Our major project began with a generous 'seeding' grant from the British Academy (BARDA) of 19,000 pounds sterling. As explained elsewhere, that Grant has enabled us to set up an international network of collaborators that includes amongst others Dr Mark Edwards (Oxford), Professor Ulrich Volp (Mainz), Professoressa Emanuella Prinzivalli (La Sapienza and Augustinianum (Rome), Professor Robert Dodaro (Augustinianum and Lateran Univerisity, Rome), Professore Emanuele Castelli (Bari), amongst several others.
Group of Collaborators: Left to right: Ulrich Volp, Allen Brent, Nicola Spanu, and Markus Vinzent
We have therefore established a multidisciplinary team of significant scholars in such fields as art history, history, epigraphy, philosophy and theology, sociology, etc. The concrete matrix for our operation is in the interelationship between the British School at Rome,King's College London, our home base, and with colleagues at the Augustinianum. A concrete expression of that interrelationship is our group of PhD and post-doctoral students, resident at the British School at Rome and attending second semester lectures at the Augustinianum (Lateran University) where Allen Brent (co-investigator) is Professore Invitato. The British School at Rome is not simply our residential base in that capital but an important resource with both its major research library but also its ability to facilitate access to sites and artifacts.
We have established more therefore than a group of mutally admiring scholars: we have established a structure producing collaborative research and supervising and training able young research students. The generous seeding, BARDA grant 'Early 'Christian' Art and Iconography after Dölger' has one more year to run, with published outcomes about to appear in Studia Patristica of which both Markus Vinzent and Allen Brent are co-editors. On the basis of the research structure that we have set up we are seeking five year funding from research bodies in order to give permanence to the creative structure that we have created and to extend and increase its outcomes. Briefly, the following is our mission statement for such a more permanent, future project.
Hellenistic iconography in the late antique, early Christian and early medieval world
Professor Markus Vinzent (PI)
Professor Allen Brent (Co-I)
The project recalibrates our perception of late antique, early Christian, Islamic and early medieval cultures from the perspective of iconography (frescoes, glass, ceramics, epigraphy, mosaics, fabrics, architecture, sculptures, manuscript illustrations) that critically informed the Hellenization of the Roman Empire. A series of monographs with Peeters (Leuven), workshops and research programs (London and Rome) and an internationally touring exhibition will re-shape late antiquity as encompassing distinctive and continuously pervasive cultural strands that by their very nature interacted with each other, mediated by Roman occupiers to Hellenized Jews, Christians and Muslims as their natural environment. Despite ground breaking studies of eminent scholars who reassessed an antagonistic view of pagan, Jewish, Christian and Islamic culture, ‘Hellenization’ is still a catchword for denigrating ‘syncretisms’. Critical for the foundations of European civilisation, late antiquity proved open-ended, inclusive and adaptable so as to re-shape Judaism, and provide the Greco-Roman cultural home for Christianity and later Islam, as it had itself been coloured by earlier religious cultures (Zoroastrian, Egyptian, Roman etc.). These resulting cultures not only interacted symbiotically with, but remain the products of that Hellenistic matrix in which they were formed and which they themselves transformed in a process that continued dynamically.
Instead of applying an anachronistic model, the project builds on a conception of knowledge as constituted by ‘forms of life’ where participation in social discourse enables developments of new meaning (Wittgenstein). Our model integrates earlier and more recent work on social and economic construction of religions (Bastide, Berger, Luckmann, Ekelund, Witham), iconographic structuralism (Hölscher, Brent), and latest findings in Re-Modernity research (Beck, Branzi, Eisenstadt, Vinzent), which both PI and Co-I have already jointly tested.
Our fundamental objective was to create a structure through which we could achieve some creative and original outcomes in studies in interpreting early Christian art.
Such objectives can only be reach through a new understanding of the cultural and historical backcloth of early Christianity and the way in which early Christianity as a historical phenomenon interacted with that backcloth. We needed to create a genuinely collaborative structure which was not simply a group of academic friendly scholars enjoying each other's mutual esteem in a series of unrelated individual pieces of research.