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For the world's most ancient illuminated Christian manuscript, see: the Garima Gospels (390-660) from Ethiopia's Abba Garima Monastery.
Earliest Prehistoric Religious Art No one knows for sure when man first started creating specifically religious art.
The role of Egyptian artists was to exalt their Pharaoh - a secular King who was worshipped as a divine ruler, supposedly the incarnation of the god Horus.
The main focus of Egyptian art was the pyramid - the tomb of the Pharaoh and his household - which was typically filled with paintings, sculptures and numerous other precious artifacts to help him survive and prosper in the afterlife.
Initially early Christian art - including early Christian sculpture - was actually a type of Christian Roman art, combining Roman imagery with classical Greek motifs: the image of Christ in Majesty derives from both Roman Imperial portraits and depictions of the Greek God Zeus.
Over the coming centuries, Christian iconography was gradually standardised, and harmonized with Biblical texts.
We do know that various types of religious images began to appear during the era of Neolithic art: examples include: the "Enthroned Goddess" terracotta figurine (6,000 BCE) unearthed at Catal Huyuk, in Anatolia, Turkey; and the sandstone therianthropic figure known as the Fish God of Lepenski Vir (dated to 5,000 BCE), found at a Danube settlement in Serbia.
Religious Art of Antiquity (c.3,500 BCE - 400 CE) Egypt was home to a significant amount of religious art.
Interior and exterior artistic decorations for these Christian, Islamic and Buddhist churches typically include a wide range of decorative arts, including: calligraphy, ceramics, crafts, icons, illuminated manuscripts, metalwork, mosaic, stained glass, tapestry and wood-carving.
The function of religious art, directly or indirectly, is to win converts.
Sergius and Bacchus, and the awesome Hagia Sophia (532-37). Sophia in Sofia, Bulgaria (527-65), and the Church of Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki. Indeed, it became a major feature of Russian medieval painting.
For the greatest Russian iconographers, see: Theophanes the Greek (c.1340-1410), founder of the Novgorod school of icon-painting; his young pupil Andrei Rublev (c.1360-1430), famous for his masterpiece, the Holy Trinity Icon (1411-25); and Dionysius (c.1440-1502), noted for his religious icons for the Volokolamsky monastery.
By expounding the message of an ordered Universe under God, Christian art also contributed to the creation and preservation of social order. Thus in their attempts to revive the grandeur, beauty and prestige of Rome with the finest architectural designs, sculpture and frescoes, Pope Julius II (1503-13) and Pope Leo X (1513-21) nearly bankrupted the Church.