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One of the First Representations of Christ is Found in Spain

AFP Jorge Guerrero
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Christ in majesty depicted on a glass paten from the fourth century

Excavations at the archeological site of Cástulo (Jaén), about five kilometers [or roughly three miles] from Linares, have uncovered a paten from the fourth century, bearing the oldest and best conserved images of Christian iconography on the Iberian Peninsula and in the world.

The paten, presented at the Museum of Linares, is made of greenish glass. It is 22 centimeters [8.7 inches] in diameter and approximately four centimeters [1.6 inches] high, and is exceptionally well preserved.

This paten with the image of Christ in Majesty was found inside a building dedicated to religious use, built in the second half of the fourth century and in use for about a hundred years.

David Expósito, who coordinates the studying of materials for the Forvm MMX project, was on the radio program “La Mañana,” [hosted by the (unrelated) radio journalist Ángel] Expósito.  He explains that they are enthusiastic about what the discovery represents, because besides besides the context in which it was found, “in Spain there is nothing like it, and worldwide there are very few that are more or less the same, and they are very fragmentary,” whereas this piece is 81% preserved.

It was found on a floor of lime mortar and covered by fallen mud walls, in a building located on the upper terrace, to the north of a building (also used for religious purposes, although it was for religious rites of Imperial Rome) where the “Cupid Mosaic” was found. The mosaic was recognized by National Geographic as one of the most important discoveries of 2012.

According to David Expósito, the artist created the decoration using sgraffito, showing three people, “clean-shaven and with short hair,” with halos: the central figure is Christ in Majesty, flanked by two Apostles, probably Peter and Paul, in the celestial orb, framed by two palm trees, which in Christian iconography represent, immortality, the afterlife, and heaven, among other things.

The on-going investigations confirm, through analysis of stylistic traits and the technical characteristics of the paten, that originated in one of the most important artisanal glass workshops of Rome or the surrounding area. Similar pieces have been found in the Catacombs.

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