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The birth of Christianity – from a Jewish context, and in the Palestinian borderland between the Roman world and the East – is the great religious and art historical story of Western European culture. That story is almost universally presented as the spread of the religion to the West, above all to Rome: it was in Rome, following its promulgation by Constantine and subsequent Roman emperors, that Christianity came to achieve exclusive hegemony and artistic supremacy in the fourth and fifth centuries. By looking anew at the early history of Christian material culture, this lecture aims to rethink our standard Eurocentric narratives. In particular, it will explore aspects of visual and material culture where Christianity was not dominant within the state – from Sasanian Persia, for example, to Tang-Dynasty China. 

Jaś Elsner is Professor of Late Antique Art at the University of Oxford, Humfrey Payne Senior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Visiting Professor of Art and Religion at the University of Chicago. In 2009 he was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2016 he was appointed FBA and from 2012–2018 he was Principal Investigator in the Empires of Faith Project at the British Museum. 

This event is open to all to attend. Booking for this event is now available, please register your interest to sign up. 

Presented by the Centre for Hellenic Studies and the Department of Classics

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