The provinces of Africa and Hispania (Spain) were the second large geographic areas where the art of the Christian West developed. These two provinces experienced different artistic styles particularly beginning in the fifth century, with more Eastern than Italian influences.
Africa was occupied by the Vandals in 427 AD and it became a Byzantine province from 534 to 647. Therefore, the African provinces were isolated from the Roman influence beginning in the second quarter of the 5th century while maintaining Eastern contacts well until the Arab invasion. From the fourth century, the Christian architecture in Africa was exemplified by basilicas with one to five naves and wooden roofs, always located in Episcopal urban centers that experienced great development. All these Christian churches from the African provinces were decorated with mosaics. In fact, the African schools of mosaic were very prolific during the fourth to sixth centuries. These mosaics were accompanied by the emergence and development of funerary mosaics. The early Christian sculpture from the provinces of Africa experienced a strong Roman influence.
The early Christian art from the provinces of Hispania was not as artistically independent as it happened in the art of the African provinces. During the fourth century, the Hispanic Christian art reflected strong Roman and Mediterranean influences, and it is now mainly known by funerary pieces. The V and VI centuries showed a clear Eastern and African influences. The post-Constantinian mausoleum of Centcelles reflects influences from the style used for the construction of St. Costanza in Rome. This mausoleum is renowned for its remarkable mosaics and painted ornamentation. Buildings like Centcelles, with a main central structure, were typical throughout the fourth century in the Hispania. In time of Constantine, sarcophagi decorated with continuous friezes of clearly Roman manufacture were imported to Spain, among which are the sarcophagus of St. Felix of Girona and the Cordoba sarcophagus whose manufacture was heavily influence by the style of the Dogmatic sarcophagus mentioned in a previous essay. Other examples from Toledo are the Layos sarcophagi. During the second half of the fourth century, the import of Roman sarcophagi decreased.
Beginning in the V century, at the Northeastern Iberian Peninsula arrived architectural styles used in the design of the church of St. Ambrose of Milan, particularly those related to the baptismal architecture, as seen in the churches of Santa María of Terrassa and in the Barcelona Cathedral. Within the Hispanic sculpture ateliers were important those of Bureba, in the province of Burgos, which developed themes of the Christian iconography typical of the art of the African provinces, and that of Tarragona with classic themes exemplified by the so-called sarcophagus of The Prayers.
From the second half of the V century and throughout the VI century, the mosaics were particularly important for the development of the Hispanic early Christian art. Particularly beautiful are the mosaics of the Balearic basilicas from the first half of the sixth century. Funeral mosaics appeared also throughout the Spanish Levant and South of the Peninsula. Noted for its beauty are those mosaics dedicated to Optimus and Ampelius in Tarragona, these mosaics reflect the style of the African mosaics. All these African influences were becoming gradually Hispaniziced which finally lead to the artistic production typical from the times of the Visigoth kingdom during the seventh century.
Traditio Legis: (from Latin, meaning “handing over the law”). A subject of the Christian Iconography repertoire. It represents Christ handing a scroll to St. Peter on his right hand, imitating the gesture often made by Emperors handing an Imperial decree or letter of appointment to an official (like in the ivory consular diptychs or in the Arch of Constantine). This particular scene is known as the Traditio legis Thus, in the Traditio Legis iconographic type, an enthroned Christ hands symbols of authority to Saints Peter and Paul, who stand at his side.