IMC 2023

Conference Date: Jul 03, 2023–Jul 06, 2023 Location: University of Leeds Leeds UK Session Title: Tracing Material Identities in the Eastern Medieval World (Session 115) Session Date: Jul 03, 2023 (11:15 AM - 12:45 PM)


Alexis Gorby (University of Oxford)

Shifting Identities: Late Antique Sarcophagi from Senators to Saints 

Sarcophagi have long been used to trace changes in self-presentation. Much scholarship has focused on the Christianization of fourth-century sarcophagi and the emergence of a new identity for the wealthy elite. However, little attention has been paid to changes in fifth-century sarcophagi. There was a new emphasis on placement in churches and a move away from narrative decoration. Sarcophagi also transition from being for the wealthy elite to being for the clergy and even saints. By examining the location, decoration, and patrons of fifth-century sarcophagi, I will demonstrate how they reflect a new conception of Christian selfhood. 

Rachel Catherine Patt (Princeton University)

Organizer and panelist

Materials Matter: Glimpses of Classical Heritage in Byzantine Luxury Arts

In the thoroughly Christian Byzantine Empire, there exists a curious class of objects with pagan iconography. Luxurious works, primarily silver plate but also ivory caskets and spectacular glass cage-cups, attest to the persistence of Classicizing imagery in an Orthodox world. This paper argues that the combined forces of medium and paideia (elite education rooted in second-century BCE origins) resulted in the permissibility of such imagery, sanctioning morally dubious iconography by transforming it into a statement of status and education. In demonstrating the links between opulent media and pagan themes, I correlate such retrospective imagery with the expression of elite identity. 

Nava Streiter (Bryn Mawr College)

Session moderator

Lora Webb (Koç University)

Beardless Bishops: Reflections on Identity in the Chalice of the Patriarchs

In the 1960s André Grabar proposed that a bishop adorning the tenth- or eleventh-century Chalice of the Patriarchs was depicted without a beard in order to liken him to the eunuch patriarch Theophylact Lekapenos—its possible patron or recipient. Underlying his persuasive reading is an assumption that a beardless saint would best represent or appeal to a eunuch patriarch. With the chalice as a case study, this paper is a meditation on assumptions around identity. It asks how to balance respect for the object as a physical remainder of the past and a portal to understand those who made it.