No overview of the history of sculpture would be complete without touching on religious sculpture. While
many ancient peoples used sculpture in some form as part of their religious beliefs no civilization or religion has
ever matched Christianity for the use of sculpture as religious art and decoration.
When the Roman Empire officially embraced Christianity as the official religion of the empire in the 4th
century the religious leaders had to figure out a way to get the ideas and teachings of the new religion out the
masses. Most people at that time didn’t know how to read, and there weren’t enough trained religious leaders to
teach all of the people the beliefs of the new religion so the religious leaders turned to art.
The commissioned statutes to be made that showed Biblical scenes and illustrated biblical teachings and then had
these statutes displayed in public squares, gardens, and other public places so that people would see them
everywhere. The earliest Christian teachings were illustrated for people by sculptures and the Church kept that
tradition going through the medieval period of European history because there was still almost no literacy among
Another reason for the constant popularity of religious sculpture is that throughout history, with a few
exceptions, it was always safe for artists to create religious art. Very rarely is religious art censored because a
leader that censors religious art or disapproves of religious art that is popular with the people probably won’t
stay in power very long.