Iconography: Christian Iconography

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For the greater part of Christian history, the church's images have been drawn from its liturgical texts, scriptures, and pedagogy, and they have been rendered in the styles of the particular age and place the images served. In modern times, the sources for Christian iconography have expanded to include psychological, sociopolitical, and nontraditional elements.

The most distinctive characteristic of Christian iconography is its preoccupation with the person and role of Jesus Christ (and his followers). The image of Christ as earthly founder and heavenly savior is central to the religion, especially insofar as the church defines itself as the body of Christ on earth. Thus the changing repertoire of images of Jesus and his followers reveals the nature of the religion in its many cultural and historical manifestations.

Early Christianity

Early Christian art surviving from the first half of the third century reflects the diversity of the Greco-Roman context from which it emerged. The earliest iconographic figures, borrowed directly from late antique conventions, were placed in new compositional and environmental settings on jewelry and other minor arts. For example, the common pose of the shepherd Endymion, a reclining male nude resting on one elbow with ankles crossed, was the type borrowed by artists to depict the Old Testament figure of Jonah resting under an arbor. For Christians, Jonah represented an image of resurrection and, as such, was used in funerary paintings and low-relief carvings on sarcophagi. Old Testament figures used in early Christian iconography appeared almost exclusively as typologies of Christ and his followers.

The earliest images of Christ were concerned with his person and role on earth and were borrowed from classical types of teaching figures, miracle workers, and heroes. Conventions for depicting divine attributes were missing, and there was no attempt at historical accuracy. Jesus did not look like an early-first-century Jewish man from Palestine, but like a Roman teacher-philosopher or like an Apollo-type mythic hero such as the Christos-Helios mosaic figure in the necropolis of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Frustration with the limitations of these typologies seems to have led to symbolic representations, such as the ubiquitous Christ as Good Shepherd and the emblematic cross and wreath symbolizing the Trophy of Victory on sarcophagi. The Good Shepherd image was adapted from pagan culture, while the Trophy was the earliest representation of the Christian cross.

Imperial Christianity

Following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion by the Roman emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, the figure of Christ as the imperial reigning Lord emerged. Jesus enthroned as the leader of the church, or in the heavens as an imperial judge, reflected the power the church had gained in that era. Within a hierarchically structured society, Jesus was depicted as a reigning philosopher-emperor who dispensed grace and judgment above all earthly power (see, for instance, the enthroned Christ in the apse mosaic of Santa Pudenziana in Rome).

Theological teachings and conciliar rulings are reflected in the Christian iconography that followed. From the fourth through the sixth century the figure of Jesus, elevated to a ruler over all, came to represent the power of the church over state and society. Christ seated in majesty above the heavens in the apse mosaic of the mausoleum of Santa Constanza in Rome (c. 350) or in the apse mosaic of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (c. 550), reflects Christological formulations. Mary appears as an enthroned queen in the mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, after the Council of Ephesus in 431, which declared her theotokos, Mother of God. Two types of Christ figures occupy the twenty-six mosaic panels of the Christ cycle in San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (c. 520). The figure in the scenes of Christ's ministry and miracles is an Apollo typeyoung, beardless, and dressed in royal purplewhile the figure in the scenes of Christ's last days on earth is a philosopher typeolder, bearded, also dressed in purple. These two figure types reflect Pope Leo the Great's late-fifth-century theological treatise on the two natures of Christ.

Explicit representation of the crucifixion of Jesus is conspicuously absent from early Christian iconography prior to the fifth century. The visual representation of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was reserved to be seen only for those who have been baptized. By the early fifth century, on rare occasions, crucifixion scenes appeared on liturgical objects and other church furnishings, such as the wooden doors of the Church of Santa Sabina in Rome. Nonetheless, the crucifixion is missing as an episode in the Christ cycle of the nave mosaics in the early-sixth-century Church of San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Once the crucifixion came to be widely depicted, the preferred type in both East and West through the ninth century was a robed, open-eyed, victorious Christ hanging on the cross, such as the ones in the illuminations of the Rabula Gospels from Mesopotamia (dated 586) or on the wall decorations of the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome.

