 Pages 210219
Type of article RAR Index UDK 7.033.1 Index BBK 85.103(3)

Visualization of architecture becomes widespread and gains new meanings in the Late Antiquity. Since the most important category for the architecture is space, its representation in different types of art on plain or slightly curved surfaces could be a problematic artistic task. The most difficult architectural element for the representation is a conch. A space marked with a conch is always connected with an apse or a niche. There presented architecture in the visual arts serves as a frame for narrative scenes or personages. Nevertheless, the spatial value and significance of these forms could be retained. Two certain iconographic motives — shell and canopy — allow us to identify the visualized conch among different other images. They appear in two contexts.The first one is a niche that is more common in sculpture, like sarcophagus of Iunius Bassus and Traditio legis sarcophagus from Arles, or in mosaic decoration, as in the so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Another element is a tympanum where motives of shell and canopy are purely symbolic, like in Neon Baptistery, or form a complicated spatial system, like in the Hypogeum of via Dino Compagni in Rome.

After the analysis of different works of art we can conclude that the visualizing of conches was very importantat that time because they indicated a sacral space and emphasized the importance of characters orobjects disposed beneath.

Reference Medennikova, Aleksandra E. Conches in Early Christian Art: Borders of Spatial Perception. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles. Vol. 9. Ed: A. V. Zakharova, S. V. Maltseva, E. Iu. Staniukovich-Denisova. — Lomonosov Moscow State University / St. Petersburg: NP-Print, 2019, pp. 210–219. ISSN 2312-2129.
Publication Article language russian
  • Andaloro M.; Romano S. (eds.). Arte e iconografia a Roma, dal Tardoantico alla fine del Medioevo. Milan, Jaca Book Publ., 2002. 223 p. (in Italian).
  • Andaloro M.; Romano S.; Fraschetti A. (eds.). Arte e iconografia a Roma, da Costantino a Cola di Rienzo. Milan, Jaca Book Publ., 2000. 266 p. (in Italian).
  • Bisconti F. ‘Monumenta picta’. L’arte dei Costantinidi tra pittura e mosaico. La civiltà antica al bivio tra Occidente e Oriente. Milan, Silvana Editoriale Publ., 2005, pp. 174–187 (in Italian).
  • Bisconti F. Absidi paleocristiane di Roma. Antichi sistemi iconografici e nuove idee figurative. Atti del VI Colloquio dell’Associazione Italiana per lo studio e la conservazione del mosaico (Venezia, 20–23 Gennaio, 1999). Ravenna, Edizioni del Girasole Publ., 2000, pp. 451–462 (in Italian).
  • Bisconti F. L’abside piena, l’abside vuota. Arredi e decorazioni al tempo dei Costantinidi. L’officina dello sguardo. Scritti in onore di Maria Andaloro. Rome, Gangemi Editore Publ., 2014, vol. 1, pp. 229–236 (in Italian).
  • Bisconti F.; Brandt O. Lezioni di archeologia cristiana. Vatican City, Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana Publ., 2014. 636 p. (in Italian).
  • Brandt O. La croce e il capitello. Le chiese paleocristiani e la monumentalità. Vatican City, Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana Publ., 2016. 148 p. (in Italian).
  • Brenk B. The Apse, the Image and the Icon. An Historical Perspective of the Apse as a Space for the Images. Wiesbaden, Reichert Verlag Publ., 2010. 131 p.
  • Burgess R. W. The Chronograph of 354, Its Manuscripts, Contents, and History. Journal of Late Antiquity, 2012, no. 5, pp. 345–396.
  • Caillet J.-P.; Loose H. N. La vie d’éternité. La sculture funéraire dans l’Antiquité chrétienne. Paris; Geneva, Editions du Cerf, Editions du Tricorne Publ., 1990. 147 p. (in French).
  • Carile M. C. Memories of Buildings? Messages in Late Antique Architectural Representations. Images of the Byzantine World: Visions Messages and Meanings. Studies Presented to Leslie Brubaker. New York, Ashgate Publ., 2016, pp. 15–33.
  • Coarelli F. Rome and Environs. An Archaeological Guide. London, University of California Press Publ., 2007. 555 p.
  • David M. (ed.). Eburnea diptycha. I dittici d’avorio tra antichità e Medioevo. Bari, Edipuglia Publ., 2007. 400 p. (in Italian).
  • David M. Stili e temi architettonici nei mosaici parietali della Tarda antichità. Atti del XII colloquio Colloquio dell’Associazione Italiana per lo studio e la conservazione del mosaico (Venezia, 11–15 settembre 2012). Paris, Edizioni Scripta Manent Publ., 2015, pp. 123–129 (in Italian).
  • De Francovich G. Il Palatium di Teodorico e la cosiddetta ‘architettura di potenza’. Problemi di interpretazione di raffigurazioni architettoniche nell’arte tardoantica e altomedievale. Rome, De Luca Publ., 1970. 88 p. (in Italian).
  • De Francovich G. Studi sulla scultura ravennate. I sarcofagi. Ravenna, Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna Publ., 1958. 175 p. (in Italian).
  • Dunbabin K. Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press Publ., 1999. 357 p.
