Picturing the Passion

Authored by: Felicity Harley-McGowan

The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138857223
eBook ISBN: 9781315718835
Adobe ISBN:


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The word “Passion” refers to the redemptive sufferings of Jesus and to the narrative of events leading up to and including his death, particularly as recorded in the four canonical gospels. While illustrated Passion narratives came to form the bedrock of Christian visual culture, evidence for the representation of the events in early Christianity is scarce. This chapter traces the roots of this prominent pictorial tradition, examining the evidence that survives from across the third to the fifth centuries. It concludes that this highly innovative period of iconographic development was fundamentally concerned not with the historical events of the Passion as described in the gospels, but with the representation of God’s power through Jesus’ victory on the cross.

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