The first Christmas Nativities linked both birth and the death

By Konstantina Karterouli
The Sarcophagus of Marcus Claudianus from San Giacomo in Settimiana, ca. 330MarbleVia della Lungara, Museo Nazionale, Rome
The earliest depictions of the Nativity were very different from our current conception; they typically formed part of a larger cycle narrating the life of Christ carved into the surfaces of Roman sarcophagi, thus bringing the message of death inherent to a sarcophagus in direct relationship to the most important birth in the history of Christianity. The earliest securely dated example of the Nativity scene is from 343 A.D., from a sketch of a now-lost fragment of a sarcophagus from the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter in Rome. [link]


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