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Imaging divinity: the ‘invisible’ Godhead in early Christian art c.300-c.730

Michael, Georgia (2017)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Representations of the Holy Trinity have increasingly come under scrutiny, exposing two competing paradigms at opposite ends of the theological spectrum: the legitimacy and the illegitimacy of imaging the Triune God with focus on the invisible Father who was imaged as an individual from Late Antiquity and beyond. An overview of these two conflicting views has unveiled a number of inconsistencies in how the Early Christian iconography of God the Father and the Trinity has been interpreted. This thesis provides a unique re-evaluation of the surviving Trinitarian visual material between c.300 to c.730.
Primarily, this study collates pictorial evidence preserved in the mediums of sarcophagi, catacomb frescoes, mosaics, illuminated manuscripts and an icon that depicts Divinity. It proceeds to critique modern misconceptions of the identity, form, meaning, function and reception of the depictions. The thesis traces the visual shift amid overt and covert images of Divinity by decoding important artworks such as the Ashburnham Pentateuch and the Codex Amiatinus; Christians visualised explicitly the ' invisibility' of God but created an unprecedented invention, the depiction of the Father through Christ's image. The innovative depiction heralded future visual formulas of Divinity echoing the complexities of Trinitarian material culture of the Mediterranean world.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Brubaker, Leslie and Burton, Philip
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of History and Cultures, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Additional Information:

Embargo until: 31/12/2020

Please note: Images are not included in the electronic version of this thesis.

Subjects:BR Christianity
BT Doctrinal Theology
DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
ND Painting
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:7318
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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