SPACES OF INITIATION. Objects, Images, and Rituals in the Middle Ages



Type Workshop
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Since Late Antiquity, ‘initiation’ has played an important role in the creation of artistic and cultural environments. In Christian context, baptisteries, as well as pre- and post-baptismal zones were lavishly decorated in order to emphasise the role of ‘life changing’ rituals. Significant financial investment shows the importance and value given to these rituals in society. It could even be argued that the artistic and architectural emphasis of the monuments may have played a crucial role in the Christianisation of Europe. Conversion would’ve been facilitated through material culture. In addition to that, it seems clear that it is impossible to distinguish between the different senses and the media involved in these processes. Sound, smell, touch, light and other polysensorial inputs completed the visual and architectural setting. Rituals were the gathering force uniting all these elements. These aspects were finally activated by the movement of bodies of both clerical “professionals” and neophytes. During the Middle Ages, other rituals dealing with inclusion into diverse communities were conceived or transformed. With the spread of child baptism in Christian Europe, society needed other rituals dedicated to adults, such as consecration to monastic life, priesthood, or the bishopric. Once more, they stood in deep dialogue with the world of art. The interaction between visual culture, architectural space and ritual together enabled the process of ‘initiation’. This conference therefore intends to explore precisely these interactions and dialogues, with a special focus on baptism.
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