The emergence of a Christian identity in cloth

Authored by: Jennifer L. Ball

The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138857223
eBook ISBN: 9781315718835
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines Christian textiles, made between 200–600, and determined by their use. At first, Christian textiles were everyday textiles marked as Christian because they were used by and for Christians in ritual, in sacred spaces, and on their bodies and in their homes. Beginning around the fourth century, Christians began to specially mark their textiles with Christian iconography, though not exclusively, as many textiles survive with ambiguous iconography or iconography that points to multiple traditions at once. Christian attitudes toward imagery and dress are examined, and it is argued that Christian imagery appears, according to literary sources, first on luxury clothing before it is found in churches. As few textiles survive, written sources are used as primary evidence in the chapter alongside textile fragments, including discussion of the archaeology of textiles and how textiles were produced in the Early Christian period.

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