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Traditio Legis

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The Traditio legis (“giving of the law”) is a symbolic motif of theological and political significance frequently found in early Christian art. It refers to the image of *Christ delivering the New Law, ushering in the new Christian era to supplant the laws of the Old Testament. The concept is pictorialized primarily in compositions depicting Christ seated or standing, handing a scroll or book to Saint *Peter, in the presence of Saint *Paul. These two *apostles flank Christ. Additional figures may be present, and the theme may also symbolize the *Mission of the Apostles, as well as the Dominus legem dat Petro (“the Lord gives the law to Peter”). The sources for this image may derive from the giving of the law to *Moses on *Mount Sinai and have also been traced to Roman imperial iconography: images of emperors distributing largesse, receiving bounty, sitting in judgment, or distributing aid, instructions or awards to approaching figures. In early Christian sculpture and mosaics, Christ may also be shown standing on the mountain of paradise, atop a world globe, or treading on an allegorical figure representing the universe.
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