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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines existing examples of baptismal imagery in catacomb paintings from the environs of Rome that date from the third and fourth centuries. The earliest of these frescoes are the oldest extant visual representations of Christian initiation. The discussion attends to their composition and programmatic context, noting questions that emerge regarding style, prototype, or unusual aspects of their presentation. The chapter considers general matters that pertain to the images as a group. Early Christians lived in a cosmopolitan Roman society, to which they belonged, even if they saw themselves as a persecuted minority group within it. Painting styles show the use of common workshops and popular techniques, such as simple borders that framed narrative scenes. Most of these baptism scenes portray a large male standing next to and placing his right hand on the head of a small youth.

Keywords:baptismal; catacomb paintings; early Christians; Rome



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