Religious art is one excellent way to display one’s faith at home and at a place of worship such as a church. Some religions permit artwork in their religious spaces, some do not. Many workplaces are cautious about decorating with religious art, and, in some cases, it has been banned from workplaces and institutions all together. Other workplaces, public areas and institutions allow for equality in the display of these pieces.
While all types of sacred art are about beautifying the church, that was not the original reason that churches were decorated. Churches originally used art to communicate to the parishioners in the congregation that did not read.
Early Christians were persecuted and sometimes put to death for their beliefs, so they met in secret to worship. They met in homes, but soon discovered that home worship was dangerous, because Roman soldiers could find them and persecute them easily. So the early Christians had to come up with unique, unexpected places to meet. Eventually they decided to meet in underground burial crypts called catacombs. But they needed to identify where, exactly, to meet. To identify meeting places of worship, which needed to change often to confuse Roman soldiers, worshipers would leave graffiti-like drawings to indicate the meeting place of the week. The fish was the symbol most used, because the letters that spell the word fish in Latin stood for the name Jesus. The fish symbol is still used frequently to symbolize Jesus.
There are several common symbols. The cross is used to represent the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The dove represents peace and the Holy Spirit. The lily represents Spring and Easter. The various colors used in religious art can be symbolic, as well. For example, the color white represents purity and cleanliness.
In the Middle Ages, only the rich and those in religious life such as priests were educated and could read. The common member of the congregation was illiterate. So churches were decorated with Bible stories to educated parishioners. Stained glass, icons, statues and tapestries represented information about Jesus, God, Mary, the Saints and other important religious information that the common person might need to know.
While literacy is common place in modern times, religious art still enhances worship. The art in a person’s church or home represents their spiritual beliefs, influencing the ambiance and environment of the church or home.
Gary Nolan is a freelance writer. You can find a wide range of religious art including christian art and sacred art.