HistoryMuch of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire is Christian art. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Catholic Church funded and supported production of sacred art. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople, which enjoyed greater stability within the surviving Eastern Empire was key in funding arts there, and glorifying Christianity.
As a stable Western European society emerged during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church led the way in terms of art, using its resources to commission paintings and sculptures. Christian art is found in architecture principally in the form of churches, cathedrals, monasteries and tombs.
The development of Christian art in the Byzantine empire continued the oriental and Hellenistic previously known trends. The controversy over the use of graven images, the interpretaion of the Second Commandment, and the crisis of Iconoclasm led to two main results: It led to a standardization of religious imagery within the Eastern Orthodoxy, and it led to a minimalist aesthetic in the Protestant Church.
As a secular, non-sectarian, universal notion of art arose in 19th century Western Europe, ancient and Medieval Christian art began to be collected for art appreciation rather than worship, while contemporary Christian art was considered marginal to art history.