Living Water

Images, Symbols, and Settings of Early Christian Baptism


This general survey of early Christian baptismal iconography and architecture integrates visual depictions and physical settings of baptism with textual evidence for its practice and purpose. An opening overview of pictorial art (paintings, relief sculpture, mosaics, and ivories) prompts questions about components of the actual ritual which are treated in the literary sources. The study’s second half considers selected baptismal structures, examining the symbolism, purpose, and possible meaning of their spatial design and decorative programs. In most instances the synthesis of documentary and material evidence is enriching and complementary. However, even when physical and textual data diverge, their discontinuity demonstrates the variability of ritual performance and the perennial distinction between ideal and actual practice..

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Biographical Note
Robin M. Jensen, Ph.D (1991), Columbia University is Luce Chancellor's Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt University. Her publications include Understanding Early Christian Art (Routledge, 2000) and Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2005).
Review Quotes
'Robin Jensen is our leading authrority on early Christian art [...] Her [...] splendid book will only enhance her reputation further.[...] The books is full of fascinating insights.'

J.K. Elliott, Novum Testamentum 53 (2011)

' ...successful attempt to combine the study of textual evidence with that of visual art and physical environments connected to the liturgical theology and ritual practice of baptims in the early Church. [...] this book is well-written, and it is based on an updated bibliography in many languages. This makes it a very useful book [...]. Some parts are highly original and present interesting results of an innovative approach.'

Olof Brandt, Theologische Literaturzeitung 138 (2013) 1
Table of contents
Chapter 1: Baptismal Iconography in Catacomb Painting
Chapter 2: Baptismal Iconography on Sarcophagus and Grave Reliefs
Chapter 3: Baptismal Iconography in Ivory, Glass, and Mosaic
Chapter 4: Aspects of Baptism Images in Light of Early Liturgical Documents
Chapter 5: The Design and Decoration of Early Christian Baptismal Spaces
Chapter 6: Symbolism in Baptistery Design and Décor
Readers interested in the context and practice of early Christian baptism or (more generally) in early Christian liturgy, art, and architecture.
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