Fortress Press

The Art of Empire: Christian Art in Its Imperial Context

The Art of Empire

Christian Art in Its Imperial Context

Lee M. Jefferson (Editor), Robin M. Jensen (Editor)


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In recent years, art historians such as Johannes Deckers (Picturing the Bible, 2009) have argued for a significant transition in fourth- and fifth-century images of Jesus following the conversion of Constantine. Broadly speaking, they perceive the image of a peaceful, benevolent shepherd transformed into a powerful, enthroned Jesus, mimicking and mirroring the dominance and authority of the emperor. The powers of church and state are thus conveniently synthesized in such a potent image. This deeply rooted position assumes that ante-pacem images of Jesus were uniformly humble while post-Constantinian images exuded the grandeur of power and glory.

The Art of Empire contends that the art and imagery of Late Antiquity merits a more nuanced understanding of the context of the imperial period before and after Constantine. The chapters in this collection each treat an aspect of the relationship between early Christian art and the rituals, practices, or imagery of the empire, and offer a new and fresh perspective on the development of Christian art in its imperial background.

  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451487664
  • eBook ISBN 9781506402840
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 368
  • Publication Date October 1, 2015


"This is an exciting and up-to-date collection of cutting-edge essays on early Christian art. Its editors and contributors include many of the most interesting current scholars in the field, crossing the disciplinary boundaries between art history, theology, and religious studies."

Jas’ Elsner | Corpus Christi College, Oxford

"The Art of Empire includes nine studies, each of which deal in their own way with the relationship between imperial iconography and early Christian art. The contributions are the result of dialogue rather than a common view, and they include discussions of ritual, practice and theology that provide a valuable context for early Christian art. Highly recommended!"


Annewies van den Hoek | Harvard Divinity School