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Statuary in Greek and Roman times sought to represent the gods and their actions as larger than life, and as homage and respect to their powers; in fact, to disregard or make fun of the gods was extremely dangerous in terms of retaliation by natural disasters, etc. Christian sculpture of medieval times, while making use of the techniques of the earlier civilizations, had a different purpose in mind—not to glorify the saints (warned against in the Biblical teachings about worshiping false idols), but to tell the stories of Christ’s life in permanent form for the edification of the non-literate faithful of other cultures. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that sculptural forms returned to secular standards (David, for example, or The Pieta). Many of the medieval sculptures were an integral part of the cathedral-building activity of the period; the Stations of the Cross, for example, were often bas-relief carvings rather than paintings.
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