Christ's Entry into Jerusalem [sarcophagus fragment].
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Title:Christ's Entry into Jerusalem [sarcophagus fragment]

The early Christians freely adopted Roman tradition when it came to burial containers. The Romans decorated their large but portable burial boxes, or sarcophagi, with deeply incised relief sculpture. This sarcophagus, now in the Vatican Museum, is an example of the type of early Christian relief sculpture that emphasizes Christ's Entry into Jerusalem; the depiction of the Entry is often accompanied by scenes of Christ's healing of the sick. This illustration shows the central portion of this sarcophagus.

"In the middle comes a double register with two scenes divided by a horizontal bar. Below lies the paralyzed man, whether of Bethesda or Capernaum; above, he bears his bed away on his back at Christ's command, while the bystanders raise their hands in amazement. Then, on the right, Christ is shown, like some victorious emperor, riding in to Jerusalem triumphantly, on the donkey.

The artist has been concerned to bring out as many details of the Biblical narrative as possible in the confined space. One man solemnly raises his hand as if to say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord'; others clasp branches which they have "cut from the trees" while others again "spread their garments in the way". At the end an apostle holds the conqueror's garland in readiness. This type of Bethesda sarcophagus, with its crowded and confused middle section, was quite widely copied and is found as far away as Spain."

[Quoted text from: Early Christian Art and Architecture by Robert Milburn, 1991. pg. 73]

Date:Third-Fourth century
Building:Vatican City. Direzione generale dei musei

Scripture:Matthew 21:1-11, 14-16
Luke 19:28-44
Mark 11:1-11
Lectionary links:CPalm
General Subject:Entry into Jerusalem
ICONCLASS Number:73D14

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Copyright Permission:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to use and to share the file for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license compatible with this one. For uses other than the above, contact the Divinity Library at
Attribution:Christ's Entry into Jerusalem [sarcophagus fragment], from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 23, 2016].
Record Number:46365 Last Updated: 2012-12-17 11:26:40 Record Created: 2006-07-13 00:00:00
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition