Christian Praying Figure
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Arms Raised to Pray 162

Christian Symbols

Ostia MosaicMosaics in the expansive brick buildings in Ostia the harbor city of ancient Rome show the Christianizing process at a reasonably advanced stage in the second and third centuries. In Ostia, which was the seaport for Roman goods, there are ornate tile mosaics detailing Eucharistic loaves, a chalice, and fish motifs. There is moreover, a fascinating complex of three houses on the Caelian Hill one of the seven hills in Rome. The use of opus reticulatum which is a diamond pattern brickwork, together with herringbone tiling in the construction points to the first century as the date of the building of the house.

Ornate Frescoes

Hands of a child and adultThe ornate frescoes found in the Caelian houses in Rome are very similar in design and execution to the style at Pompeii dating to 79 A.D. Before the mid-second century, another house was modified so as to take over the adjoining house. That building contained in its dining area a remarkable mosaic of a Christian praying figure, an "Orante," a loan word from the Latin for "one who is praying or pleading." This figure has its arms outstretched above the head in prayer. Such a figure confirms the Christian ownership of the house but in a very subtle way. These are very similar to those found in the Catacombs which means "among the tombs." In the passageways cut in the rock there are burial places, grave niches and also indications of religious practices mainly by Christian as well as many wall paintings.✞

Pagan Praying Figure

NaplesThe National Museum at Naples has two good examples of praying figures of pagan origin, dating from before A.D. 79, which were found at Pompeii. For all their similarity, there is a striking difference between the pagan praying figure and the Christian one in that the posture of the praying Christians, which was evidently modeled on it is quite different.

Arms Outstretched

Smyrna Praying FigureThe pagan figure keeps the upper arms to the side of the body, while extending the forearms forward in supplication. The Christian praying figure in art regularly stretches out the arms above the head in supplication like Christ with arms outstretched on the Cross.

"Christian Praying Figure"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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