From early Christian times to the ninth century, themes of rescue, delivery, and victory were dominant. Figures introduced as graced believers eventually became regal symbols of transcending powers. Mary, for instance, in third-century Roman fresco painting, was a Roman citizen; in the fourth century she acquired the dress of an aristocratic lady, and in the fifth, she was the queen of heaven. By the ninth century she was a reigning personification of the church.

Byzantine Art

Within the art of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the image (as icon) relates to the liturgy in a manner distinguished from that of its Western counterparts. An icon can appear in a variety of media: painting, mosaic, sculpture, or illuminated manuscript. Its subject matter includes biblical figures, lives of the saints, and scenes and narrative cycles that relate specifically to the liturgical calendar. To the present day, Byzantine tradition relies heavily on iconography in its worship. On the iconostasisthe screen extending across the front of the worship space in the Byzantine traditionicons of Christ, Mary, and the saints appear as physical representations of the real spiritual presence of these figures for the worshipers, thereby creating the most integral and dynamic use of iconography in worship among all Christian traditions.

Over the centuries, rules for iconographers in the East were formalized, and copy books determined the style and subject matter of iconography. Paintings of the crucifixion in the Byzantine tradition, for example, often include the figures of Mary and Saint John at the foot of the cross in attitudes of grief, and the corpus traditionally hangs in a limp curve against the rigidity of the cross. This form then became popular in the West, especially in medieval Italy, and influenced painters such as Cimabue (d. 1302?).

Icons of the Madonna as the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, emphasizing her role as mediator and eternal spirit of consolation and blessing, are numerous in Eastern iconography, but the single most imposing and austere composition in Byzantine iconography is the Pantocrator icon of Christ. The frontal presentation of this image emphasizes the presence of Christ as coeternal and coexistent with God the Father. Theologically, the Pantocrator gave visible form to the church's teachings on the consubstantiation of Father and Son, just as the Transfiguration icon visualized its teachings on the incarnation of God in Christ. The religious and social power of icons in society is reflected in the Iconoclastic Controversy of the eighth and ninth centuries, which produced a body of writings on the theology of iconography never again matched in Christian history.

Middle Ages

While saints, heroes, and narrative episodes from scripture dominated medieval iconography, rich patterns of decoration and reference to everyday contemporary life worked their way into the art of the church in the West. Sculptural programs on church buildings and marginalia in illuminated manuscripts introduced genre scenes such as the symbols for the labors of the months and images for the seven liberal arts.

Christian iconography produced in the eighth and ninth centuries became regionally acculturated as its Roman origins disappeared in the face of indigenous expression. Elaborate decorated surfaces enclosed Christian symbols and figures, where, in the service of beautiful patterns, iconography became abstract and emblematic, especially on painted vellum in books.

During the ninth and tenth centuries a shift in emphasis from Christ the victor to Christ the victim took place in the thinking of the church; accordingly, images of the crucifixion with the victorious reigning Lord on the cross were replaced by those of the suffering human victim. The Gero Crucifix in the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany (c. 960), is one of the earliest representations of Christ as a suffering, dying figure. Under the influence of Anselm (d. 1109) the emphasis on the purpose of Christ's sacrifice shifted from the act necessary to defeat the devil to the act necessary to satisfy God on behalf of the world. Christian iconography of the crucifixion reflected that shift. Simultaneously, the role of Christ as a stern and eternal judge was emphasized in sculptural programs on the exterior of monastic churches such as those at Moissac and Autun in France. Images of Mary as mediator, together with the lives of the saints as models of virtue and fidelity, presented an array of images for instruction and contemplation.

By the twelfth century the decorative, narrative, and didactic role of the arts gave way to an explicitly sacramental function, one in which the imagery appeared in a context believed to be a model of the kingdom of heaven, the church building. Iconography in the church was believed capable of building a bridge that reached from the mundane world to the threshold of the divine spirit. Described in twelfth-century Christian literature as anagogical art, iconography served as an extension of the meaning of the Mass. Visual images led believers from the material to the immaterial (see Suger, 1979). In a Gothic cathedral the sculptural programs (statue columns, tympana, archivolts, capitals, screens) and painted glass included figural compositions that narrated scripture, historical events, literature, and daily life, and all were considered to have an anagogical function.

