BIBLE, ILLUSTRATIONS OF. As soon as the earliest symbolic stage of Christian art had passed, which is represented by the Catacombs fq.v.), and their frescoes of the Second, Third, and early Fourth centuries, the historic stage began, when the emblems, allegories, and sym bols, such as vine, anchor, dove, fish, good shep herd. are replaced by scenes from the Old and New Testament. These scenes were at first used in more than their purely historical sense. In the same way as in contemporary writings, many scenes of the Old Testament were used as symbols of events in the new dispensation; thus, Noah in the Ark, the Sacrifice of Abraham, Elijah Caught up to Heaven, Jonah Cast up by the Whale, Moses Striking the Rock, are all used, not only as prefigurements of Christ, but also as images of the salvation of the Elect. The Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, and re fusing to adore the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as Daniel in the lion's den, are symbols of Christian martyrdom. These and many other subjects always had, for the Christian masses, even in the Fourth and Fifth centuries, a mean ing far transcending the historic. (See SYMBOL ISM.) But before 400 the construction of a number of great churches (see BASILICA) had put before the artists an immense expanse of wall to be covered with Christian subjects, and at the same time the freedom to teach Christian doctrine had made it possible to multiply manu scripts of the Bible and to illustrate them artis tically, in order by images to bring the truth home to the masses that could not read. The authorities of the Church seized art as a means of propagating and strengthening the faith.
Bible history was the principal form of this teaching: in monumental forms on church-walls, in miniature form on the pages of Bible manu scripts. We cannot say which served as a model to the other, for both sprang up simultaneously. The Rossano Gospels, the Vienna and the London Genesis, the original of the roll of Joshua (see .MANUSCRIPTS, ILLUMINATIONS OF), all of the Fifth Century. are as early as the mosaic pic tures of Santa Maria Maggiore at Rome (see MosAlcs) and Sant' Apollinare Nuovo at Ra venna. In these works we see Bible history with out symbolic intention, for the first time. in place of a few subjects, selected for their sug gestiveness from Bible pages, every event that forms a pieturable episode is treated by the artist. One can imagine eager Christians. unable to read the Bible, crowding about the presbyter or bishop as he passes down the nave of the church, labeling and explaining each picture, and so giving them a Bible synopsis. It became the custom to give up the whole of one side of the nave-walls to the Old Testament, the oppo site side to the New Testament, and then to represent on the triumphal arch and apse the more spiritual subjects of Christ Triumphant and the Heavenly Jerusalem. Very soon it was found necessary to systematize the new exuberance; to exercise a process of selection; to reduce the number of subjects; so that everything essential from Genesis to Revelations could be crowded into one church or one manuscript. It became
the rule of the foremost erudite churchmen to select the subjects for the artists. About A.D. 100 l'rudentius (q.v.) made a selection of 49 subjects, 24 each from the Old and New Testa ments, the 49th being for the apse and rep resenting the Heavenly Jerusalem, each with a descriptive inscription in verse. Often these subjects were selected so as to form parallel re lated series, in which each subject of the Old Testament bore a remarkable similarity to one opposite it from the New Testament.
Meanwhile the illumination of Bible codices in the same fashion was steadily progressing. and having begun in the East. with Greek manu scripts, passed to the West. where the work was carried forward by the Benedictine monks. The church frescoes and mosaics were mainly for the teaching of the masses, but these codex illus trations were intended for the instruction of the teachers themselves. Certainly series like the mosaic pictures from the Old Testament in the nave of Santa Maria Maggiore seem copies from some illustrated Bible rather than creations of the mosaieists. The letters of Paulinus of Nola (c.400) show how he would suggest themes to his friends who were building and decorating churches; and a passage in Gregory of Tours shows us the wife of a Frankish bishop in the Fifth Century seated with an illuminated Bible in her lap. telling the artist what to paint. With the constant spread of Christianity and the rapid building of churches, the mass of the clergy, un familiar with the detailed system of Christian art, were glad to use for their guidance these illustrated texts executed at a few artistic centres under the instructions of the foremost thinkers. Hence the tmiformity of treatment, hence the formation of a tradition; for these miniatures gave not only subject, but treatment, composition. colors, attitudes. There are even manuscripts where the places in the church that certain subjects should occupy are noted. Where symbolism descended to the colors of garments, to the emblems held, to the form of the nimbus, no detail could be neglected. So it came to be that the painter was merely the hand, and the churchman the brain behind it. After a while these traditions, it is true, became the property of the painters themselves, so that they required no prompting. The period of lay artists was followed by that of monastic artists (Seventh to Eleventh Century), when the thought and the hand were one. Then such works as the Byzantine Guide to Painting came into exist ence, which became the painter's vade mecum, where every subject of Cliristian art was mi nutely described as it should be painted. And the form of this guide, even now ih use among Greek painters of Mount Athos and Thessaly, goes back as far as the Eleventh Century.