Madonna and child between Saints Felix and Adautto and the donor Turtura (detail). Fresco, 6th century. Catacombs of Commodilla, Rome.

Online study days

Early Christian Rome

  • Begins: Wednesday 11 November 2020
    Until: Wednesday 25 November 2020
    (11am-12pm --- NB: Booking closes 48 hours before the start of the event.)
  • Lecturer: John McNeill

Please note that you will need to be familiar with Zoom in order to participate – we do not have the capacity to provide any back-up or advice on the use of Zoom. We recommend that you log on to Zoom 15 minutes before the start time of the event even if you are familiar with the app since the process can take some time if a lot of participants are logging on at the same time. You will receive an email first thing on the day of each lecture with details of how to join the event. If you do not receive it please check your spam/junk mail folder.

Imperial capital until the early fourth century and home to the papacy, Rome was the city where Octavian was proclaimed Augustus and SS Peter and Paul were martyred. This online study event considers how Rome became a Christian city. The very earliest Christian art and architecture emerged, almost imperceptibly, out of the allusive religious art of the eastern Mediterranean. Its forms often amounted to no more than simple signs and inscriptions, and its monuments were almost invisible to view – an ordinary house front, an underground burial chamber. Constantine’s granting of a legal personality to the Church in 313 changed that. Henceforth, a public monumental Christian art and architecture was possible, and was actively embraced as vast ecclesiastical building projects transformed the city. This online study event is arranged as three one-hour lectures, which respectively discuss the emergence of Christian imagery in the catacombs between c.250 and c.400 AD, the development of ecclesiastical building types such as basilicas, baptisteries and martyria, and the birth of Christian narrative art.

Wednesday 11 November 2020, 11am-12pm
The Catacombs: Planning and Painting

Wednesday 18 November 2020, 11am-12pm
Architecture in Rome from Constantine to Pope Honorius I (625-38)

Wednesday 25 November 2020, 11am-12pm
Monumental Imagery: Apse mosaics and the emergence of Narrative Painting c.350-c.650


John McNeill lectures for the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University and is a Vice-President of the London Art History Society for whom he has delivered numerous courses and led study tours and cathedral visits. He is the Secretary of the British Archaeological Association, for whom he has edited and contributed to volumes on English medieval cloisters, chantries and Romanesque material culture.

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