Sarcophagus Frontal with Scenes from the Lives of St. Peter and Jesus

Early 4th century
Marble sarcophagus, 26 x 84 x 22 13/16 in. (66 x 213.4 x 58 cm)
Metropolitan Museum,  accession number:  1991.366. Gift of Josef and Marsy Mittlemann, 1991

The sarcophagus is in marble and dates from about 312. It is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the left section of the frontal we see Peter's water miracle, his arrest, and part of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. The part above the break line in all three photos is an early-20th century restoration.

The middle section is the most problematic. The restoration above the break line has a small child clinging to its parent, but the child's feet originally belonged to a scene of Christ's cure of the blind man which was omitted from the restoration. The scene on the right in this middle section has the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-13). The two groups of baskets and the position of the feet are like those in the Ezekiel Sarcophagus in the Vatican, where it is clear that Jesus is standing between two disciples and placing his hands on the bread held by the disciple on the right and the fish held by the one on the left. In the period, this was a common way of picturing the event.

On the far right, its most common position, is the scene of the raising of Lazarus. In the original sculpture below the break line we can see Mary kneeling before Jesus as in John 11:32.

On the left end Shadrac, Mishach, and Abednego stand in orant posture, a reference to the prayers they said while in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:26-45 and 51-90 in the Vulgate). Evans (78-79) notes that "Lateran 161," a sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum, has a nearly identical image on the right end. Lateran 161 is also from the early 4th century.

Read more about St. Peter, the Entry into Jerusalem, St. Lazarus, and Miracles of Jesus' Ministry.

Photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.