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Thecla the Beast Fighter: A Female Emblem of Deliverance in Early Christian Popular Art

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Chapter Summary

Ever since its appearance in the exhibition "The Age of Spirituality" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1977, the decorated ceramics of Late Antiquity have taken their place within the canon of Early Christian artistic expression. Their figural decoration presents an engaging mixture of biblical, non-biblical Judeo-Christian, secular, and mythic themes. This chapter attempts to clarify a few of these areas of ambiguity, in particular the role played by the story of Saint Thecla, a tale that held a significant place in cult and popular art. In the long tradition of African red slip ware (ARS) pottery, the relief-decorated wares of the later period are the most intriguing for students of early Christianity. The traditions of early Christian art make it even more probable that the female orans is Thecla rather than a martyr of the great age of persecutions.

Keywords: African red slip ware (ARS) pottery; early Christian art; Saint Thecla



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