EARLY CHRISTIAN SCULPTOR, Italian
(active around 350 in Rome)

Sarcophagus with scenes from the Passion of Christ

c. 350
Marble
Museo Pio Cristiano, Vatican

This sarcophagus is from the cemetery of Domitilla on the Via Ardeatina. It has twisted columns at intervals on the front panel, holding up the lintels and pediments, from which wreaths hang. The entire decoration in relief is based on the theme of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. At the left there is the Cyrenian carrying the cross, followed by the scene of the crowning with thorns; it can be seen that the crown has become a jewelled diadem, to reinforce the idea that the Passion of the Saviour is shown in reality to be glorious. In the two compartments on the right there is a depiction of the scene of Christ presented to Pilate, who is washing his hands. At the centre of the front panel, finally, there is an image of the Cross surmounted with the monogram of Christ (chi-rho, initials of the Greek Christós), symbol of resurrection (Anástasis), also alluded to by the two stunned soldiers below.