ORIGIN OF EARLY CHURCH PLATE

The early Christians, remembering their sufferings and persecutions, very naturally went to some extremes in the methods of worship which they tried to make as antagonistic as possible to pagan beliefs, notwithstanding that many Christian rites, feasts, and days of solemn vows were coincident in time of the year with ancient Jewish feasts and with pagan rites celebrated in countries wide apart. The artists who had shaped idols and fashioned silver wreaths for pagan goddesses continued their craft under the patronage of the exponents of the new religion. With the introduction of Christianity there came about a new use for the arts for which Byzantium had become famous. The altar ornaments were rapidly fashioned, and cups, chalices, patens and other vessels which were early included in the Christian worship were made, perhaps, from the very silver which had at an earlier period been shaped in the forms of pagan idols or had enriched the altar of false gods. Mr. Pollen, in his interesting description of the almost barbaric splendour of some of the later Roman Emperors in " Gold and Silversmiths' Work," says that " Theophilus (A.D. 829) rebuilt the great palace of the emperors. The throne was of ` gold set with gems.' " Speaking of the artists of that period he says : " The scroll compositions into which they arranged the bases of candlesticks, the borders, crestings, and reliefs of their reliquaries, and other metal work, abounded in representations of birds, dragons, and monsters, conventionally treated so as to give due effect to the sinuous scrolls and knots in which the rich interlaced ornament was combined." Here then we have indications of the adaptation of Byzantine art to the ornamentation of the Christian church. Very soon after that the church of Christ succeeded in increasing the grandeur of worship and making it more glorious and awe inspiring than that of paganism. This increase of ornament and greater use of jewels went on until the fulness of medieval art completed the beauty of worship in a Gothic temple-a fit casing for the altar of God.