A History of

Early Christian Art

Mary Hinchcliffe Joyce


Ancient World
Christian Era
The Golden Age


Mary Hinchcliffe Joyce, the mother of Mary Patricia Joyce Gill, Frances Joyce Germann and George, Ned, George and Joseph Joyce, published her first book, Pioneer Days in the Wyoming Valley, in 1928. This was the year of the Sesqui-Centennial of The Battle of Wyoming, an American Revolutionary War battle fought on July 3, 1778. This book is believed to be the first children's history book about The Wyoming Valley of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

At the time of her death in 1938 Grandmother Joyce had nearly completed her second book, A History of Early Christian Art. This unfinished manuscript had been in the Gill family for over 50 years and in the early part of this year our sister Anne decided that she, with the help of her brothers and sisters, would publish Grandmother's unfinished book.

It was decided that no changes, other than a few corrected spelling errors, would be made to the text. Any spelling, considered correct fifty years ago but different today, was not changed. For example, Michel Angelo was not changed to Michelangelo.

The first page and the final pages of the book could not be found. We, therefore, wrote the two paragraphs, which precede the Fox Hunt image, but did not write any additional text.

Grandmother Joyce uses the same "story telling" format that she did in the Pioneer Days in the Wyoming Valley. Mrs. Hinchcliffe, Grandmother Joyce's mother, tells history stories to the Joyce children.

The North Main Street Gills
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
December 25, 1996

A Winter Holiday for the Children

In the past Grandmother had told the children "The Story of a Wicked Old Fox" who had been stealing chickens from Father's poultry flock.

And today Grandmother showed the children a picture of a famous painting, called Fox Hunt, by Winslow Homer. She then asked Frances what she thought of the fox.

Fox Hunt, 1893
Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

"Well, I'm sorry he is a bad old fox and I wish he was caught in a trap, but he does make a pretty picture running through the snow", Frances replied. Grandmother agreed with her. "Yes he does make a pretty picture" she said, "and speaking of pictures."

Oh! "speaking of pictures" the children chorused, "you know, grandmother you promised to tell us a story about the great Christian artists and their works." Grandmother smiled indulgently at the expectant faces looking so anxiously into her own and answered "I surely did, and as there is no time like the present, suppose we begin now."

This plan being agreeable to all, the children were soon back in their places at the fireplace, and Grandmother, comfortably seated in her armchair, looked the little group over while she smilingly nodded her head approvingly. "I am glad you are interested in the works of the great masters" she told them, "for the greatest and most beautiful paintings in the world are pictures of stories from the bible, and when you study these paintings you are studying the bible in picture form. For example, suppose we go into the dining room and examine "The Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci. The children, now deeply interested, followed the dear old lady into the dining room where she continues the story.

The Last Supper Restored, 1495
See The Last Supper
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

This picture, she told them, is a copy of one of the world's greatest masterpieces, and is taken from "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew." These are the words "But when it was evening He sat down with His twelve Disciples. And whilst they were eating He said. AMEN, I say to you that one of you is about to betray me. And they being very much troubled, began one to say, "is it I Lord?" But he answering said, "he that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, he shall betray Me." It is this moment Leonardo selects for his picture. You will observe the expressions of horror and surprise on the faces of the apostles as they try to convince Jesus that they will not betray him. All except Judas, who sits with a sullen dark countenance, the bag containing the thirty pieces of silver grasped tightly in his hand. Jesus is in the center of the picture sorrowful and resigned. The apostles, in groups of three from left to right, are Bartholemew, James the Less, and Andrew; Peter, Judas, and John; Thomas, James the Elder and Philip; Matthew, Thaddeus-Jude and Simon.

We are told that it took Leonardo twenty years to finish this picture. It was painted on the wall of the refectory of the monastery of Saint Maria delle Grazie at Milan.

"So you see children", said Grandmother, this painting, one of the world's greatest masterpieces is taken from the bible. That is why I am so happy to find you interested in the works of the great christian artists.

And now we will return to the living room and begin our story."

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