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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte

Ed. by Bickel, Susanne / Frankfurter, David / Johnston, Sarah Iles / Pironti, Gabriella / Rüpke, Jörg / Scheid, John / Várhelyi, Zsuzsanna

Together with Beard, Mary / Bonnet, Corinne / Borgeaud, Philippe / Henrichs, Albert / Knysh, Alexander / Lissarrague, Francois / Malamoud, Charles / Maul, Stefan / Parker, Robert C. Y. / Shaked, Shaul / Stroumsa, Gedaliahu Guy / Tardieu, Michel / Volokhine, Youri


CiteScore 2018: 0.26

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.132
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.435

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1868-8888
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The Early Modern Invention of Late Antique Rome: How Historiography Helped Create the Crypt of the Popes

Nicola Denzey Lewis
Published Online: 2018-03-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2018-0007

Abstract:

At some point in late antiquity, most scholars believe, Christians reversed the powerful valence of death pollution and considered corpses and bones to be sacred. The rise of the ‘Cult of the Saints’ or ‘cult of relics’ is widely accepted as a curious social phenomenon that characterized late antiquity. This paper argues that although present elsewhere in the late Roman Empire, no such ‘corporeal turn’ happened in Rome. The prevailing assumption that it did – fostered by the apologetic concerns of early modern Catholic historiography – has led us to gloss over important evidence to the contrary, to read our own assumptions into our extant textual, material, and archaeological sources. As a ‘case study’, this paper considers the so-called ‘Crypt of the Popes’ in the catacombs of Callixtus, which is universally presented unproblematically as an authentic burial chamber attesting to an age of persecution and the strength of Catholic apostolic succession. This paper argues, by contrast, that the chamber is not what it seems; it is, rather, a case of early modern historiographical artifice masquerading as late antique Roman Christianity.

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About the article

Published Online: 2018-03-28


Citation Information: Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, Volume 20, Issue 1, Pages 91–109, ISSN (Online) 1868-8888, ISSN (Print) 1436-3038, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2018-0007.

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