This book explores the intersection between two key developments of the fourth through seventh centuries CE: the construction of monumental churches and the veneration of saints. While Christian sacred topography is usually interpreted in narrowly religious terms as points of contact with holy places and people, this book considers church buildings as spatial environments in which a range of social 'work' happened. It draws on approaches developed in the fields of anthropology, ritual studies, and social geography to examine, for example, how church buildings facilitated commemoration of the community's dead, establishment of a shared historical past, and communication with the divine. Surveying evidence for the introduction of saints into liturgical performance and the architectural and decorative programs of churches, this analysis explains how saints helped to bolster the boundaries of church space, reinforce local social and religious hierarchies, and negotiate the community's place within larger regional and cosmic networks.
• Presents an interdisciplinary approach to early Christian sacred space • Considers archaeological, epigraphic, art historical, literary, and liturgical evidence • Includes extensive illustrations (map, plans, and photos)
Introduction; 1. Churches before architecture: approaches to sacred space in the early Christian world; 2. Commemorative communities: the dead in early Christian churches; 3. Topographies of honor and piety: praying for the Christian benefactor; 4. At the center of it all? Framing space with saints; 5. What saints do in church, part I: focusing communal prayer; 6. What saints do in church, part II: community connections.
'Yasin has a deft command of too-often forgotten places with their difficult archaeologies, especially those from North Africa. She sensitively draws conclusions from tricky evidence from old excavations or now inaccessible sites, and the book provides excellent plans and photographs of buildings which should now become as familiar as Ravenna and Rome … She avoids simply reinterpreting familiar sites, but carefully sets out the evidence for the sophisticated ways in which late Romans constructed the sacred in church buildings.' Caroline Goodson, Early Medieval Europe