For the past two weeks I’ve been preparing a working draft of the paper that I’ll deliver at the 2012 Institute of European and Mediterranean Archaeology Conference: Approaching Monumentality in the Archaeological Record next week in Buffalo, New York.
My initial plans had been to bring together the growing interest in monumentality among Mediterranean archaeologists (particularly those who study the Bronze and Iron Age) and the study of Early Christian monuments. Then I decided that as the only archaeologist at the conference working specifically on Late Antique and Early Christian monuments, I should be more general. Then I tried to do both, and I am not sure that this paper succeeded at doing either.
The paper argues that the monumental space of the nearly-ubiquitous, basilica style churches in Greece provides a place where the clergy and laity negotiated a new form of Christian authority through ritual and architecture limits on access, patronage practices, and the form and fabric of Early Christian architecture. Rather than being a sign of Christianization or a mark of ecclesiastical authority in the landscape, the church building became a locus for the intersection of competing (and ultimately hybridizing) discourses of power.
I suspect that folks who have read on monumentality in the pre-modern Mediterranean will see the influences of that discourse on my paper. At the same time, I suspect that my observation on Early Christian architecture in general will appear rather uninspiring. Finally, people might notice that this paper could be profitably read with two other papers on Early Christian Greece which share an interest in the process of Christianization, hybridity, ritual, and authority in the architecture (here and here).
As you’ll also notice, the bibliography is not yet attached and some of the citations are incomplete. It is, however, a working paper and largely complete in terms of argument and organization. Feedback is welcome as always: