So there I was, watching another Waldemar Januszczak Art/History documentary; this one exploring the emerging art around early Christianity. Before there was a single image of Christ, there were symbols. The fish, of course, we know from ancient Rome, when it was illegal to be part of Jesus’ disruptive little one-god cult. Then, after Constantine came the Chi-Rho, a monogram formed from the first two letters of the Greek word for Christos.
It was often supplemented with the Greek letterforms, alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, to signify the beginning and the end of all things. The combination of these four letterforms created the word ARCO which, in the Roman language, translated to “I Rule.” This is powerful logo making; and powerful propaganda on Constantine’s part, who adopted the new religion, and transformed the Roman Empire forever.
Drawing hands is fun.
Anyway, check out the series. As with all WJ’s films, it’s terrifically illuminating (pun intended)— a fascinating exploration of the branding and marketing of an entire religion, using all that had come before, and remaking it to serve new times, new purposes.