Medieval Painting

Types of Painting


A Brief Introduction to Christian Faith

The great majority of Medieval art that has come down to us is based upon Christian subjects. This is a brief introduction to Christian beliefs.

A fundamental part of the Christian faith is belief in the Trinity – that God exists in three separate but linked ways as God the Father – the creator of the world who lives in Heaven, God the son Jesus Christ, who is both fully Godlike and fully human and who lived no earth for about 30 years, and the Holy Spirit, a universal presence of God.

According to the Christian tradition Jesus Christ was born at the time of the Roman Empire to Mary, a virgin. Christ was born, lived, was crucifixion, died, buried, returned to life and later returned to his Father in Heaven.

Christianity, like Judaism and Islam is a “religion of the book” – one where the details of the history and beliefs of the religion are recorded in writing. For Christians this book is the Bible. The Bible consists of two parts, the Old Testament, which tells the story of the world from the creation of the world until immediately before the birth of Christ. In the study of medieval art history this is mainly of interest in the stories of the Prophets, people who were seen in some way to predict the coming of Christ, and the New Testament which record the life of Christ and the years immediately after his death.

Common Christian themes used in Art

The Annunciation –  An angel appears to Mary to tell her that God has chosen her as the mother for his son, Jesus.

The Birth of Christ – According to tradition Jesus was born in a stable and is shown with his mother and other supporting characters.

Madonna and Child – Mary is seen, usually seated and holding the baby Jesus. This is one of the two most common representation of the Christ and is show him as a human child.

The Passion of Christ – a range of scenes showing the last few hours of Christ’s life from his capture to the Crucfixion. These may also showing scenes from after the death of Christ.

The Crucifixion - the other most common representation of Christ. Christians believe that through Christ’s death Christian believers are purified from some or all of their sins.