Jesus as the Good Shepherd

Jesus as the Good Shepherd, mid-3rd century. Mural, S. Callisto catacomb, Rome.

Beginning in the second century C.E., vast burial tunnels known as catacombs were carved into the soft volcanic rock surrounding Rome. Roman law outlawed burials within the city limits. The catacombs of San Callisto were built sometime after 150 C.E. and are named after the Christian Pope Callixtus I (papacy ca. 218-223 C.E.) who was martyred for his Christian faith. Christianity was illegal until 313 C.E., when the emperor Constantine signed the Edict of Milan. The image here is from the ceiling of the San Callisto catacombs and depicts a commonly found motif from early Christian art: Jesus as a young man, carrying a lamb over his shoulders—the good shepherd willing to sacrifice all for his sheep. 


Jesus as the Good Shepherd, mid-third century C.E. Mural, Catacombs of San Callisto, Rome.

Underground passages used for burial and religious practice; originally referred specifically to the catacombs beneath Rome.

The office of the Roman Catholic pope or the historical progression of popes.

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