Dogmatic sarcophagus
The Dogmatic Sarcophagus, also known as the "Trinity Sarcophagus" is an early Christian sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 of about 320–350, now in the Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums , in Viale Vaticano in Rome, inside the Vatican City, are among the greatest museums in the world, since they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and...

 (Vatican 104). It was discovered in the 19th century during rebuilding works at the basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura.

It and the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus
Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus
The Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is a marble Early Christian sarcophagus used for the burial of Junius Bassus, who died in 359. It has been described as "probably the single most famous piece of early Christian relief sculpture." The sarcophagus was originally placed in or under Old St...

 are two of the most important examples of Christian-Roman sculpture of the Constantinian
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 era. It draws its name from its clear references to the dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

s of the Council of Nicea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 (325), in particular to Christ being consubstantial with God the Father, as shown (for example) by the scene of a figure with the appearance of Jesus between Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, though whether the figure is to be understood as Christ or God the Father is less clear – the dogmatic point works either way.

The front face is split into two registers, typical of the style of the time, with Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 subjects and a central shell-shaped clipeus
In the military of classical antiquity, a clipeus was a large shield worn by the Greeks and Romans as a piece of defensive armor, which they carried upon the arm, to secure them from the blows of their enemies...

containing the portraits of the dead couple, embraced and wearing marital clothes typical of the 4th century (tunica manicata, dalmatina and toga contabulata
The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of perhaps 20 ft in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen. After the 2nd century BC, the toga was a garment worn...

by the man, who holds a rotulus in his hand, and tunic and palla
thumb|250px|"Palla eh!" game in [[Vetulonia]], 2001Palla is a traditional Tuscan ball game played in towns between Siena and Grosseto. It is also called palla EH! because players call out eh! before serving.Small hand-made balls contain a lead pellet wrapped in rubber and wool with a leather cover...

 by the woman). The heads are basic types, showing there was either no desire or not enough time to personalize the sarcophagus.

In the upper register are five episodes, two from the book of Genesis and two miracles of Christ:
  • Three similar bearded figures representing the Trinity
    The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

    , the middle enthroned representing God the Father
    God the Father
    God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

    , creating Eve
    Eve is the first woman created by God in the Book of Genesis.Eve may also refer to:-People:*Eve , a common given name and surname*Eve , American recording artist and actress-Places:...

     from the rib of Adam
    Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

    , who lies on the ground.
  • A younger, beardless, figure with the conventional appearance of Christ between Adam and Eve, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • Marriage at Cana
    Marriage at Cana
    In Christianity, the transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John....

  • Multiplication of the loaves
  • Resurrection of Lazarus

In the lower register are six scenes, one linked to Christ's birth, two to the Bible and three to St Peter:
  • Adoration of the Magi, with an enthroned Virgin and Child, and with Magi in oriental dress and Phrygian cap
    Phrygian cap
    The Phrygian cap is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia. In the western provinces of the Roman Empire it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, perhaps through a confusion with the pileus,...

    s, and with Balaam
    Balaam is a diviner in the Torah, his story occurring towards the end of the Book of Numbers. The etymology of his name is uncertain, and discussed below. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor, though Beor is not so clearly identified...

     behind the throne
  • Healing the blind
  • Daniel
    Daniel is the protagonist in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, when Daniel was a young man, he was taken into Babylonian captivity where he was educated in Chaldean thought. However, he never converted to Neo-Babylonian ways...

     in the lions' den
  • Habbakuk with the basket of loaves and the angel
  • Peter
    Saint Peter
    Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

     denying Christ, with the crowing cockerel from the Gospel account
  • Peter's arrest, by two soldiers wearing Pannonia
    Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

    n caps
  • Moses
    Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

     or Peter creating a spring of water in the presence of a centurion
    A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army .Centurion may also refer to:-Military:* Centurion tank, British battle tank* HMS Centurion, name of several ships and a shore base of the British Royal Navy...

     (with the latter wearing typical 4th century military dress)

The sarcophagus can be dated to between 330 and 340 due to the male hairstyles (apart from those of Christ and Peter), the squat square figures and the lack of calligraphic detail. There are echoes of the previous "plebeian" official art, which has led some to suggest that the sarcophagus is from the same workshop that produced and amended the reliefs for the Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312...

, although there are already signs of a desire for classicism that only fully showed itself later (the arch is dated to 350, ten years later than the sarcophagus).


The account in Genesis naturally credits the Creation to the single figure of God, in Christian terms, God the Father. However the first person plural in Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness", and New Testament references to Christ as creator (John 1:3, Colossians 1:15) led Early Christian writers to associate the Creation with the Logos, or pre-existing Christ.

A number of other sarcophagi, most conveniently collected in the same Vatican collection as the Dogmatic Sarcophagus, also show groups of three figures usually interpreted as representing the Trinity in scenes from Genesis. Sometimes one figure is beardless, while the other two are bearded. Given the funerary context, and that adjacent scenes often show New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 miracles, including the Raising of Lazarus
Raising of Lazarus
The Raising of Lazarus or the Resurrection of Lazarus is one of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels in which Jesus brings Lazarus of Bethany back to life four days after his burial....

, the emphasis of these scenes may relate as much to the overcoming of sin and hope of new life as the Fall of Man.

Christ was compared to Adam in Romans 5:14–21, and was sometimes called the "new Adam", especially in connection with baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 (at this period catechumens were apparently naked when this was administered). This may also be referred to in the second scene, or the central figure may represent the Divine Logos, who is also shown with the appearance of Jesus. The scene represents the "division of labours" between Adam and Eve; the central figure holds a sheaf of corn in one hand and a dead hare
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares less than one year old are called leverets. Four species commonly known as types of hare are classified outside of Lepus: the hispid hare , and three species known as red rock hares .Hares are very fast-moving...

 (in another Vatican example a lamb) in the other, although one might expect hunting hares to be Adam's task and agriculture Eve's, rather than the opposite as the sarcophagus seems to suggest.

Adam and Eve also functioned as typological
Typology (theology)
Typology in Christian theology and Biblical exegesis is a doctrine or theory concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments...

 forerunners of Jesus and Mary, and the Tree of Knowledge of the Cross of the Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

. In addition they represented faithfulness in marriage, and scenes of them between the Logos are interpreted by some as representing their marriage ceremony, suitable for the sarcophagus of a married couple.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.