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Baptismal Iconography In Ivory, Glass, And Mosaic

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines a series of questions that are prompted by the iconography and draws upon documentary evidence to offer perspective. Throughout this discussion, an essential question is whether the imagery is symbolic, illustrative, or illuminative. In other words, whether illustrations of baptism refer to the meaning of the sacrament, depict actual liturgical acts, or illustrate a foundational narrative, or some combination thereof. For example, because the iconography overwhelmingly represents baptism in an outdoor setting, the chapter opens by examining why an original practice of open-air baptism was illustrated well into the fourth and fifth centuries and what the iconography might suggest about the symbolic or conceptual value of showing baptism in a natural setting. The dove's presence in most of the iconography may be coordinated with the emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in baptism, sanctifying and sealing the neophyte following the water bath.

Keywords:baptism; Holy Spirit; liturgical acts



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