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The Design And Decoration Of Early Christian Baptisteries

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Chapter Summary

Early Christian baptisteries were more than simply convenient shelters for liturgical rites. They functioned as symbols in themselves; their shape and decoration reflected and reinforced the theological significance or meaning of the ritual. This chapter considers such symbolic language of space and décor in light of what surviving documents reveal about how the ritual was performed and what participants understood its various components to achieve. It assumes that the architectural designs, shapes of fonts, and interior decoration were not haphazardly or arbitrarily chosen, nor of little consequence to those who built or used those structures. Certain architectural forms became standard because they were well suited, not only to liturgical movements but also to what the rituals meant to their participants. A number of iconographic themes regularly show up in the existing decorative programs of baptismal chambers.

Keywords:architectural design; early Christian baptisteries; iconographic themes; interior decoration; symbolic language



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