First Year Seminar: Art of the Catacombs
The tunnels and chambers of the Roman catacombs-underground burial sites for an enormous population of the deceased-were decorated with religious images that include some of the earliest surviving witnesses to the beliefs of emergent Christianity. This seminar uses catacomb imagery as a springboard for considering the development of Christian art within the image-rich visual culture of the late Roman empire. What, we will ask, was appropriated from the arts of competing cults and belief systems, the imperial cult, the mystery religions, Mithraism, and Judaism itself? How was the use of religious imagery defended at all? Themes will include martyrdom, persecutions, and the cult of saints; desert monasticism; the development of monumental church architecture; and the copying and illumination of sacred texts. Students will come to know major works of Mediterranean art produced before c. 600. This is a foundational, skill-providing seminar for anyone interested in research in the humanities.
Estimated cost of materials: less than $50.