1st Edition

The Visual Culture of Baptism in the Middle Ages Essays on Medieval Fonts, Settings and Beliefs

Edited By Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens Copyright 2013
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    Under the guidance of the leading experts on baptismal fonts and the co-directors of the Baptisteria Sacra Index, the world’s only iconographical inventory of baptismal fonts, a research project at the University of Toronto, this collection of essays by a group of European and North American scholars extends the traditional boundaries associated with the study of baptismal fonts. The ’visual’ is privileged, whether it is in the metaphysical, literary or empirical realms of scholarship, offering a rich understanding of the powerful role of baptism played in medieval and renaissance society. In the quest for a holistic understanding of the vessels, the settings and contexts, the rituals and the spiritual significance of the font, itself, the contributors have turned to a range of sources, folkloric tales, baptismal records, liturgical sermons, civic records, literary accounts, hagiographies and historical documents about local families, communities and ecclesiastical developments. Previous scholarship about baptismal fonts has often focused on the purely stylistic, iconographical and liturgical perspectives, using primarily ecclesiastical and liturgical documentation. This collection of essays shows the wealth of new information that baptismal fonts can offer when scholars adopt interdisciplinary approaches and engage in readings that question traditional assumptions inherited in scholarship.

    Contents: Introduction; Nel mio bel San Giovanni, fatti per loco de’ battezzatori: baptismal fonts in Tuscany, Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby; The St John portal and baptistery at St Stephen's cathedral, Sens, Annabelle Martin; Reconsidering the date of the baptismal font in San Isidoro, León, Spain, Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens; The two fonts of the Florence baptistery and the evolution of the baptismal rite in Florence, ca. 1200-1500, Amy R. Bloch; ’The heavens and all the powers therein’: the iconography of the font of All Saints, Gresford in its political context, Madeleine Gray; Festive vessels or everyday fonts? New considerations on the liturgical functions of medieval baptismal fonts in Germany, Silvia Schlegel; Chores, computation, and the Second Coming: calendar images and Romanesque baptismal fonts, Frances Altvater; Baptism and the interaction with supernatural creatures in medieval Europe, Jenni Kuuliala; Select bibliography; Index.


    Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens, University of Toronto and Co-Director, Baptisteria Sacra Index: An Iconographic Index of Baptismal Fonts; Miguel A. Torrens, University of Toronto and Co-Director, Baptisteria Sacra Index: An Iconographic Index of Baptismal Fonts.

    Overall, the essays in this volume will appeal to a very specialized audience: the "fonters." 'Nevertheless, collections such as this one remind scholars that we must think beyond the confines of our field and reach out to other disciplines in order to attempt to construct a more holistic view of the Middle Ages.' Comitatus

    '...a set of highly interesting and well written essays, which make a positive contribution to the literature on baptismal practice and its material evidence.' Speculum

    'The volume is well produced and illustrated, and the consistency of editors' visual/material focus means that the articles hang together to make a coherent whole ... papers like Gray's and Kuuliala's amply demonstrate the potential of fonts to inform much wider questions of medieval cultural and social practice ...' Medieval Archaeology