The Most Popular Christian Paintings


Christian art has been around for almost as long as Christianity itself. Through the ages, Christian painting embraced new developments and artistic movements. It paved the way for the Renaissance and subsequent cultural movements, and has left a legacy of some of the most memorable images in Western and Eastern cultures.

The Sistine Chapel

  • Painted between 1508 and 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (Vatican) is perhaps the most famous Christian work of art. It tells the story of Man's creation, and other stories from the book of Genesis. Immortalised in the movie "The Agony and the Ecstasy", the process of painting involved many of Michelangelo's apprentices. It was painted using the fresco method of applying pigment to wet plaster. The chapel is visited by about four million people every year.

The Last Supper

  • This Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, completed in 1498, is one of the artist's most famous works. It shows Jesus' last meal with his disciples where, according to the Gospel of John, he says that one of them will betray him. According to Dan Brown in his book "The Da Vinci Code", the disciple to Jesus' right is not Saint Peter but Mary Magdalene. Over time, the pigment used by Da Vinci has faded and peeled, leading to extensive restoration work to save the image.

Madonna and Child

  • One of the most popular Christian images among both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians is of the Virgin Mary (Madonna) and child. This example, Conestabile Madonna, was painted by Raphael in Italy between 1502 and 1504. It has hung in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia since 1871. Although painted by a Western, Renaissance artist, many Orthodox images of Mary and Jesus are Byzantine-style icons, highly decorative and inlaid with gold leaf.

The Crucifixion

  • Depictions of the Crucifixion of Christ continue to be among the most popular Christian images, with artists from different movements over the centuries producing their own interpretations. Among the most striking are Gauguin's Yellow Christ, considered a very important Symbolist work. Salvador Dali, the Surrealist artist, also produced striking images of the Crucifixion, including one (Christ of Saint John of the Cross) from a perspective above Jesus' head looking down, which has appeared on everything from posters to ashtrays.

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  • "A Journey Into Christian Art"; Helen de Borchgrave; 2001

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