In the Gothic era a proliferation of Old Testament imagery reflected renewed theological and political interests in manifestations of God working within and through royal hierarchies. During this period the suffering Christ of the Romanesque style became a more benign savior. More types of Christ figures appear in the sculptural program and stained glass of Chartres Cathedral from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries than in the most elaborate Romanesque iconographic schemes. The quantity of figures was more important to the Gothic planners than to any of their predecessors, owing to the twelfth-century belief in the anagogical function of art.

In the late Gothic period (approximately the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) across northern Europe, the iconography of Christianity was populated with aesthetically appealing, elegant figures and decorative surfaces known in modern scholarship as the International Style. Attitudes, dress, and colors emphasized soft, flowing lines, gentle expressions, and rich textures.

Renaissance and Reformation

Christian iconography of the Renaissance in Italy acquired classically human characteristics as interest in Greco-Roman literature and art was revived. Jesus and his followers appeared in a human guise heretofore unknown. Scenes of biblical episodes and historically religious significance were given the illusion of three-dimensional settings that emphasized their reality in the natural world. Fifteenth-century Renaissance art reflected renewed interest in pagan mythology and Christian subject matter alike; therefore, pagan iconography competed with traditional Christian iconography. Proportion, perspective, and human experience were new ingredients in the iconography of the Renaissance. For example, between 1495 and 1498 Leonardo da Vinci completed the Last Supper on the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, Italy. Leonardo's painting of the figures within a perspectival view of a room centered on Christ renders the moment as one of self-conscious and anxious questioning among the twelve apostles. This painting has become the most popular and most often reproduced object of Christian iconography.

In an age in which "man was the measure of all things," the types of human figures ranged between idealized and ethereal images, such as Raphael's Madonna del Granduca (1505) and the anxious and suffering figures in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Last Judgment (15361541). In the latter, terror lurks in the consciousness of the sinful, and the blessed rise passively to a severe and enigmatic Lord.

In northern Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, exaggerated realism in the treatment of subject matter and pre-Reformation currents of thought shaped Christian iconography. Matthias Grünewald's famous crucifixion panel in the Isenheim Altarpiece (15101512) presents Christ as a victim whose physical appearance betrays mutilation and disease; the panel emphasizes divine participation on behalf of human suffering.

Specifically Reformation iconography illustrated biblical teaching and liturgical practices by the reformers. Lucas Cranach the Elder, a painter and a friend of Martin Luther, presented the subject matter of one of Luther's sermons in the figure of the crucified Christ in the Wittenberg Altarpiece of 1545. Here, Christ appears classically proportioned, alive, and without signs of maltreatment. Albrecht Dürer's engravings and woodcuts, known to a wide-ranging public, in some instances reflected contemporary religious thought as well. Whereas the old Andachtsbild (image for contemplation) tradition in medieval Christian iconography served prayer and meditation, many of Dürer's engravings engaged the intellect and gave focus to religious thought and theological propositions.

Reacting against "papist" imagery, Reformation iconoclasts destroyed vast amounts of iconographic imagery and liturgical furnishings. For its part, the Roman Catholic Church consciously appropriated iconographic programs in their churches in order to counteract the reforming movements. The Council of Trent, held in the middle of the sixteenth century, formulated instructions on the uses of iconography on behalf of the church. If the Reformation in some areas limited or forbade the use of images in the church, the Counter-Reformation encouraged a proliferation of them, thereby stimulating the introduction and expansion of the Baroque style of art. Eventually the church's use of Baroque forms extended beyond traditional sculptural programs and painted panels to wall-surface decor, ceiling plaster, frescoes, elaboration of vestments and liturgical vessels, and extensive programmatic designs for altars and chapels. Dramatic highlighting, theatrical effects, and atmospheric illusions were used with iconographic programs to convince believers that the authentic home of spirituality and the true seat of the church's authority was in the Roman Church.

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Protestant iconography in the seventeenth century emphasized individual experience, and images of Jesus stressed his humanity and participation in the human condition. Rembrandt's portraits of Jesus, for example, show a thirty-year-old Jewish man; his Deposition from the Cross (1634) emphasizes a Christ broken and dead. Roman Catholic iconography, by contrast, stressed the sacramental presence of a heroic Christ in programmatic sequences, such as Peter Paul Rubens's early altarpieces and Nicolas Poussin's two series of paintings entitled The Seven Sacraments from the 1640s.