  • Elsner J. (ed.). Art and the Roman Viewer. The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press Publ., 1995. 375 p.
  • Ensoli S. (ed.). Aurea Roma. dalla città pagana alla città cristiana. Rome, L’Erma di Bretschneider Publ., 2000. 711 p. (in Italian).
  • Ferrua A. Catacombe sconosciute. Una pinacoteca del IV secolo sotto la via Latina. Rome, Nardini Editore Publ., 1990. 155 p. (in Italian).
  • Fiocchi Nicolai V.; Bisconti F.; Mazzoleni D. Le catacombe cristiane di Roma. Origini, sviluppo, apparati decorativi, documentazione epigrafica. Regensburg, Schnell & Steiner Publ., 1998. 207 p. (in Italian).
  • Foletti I.; Gianandrea M. (eds.). Zona liminare. Il nartece di Santa Sabina a Roma, la sua porta e l’iniziazione cristiana. Rome, Viella Publ., 2015. 276 p. (in Italian).
  • Foletti I.; Quadri E. L’immagine e la sua memoria. L’abside di Sant’Ambrogio a Milano e quella di San Pietro a Roma nel Medioevo. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 2013, vol. 76, pp. 475–492 (in Italian).
  • Ghezzo A. Il battistero degli Ortodossi di Ravenna. Problemi ed aspetti architettonico-strumentali e decorativi. Felix Ravenna, 1962, no. 35, pp. 5–73 (in Italian).
  • Grabar A. Christian Iconography. A Study of Its Origin. Princeton, Princeton University Press Publ., 1968. 174 p.
  • Grabar A. Le premier art chrétien (200–395). Paris, Gallimard Publ., 1966. 325 p. (in French).
  • Guarducci M. ‘Camerae fulgentes’. Letterature comparate. Problemi di metodo. Studi in onore di Ettore Paratore. Bologna, Pàtron Publ., 1981, pp. 799–817 (in Italian).
  • Guidobaldi F. Caratteri e contenuti della nuova architettura dell’età costantiniana. Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, 2005, no. 80, pp. 233–276 (in Italian).
  • Guidobaldi F. Leggere l’architettura costantiniana. Costantino I. Una enciclopedia sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto editto di Milano, 313–2013. Rome, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Publ., 2013, vol. 1, pp. 493–516 (in Italian).
  • Jensen R. Understanding Early Christian Art. London; New York, Routledge Publ., 2000. 240 p.
  • Karelin D. The Adoption of Late Roman Architectural Principles that Reflect Political Concepts by Christian Architecture. Zakharova A. V.; Maltseva S. V. ; Stanyukovich-Denisova E. Yu. (eds.). Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of Articles, vol. 6. St. Petersburg, NP-Print Publ., 2016, pp. 84–97 (in Russian). Available at: 10.18688/aa177-2-27 (accessed 02 April 2019).
  • Kinney D. Communication in a Visual Mode: Papal Apse Mosaics. Journal of Medieval History, 2018, vol. 44 (3), pp. 311–332.
  • Kitzinger E. Byzantine Art in the Making. Main Lines of Stylistic Development in Mediterranean Art, 3rd– 7th Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press Publ., 1977. 175 p.
  • Koch G. Frühchristliche Sarkophage. Munich, Verlag C. H. Beck Publ., 2000. 665 p. (in German).
  • Krautheimer R. Corpus Basilicarum Cristianarum Romae. Le Basiliche Cristiane Antiche di Roma (sec. IV–IX). Vatican City, Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana Publ., 1937, 323 p. (in Italian).
  • Krautheimer R. Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture. Baltimore, Penguin Books Publ., 1965. 390 p.
  • Lazaridou A.; Mouseio V. (eds.). Transition to Christianity. Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd–7th Century A.D. New York, Onassis Foundation USA Publ., 2011. 192 p.
  • Liverani P. Camerae e coperture delle basiliche paleocristiane. Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome, 2003, no. 60/61, pp. 13–27 (in Italian).
  • Mathews Th. F. The Clash of Gods. A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art. Princeton, Princeton University Press Publ., 1995. 223 p.
  • Mazzotti M. La basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe e studi successivi. Ravenna, Libreria Antiquaria Tonini Publ., 2017. 445 p. (in Italian).
  • Osés Camiruaga I.; Iglesias M. A.; Magaña M. E. S.; Pascual E. S. La arquitectura del hipogeo de via Latina en Roma. Vatican City, Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana Publ., 1994. 55 p. (in Spanish).
  • Thunø E. The Apse Mosaic in Early Medieval Rome. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press Publ., 2015. 325 p.
  • Torp H. Les mosaïques de la Rotonde de Thessalonique. L’arrière-fond conceptuel des images d’architecture. Cahiers Archéologiques, 2002, vol. 50, pp. 3–20 (in French).
  • Weitzmann K. (ed.). Age of Spirituality. Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. Catalogue of the Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Publ., 1979. 735 p.
  • Weitzmann K. (ed.). Age of Spirituality. A Symposium. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Publ., 1980. 174 p.
  • Zaigrajkina S. Mosaics of the 5th Century in Italy. Some Remarks of Its Style. Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato- Tikhonovskogo Gumanitarnogo Universiteta (St Tikhon’s University Review), 2014, vol. 5, no. 2(14), pp. 9–29 (in Russian).