Possessing Prestige? Religious Attitudes toward Objects
"Baptized as a Roman - The Prestige of Roman Culture in Baptismal Art and Architecture from Late Antique North Africa " by Stefanie Lenk
Late antique Christian art is frequently regarded as a visual language specifically designed to communicate Christian themes. Scholarly research often emphasizes how such imagery operated within a fundamentally Christian interpretive framework. An examination of baptismal art and architecture, especially well-preserved in North Africa, provides a more nuanced perspective. In this paper, I contend that in various fifth and sixth-century Christian communities, traditional Roman culture continued to play a crucial role in shaping Christian identity. Baptism was a central ceremony in establishing this identity; however, some baptisteries reveal that Christian communities also visually and spatially invoked connections to non-Christian Roman traditions. This evidence suggests that these communities were likely encouraged to perceive their Roman and Christian identities as compatible with one another.
Dr. Stefanie Lenk earned her PhD in art history from the University of Oxford in 2019. She went on to hold curatorial and research positions at both the British Museum and the University of Bern before joining the University of Göttingen in 2021 as a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer. In 2020, she was a fellow at the RomanIslam Center. Her forthcoming book Roman Identity and Lived Religion. Baptismal Art in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press) sits at the crossroads of art history, archaeology and the history of religion.
"Avoiding Luxury, Renouncing the State. Piety and Politics in the 3rd/ 9th Century Islam" by Mateusz Wilk
Avoidance of luxury is an important theme of a paradigm of scrupulous piety formulated in the 3rd / 9th century Islam, commonly associated with the concepts of zuhd (“mild asceticism” – I am using a brilliant translation of this term proposed by Nimrod Hurvitz) and waraʿ (“religious scrupulosity”) and present in ḥadīṯ compilations of such authors as ‘Abd Allāh b. al-Mubārak (d. 181/797), ‘Abd al-Malik b. Ḥabīb (d. 238/853) or Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 241/855). I will briefly go through the main topoi of this tradition, but also try to prove that the renunciation of luxury had significant political and apocalyptic undertones, constituting an important element of a peculiar ethics and piety characteristic to many early ḥadīṯ scholars and to this particular period.
Dr. Mateusz Wilk is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Culture and Arts of the University of Warsaw. His research interests revolve principally around the history of Muslim Spain (al-Andalus). He has published extensively on the ideology of power of the Cordoban Umayyads, as well as on the connections between eschatology, piety and politics in classical Islam, especially in the context of the caliphate of Córdoba..