Eventually, architects created iconographic environments in church interiors that approximated a heavenly realm, decorated with ethereal figures of saints. As the German Rococo churches attest (see, for example, the Bavarian pilgrimage churches of Balthazar Neumann at Vierzehnheiligen and Dominikus Zimmermann at Wies), the setting for the sacrament was an integration of iconography and architecture that established a place separate from the natural world.

The New World

While the excesses of Rococo iconographic decoration engulfed worship spaces in eighteenth-century Europe, the New World seemed austere by contrast. Late-seventeenth-century Christian iconography in North America consisted primarily of small, colorful panel paintings for the Spanish-American communities of the Southwest and of a conservative form of monochromatic portraiture on the East Coast. The art of the Southwest reflected a Spanish Roman Catholic culture with its indigenously adapted Baroque forms. By contrast, the arts introduced by the Puritans in New England were understated to the point of asceticism and iconoclasm. The elimination of imagery and decoration left a Christian iconography of simple abstract elements created by natural materials and excellent craftsmanship. Early American meetinghouse architecture symbolized a community's place of contact with itself and with God, specifically the word of God. Shaker communities, for instance, made a virtue of functional beauty and created a repertoire of objects that were revered for their clarity of form and usefulness. Cemetery art in eighteenth-century New England relied on simple abstract symbols reduced to line drawings in stone, representing angels' heads or skulls with wings.

The earliest Christian imagery in North America, as found in Western Hispanic communities and the Puritan centers in the East, drew on separate European traditions and enjoyed no cross-fertilization. In the Southwest, images of Christ's crucifixion served Roman Catholic liturgical traditions, public and private. In New England any iconography that suggested a Roman Catholic influence was considered "papist" and inappropriate. Not only were images of the crucifixion rare, but many churches refused to display the symbol of the cross in order to avoid appearing idolatrous.

By the late eighteenth century, the major trends in Christian iconography were competing with the secularization of Western culture and the impact of the Enlightenment. The American and French revolutions witnessed the destruction of institutional hierarchies and the great Christian monuments associated with them. In France, for instance, the dismantling of the medieval monastery at Cluny and the destruction of royal imagery on Gothic churches at Notre-Dame and St.-Denis in Paris demonstrated the negative power of Christian iconography that appeared to be royalist.

Nonetheless, during this period the private vision of artists dealing with Christian themes added an enigmatic dimension to religious iconography. For instance, William Blake's figures from the late eighteenth century combined traditional Christian subject matter with his own imaginative intuition. Whereas the human condition had always impinged upon and shaped the priorities of traditional Christian iconography, personal insight shaped primary subject matter in the latter half of the eighteenth century.

Nineteenth Century

Prior to the Enlightenment, the life of the Christian church, theologically and liturgically, influenced the images and forms of art directly: Christian iconography reflected the "mind" of the church. In the nineteenth century, Christian iconography served more private and artistically formal purposes. The recovery of historical styles in nineteenth-century art and architecture carried with it renewed interest in Christian iconographic themes. The English Pre-Raphaelites, for example, sought to recover the artistic values and qualities of the high Middle Ages. (See, for example, the Edward Burne-Jones mosaic decoration for Saint Paul's Within-the-Walls in Rome, begun in 1881.) Generally speaking, nineteenth-century Christian iconography was created to celebrate a popular stylewhereas in the past, style had been shaped by its ecclesiastical settings and patrons.

Claims about the sublime as perceived in nature or in the depths of human consciousness created new aspects of religious iconography in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After the Enlightenment, the canon of iconographic subject matter became open-ended. As the formal aspects of artistic production became foremost for artists who in previous centuries would have been concerned with narrative force and meaning, iconographic expression became more independent and individual. For instance, Vincent van Gogh (d. 1890), who in his early life had been a Christian missionary, created a personal iconography that eschewed, for the most part, any specifically Christian subject. Paul Gauguin's (d. 1903) paintings of Old Testament subjects, the crucifixion, or religious imagery from life in Tahiti created a recognizable but private iconography that reflected individual interests and goals. The institutional church, for the most part, disengaged itself from major artists and movements. Under these circumstances, by the late nineteenth century a great part of Christian iconography had become copy work, sentimental and remote from the society at large.

