The Visual Culture of Baptism in the Middle Ages Essays on Medieval Fonts, Settings and Beliefs
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of sources, folkloric tales, baptismal records, liturgical sermons, civic records, literary accounts, hagiographies and historical documents about local families, communities and ecclesiastical developments.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.
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