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Project Part B

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Dr. Verena Fugger

Dr. Andreas Pülz

The house as place for performance of religion attracted a lot of interest in the last couple of years. While pagan domestic religion was treated by archeological research more intensively with special attention to prominent places like Pompeii (Fig. 1), the aspect of Christian domestic cult, its development and material manifestation has been hitherto neglected. It seems that the question of what followed in the late Roman domestic sphere to the traditional cultic spaces and furnishings when the inhabitants became Christian believers was never asked in that way.

The materialisation of Christianity did not leave any traces before the beginning of the third century. But once the new religion left its immateriality behind, Christian signs started to capture all parts of life and also become visible in the domestic space. Until today, these remains of Christian house cult were not collected for all regions of the late Roman world in a systematically manner. The aim of the archaeological part of this project is to fill this gap. Thereby, the focus is based on two main fields of research: First, architectural remains and second, personal artefacts and relicts testifying Christian practice in households. Beginning in the third century these archaeological witnesses will be investigated up to the late fifth century, focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the Roman east.

Especially recent findings of archeological material discovered in the eastern areas of the Roman Empire (e.g. Ephesos, Sardis, Sagalassos and Hierapolis) open a new horizon for a detailed analysis of different architectural and furnishing forms of domestic cult spaces: There are various kinds of niches in different positions inside the house, but also entire little rooms were used as chapels or cultic spaces as indicated by Christian paintings. In other cases the overall layout of the house has a Christian character, using crosses as decoration of the architectural sculpture. Due to newly excavated domestic contexts in Asia Minor it is now possible to observe the shifting from traditional pagan to Christian household shrines from the second to the fifth century side by side. For example, two of the Ephesian tabernae with wide openings on the so-called "Kuretenstraße" preserve their wall paintings, and two niches show representations of a Latin cross, flanked by birds and a paradisiac garden sphere, one with an Christological inscription as well (Fig. 2, Fig. 3).

The tabernae did not only serve as shops but also, as indicated by the architectural setting with steps and a second level, as little living spaces. The niches can be identified without any doubt as domestic cult niches. A similar painted cross is also conserved in another late antique domestic complex next to the theatre, in a little cultic room that was eventually part of a diakonia (Fig. 4).

The second field of research is focusing on the examination of any kind of personal objects that reflect the private Christian religiosity and that could have been part of a domestic cult (Fig. 5).

In a wider view, it is also interesting to embrace the aspect of personal religiosity through all kinds of ornaments that were worn on the body, e.g. finger and ear rings or pectoral crosses. Moreover, all articles of everyday life (lamps, table ware or combs) with Christian symbols or images shall be considered as well. Regarding character and distribution, it will be interesting to classify these objects and to search for a chronological development of their Christianisation.


Fig. 1      Pompeji, Casa dei Vettii, Lararium Th. Fröhlich, Lararien- und Fassadenbilder in den Vesuvstädten (Mainz 1991), Taf. 7

Fig. 2      Ephesos, Hanghaus 1, Tab III N. Zimmermann, Die spätantike und byzantinische Malerei in Ephesos, in: F. Daim – J. Drauschke (Hrsg.), Byzanz – das Römerreich im Mittelalter, Teil 2,2 Schauplätze (Mainz 2010), 615-662, hier 630 Abb. 12.

Fig. 3      Ephesos, Hanghaus 1, Tab IX V. M. Strocka, Die Wandmalereien der Hanghäuser in Ephesos. Forschungen in Ephesos 8/1 (Wien 1977), Fig. 39.

Fig. 4      Ephesos Diakonie, Insula M01 (Zeichnung D. Boulasikis) D. Boulasikis – T. Taeuber, Die Diakonie in der Insula M01 von Ephesos, in: MiAChA 14 (2008), 53-70, hier Abb. 11.1

Fig. 5      Kreuzanhänger aus Belevi; A. M. Pülz – F. Kat, Byzantinische Kleinfunde aus Ephesos – Ein Materialüberblick in: F. Daim – J. Drauschke (Hrsg.), Byzanz – das Römerreich im Mittelalter, Teil 2,2 Schauplätze (Mainz 2010), 697-711, hier 705 Abb. 15: Ephesos Museum Selçuk (Inv.-Nr. 2/35/92)

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