Twentieth Century

A highly individualized Christian iconography was shaped in the twentieth century by the religious consciousness of individual artists. The German expressionists, for example, insisted upon interpreting and revealing their individuality. When Wassily Kandinsky (d. 1944) wrote Concerning the Spiritual in Art, what was revealed in the art included the feelings of the artist and the expressive properties of color. Emil Nolde's nine-part Life of Christ altarpiece (19111912) combines Nolde's interest in the impact of color with a traditional Christian format. George Rouault, more than any other recognized twentieth-century artist, sought to create compelling Christian imagery. His 1926 Miserere series compares Christ's suffering with twentieth-century experiences of human sufferings in war. The work of Max Beckmann (d. 1950) equates the fall of Adam and Eve with the grotesque dimensions of the human condition under fascism. In contrast, the most popular and most often reproduced image of Jesus in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century was W. H. Sallmon's Head of Christ (1940), a sentimental, idealized figure with widespread influence.

Fantasy painters such as Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall used Christian subject matter in a unique manner in order to suggest visions of the mind or vistas of a dreamworld fashioned out of the subconscious. Paintings such as Dali's Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955) and Chagall's White Crucifixion (1938) identify a private vision in which traditional Christian iconography is reinterpreted. Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937) has been interpreted as Christian iconography because some traditional imagery appears to enhance its reference to human terror and death, and because it suggests religious meanings. Abstract art in the twentieth century created the possibility for a broadly Christian iconography without recognizable subject matter. For instance, the purely abstract compositions of Piet Mondrian (d. 1944) were intended to provide an image of universal truths, religious in nature, that reflected theosophical beliefs.

Radical individuality and sociopolitical realities influenced the content of Christian iconography in the twentieth century. Revolutionary movements produced Christian iconography that placed traditional religious figures in advocacy relationships with human beings suffering social and political injustice. In predominantly Communist countries, socialist realism that emphasized the heroic stature of the worker or the revolutionary fighter replaced Christian iconography. In other cultures, indigenous forms were integrated into Christian imagery. African sculpture, South American painting, and Asian graphics, for example, often provided indigenous twentieth-century iconography. One aspect of the Christian ecumenical movement around the world was to encourage the diverse international community to reclaim and clarify their cultural heritages. Liturgical arts and iconography in non-Western cultures emphasized their individual locales and traditions.

Following the lead of religious leaders such as the Dominican artist-priest M. A. Couturier (19051957) from France, who encouraged abstract and modern artistic treatment of Christian themes, various modern artists entered the arena of religious art. In France, Henri Matisse's windows and wall drawings at Vence, from the late 1940s; Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp (19501955); and the stained glass, tapestries, and altar cloth of Fernand Léger at Audincourt (1951) all present Christian iconography in specifically twentieth-century forms.

In the United States, the work of the abstract expressionists from the early 1950s to the 1970s summarized much of the religious consciousness that had been expressed in modern art during the first half of the century by various abstract and expressionist movements. In works such as Robert Motherwell's Reconciliation Elegy (1962), Mark Rothko's chapel in Houston, Texas (1970), or Barnett Newman's Stations of the Cross (19581962), religious subject matter seems identical with expressions of radical individuality.

The twentieth century also saw the emergence of Christian iconography in new media, notably film and electronic communications. Biblical stories presented in films with such titles as The Bible, The Ten Commandments, The King of Kings, and The Gospel according to St. Matthew engaged a public separate from the church. The mass media, which now included home video, offered traditional Christian subject matter in extended narrative form as dramatic entertainment. In 2004 the film entitled The Passion of the Christ drew worldwide attention. Such presentations of Christian stories are a form of Christian iconography, but in their cultural context they appear to be no more than stories from one literary source among many, iconography for entertainment rather than worship.


The function of Christian iconography has varied in each generation. It has always been a living language of images invented by the religious consciousness of communities and individuals. Until the modern era, the figures of Jesus and his followers were always central to iconographic programs, but during the twentieth century the focus shifted to the individual iconographer on the one hand and to major cultural presentations of the stories on the other. At the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, individual parishes, independent religious communities, and various national responses have introduced their own Christian themes to the iconographic vocabulary. For instance, the so-called African experience or Asian experience have been given renewed attention through their arts.

