Memorial Plaque of Ursicinus. The Spread of Christianity

Lauda de Ursicinus Pulse para ampliar Lauda de Ursicinus. Sala 23

The Middle Ages. Late Antiquity (4th-5th century)Salto de línea

After the Edict of Milan was decreed in the year 313, Christianity made inroads throughout the Iberian Peninsula, particularly among the powerful landowners in rural areas. The new religion altered funerary rituals, and inhumation became the norm. The mythological or allegorical scenes of the sarcophagi of earlier times were replaced by those representing scenes of the Old and New Testament, with a special predilection for issues related to the resurrection and salvation, such as the resurrection of Lazarus.

There are also known funerary plaques made with polychrome mosaics that served to mark the tombs. This is the case of this funerary plaque found at Alfaro, Logroño, that once covered the tomb of the well-to-do person it depicts, probably a dominus or master of a villa. The inscriptions tell us that his name was URSICINUS, that he died at the age of 47 and that he was survived by an eight-year-old daughter and his wife Meleta, who dedicated this plaque to him.

The composition includes Christian signs, such as the Chi-Rho or anagram of Christ’s name, as well as pagan symbols like the leafy wreath that encircles it, adding a reference to triumph over death and the scallop, symbol of divinity and wealth. This combined use of pagan and Christian symbols shows that Christianity was still in the process of defining its iconographic programme in the mid-fourth century, when this plaque was made.