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Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Early Christian carved stone Sarcophagus (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro) of Roman city prefect Junius Bassus who, according to an inscription on the sarcophagus, was ‘neofitus’ (newly baptized) at his death in 359. It was originally placed near the tomb of St Peter and discovered in 1597.

This double-register, columnar sarcophagus of white marble (2.4×1.4×1.0 m) is carved with ten intercolumnar façade scenes of biblical characters in the ‘fine style’ and five spandrel scenes of biblical characters personified by lambs, with shallowly carved double-register harvest and season scenes on the two ends. The now-fragmented lid contains the remains of a verse inscription and two scenes, the most complete of which represents a funerary meal. Thus the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, one of only two extant double-register columnar Early Christian sarcophagi, presents a distinctive combination of carving styles and both Christian and Roman iconography.

The façade scenes on the upper register (under a level entablature) are: ...

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....