Religious art continues to be affected to some extent by political and social forces. Censorship efforts on the part of religious communities have attracted headlines, but these efforts have not been effective in the general public. Pornography has been attacked for religious reasons but remains a major media industry. Antireligious attitudes have caused small episodes of outrage, but in the end the art world has not been seriously affected.

Within the large variety of Christian communities around the world, expanded interest in iconographic imagery has produced a wealth of artistic activity. Nevertheless, the proliferation of art in the Christian church has not become a major factor in the art markets of the world. Leading collectors of Christian art, for instance, have not been identified, and museums do not offer major collections of Christian art unless it has some other value than just being religious.

However, interest in religions, generally, has risen in the twenty-first century for political reasons, and interest in religious art and architecture has increased accordingly. It may be that the academy and the general public will become more interested in the arts of world religions in the near future because religion has become a central theme. Other factors leading toward a larger role for religious art are the expanding place of museums in society and the relaxation of the traditional split, in the United States at least, between church and state.

Another tendency that is emerging in the twenty-first century has to do with the way various distinctive cultures in the world have artists who are reinterpreting the Christian biblical stories in their own cultural vernacular. Earlier efforts that translated the biblical story into the major languages of the world have led artists to apply traditional Christian iconographic themes to a variety of modern cultural settings. Such works of art also remind observers that the same was true when Christian iconography was first invented and emerged within the context of the Roman Empire. Cultural settings have always shaped Christian iconography and will continue to do so.

See Also

Aesthetics, article on Visual Aesthetics; Basilica, Cathedral, and Church; Iconoclasm; Icons; Images, article on Veneration of Images; Monastery.


Bottari, Stefano. Tesori d'arte cristiana. 5 vols. Bologna, Italy, 19561968. Excellent photo-essays on major architectural monuments and their contents from early Christian times to the twentieth century. The principles of selection, however, are not clear, and the views printed are sometimes eccentric. Many color illustrations and ground plans.

Cabrol, Fernand, et al., eds. Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie. 15 vols. Paris, 19091953. Essential material for the history of Christian iconography, architecture, and worship. Illustrations, although small in size and few in number, include good ground plans. A classic research and reference source.

Didron, Adolphe Napoléon. Christian Iconography, or, The History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages (18511886). 2 vols. Translated by Ellen J. Millington. New York, 1965. Organized thematically, with each essay treating historical sources in depth. Limited illustrations but valuable for theories concerning iconography.

Ferguson, George. Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (1954). New York, 1961. Remains the most reliable single-volume handbook on the subject.

Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (1974). Rev. ed. New York, 1979. Includes Christian subject matter.

Kirschbaum, Englebert, and Wolfgang Braunfels, eds. Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie. 8 vols. Rome, 19681976. Vols. 14, Allgemeine Ikonographie, edited by Kirschbaum, present general articles on Christian iconography, alphabetically arranged; vols. 58, Ikonographie der Heiligen, edited by Braunfels, present the legends of the saints and their imagery in a separate alphabetical sequence. Both series of volumes include excellent bibliographies and summaries. Illustrations are relatively few in number and small in size.

Réau, Louis. Iconographie de l'art crétien. 3 vols. in 6. Paris, 19551959. Includes a historical overview (vol. 1), Old and New Testament iconography (vol. 2), and an iconography of the saints with legends and cult status (vol. 3). Very few illus-trations.

Schiller, Gertrud. Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst. 4 vols. in 5. Gütersloh, Germany, 19661976. Offers excellent essay introductions to Christian themes in art and their sources, covering presentations of Christ (vols. 13), the church (vol. 4, pt. 1), and Mary (vol. 4, pt. 2). An exemplary study with many well-selected and clearly printed illustrations. The first two volumes have been translated by Janet Seligman as The Iconography of Christian Art, vol. 1, The Incarnation and Life of Christ (Boston, 1971); and vol. 2, The Passion of Christ (Boston, 1972).

Suger, Abbot. On the Abbey Church of St. Denis and Its Art Treasures. Edited and translated by Erwin Panofsky. 2d ed. Princeton, N.J., 1979.

John W. Cook (1987 and 2005)