Early Christian Art and Ritual

Authored by: Michael Peppard

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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Most scholarship on early Christian art focuses on the interaction between visual form and biblical text. This chapter expands on that vital center to include the ritual contexts of early Christian imagery, emphasizing specific examples and general types that can be more fully understood by reference to ritual practices. After an introductory summary of how two leading scholars have theorized the ritual contexts of ancient images, the chapter next explores ritual participation in artistic programs, such as baptisteries, processional art, the Dura-Europos house-church, and the catacombs. There are also occasional examples when an artistic program is apparently left incomplete, to be fulfilled by a ritual action or ritual celebration of an imagined action. Finally, the study moves beyond two-dimensional art to consider types of ritual objects from the period, such as eucharistic implements, personal amulets, and the special case of pilgrimage artifacts.

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