16 April 2024

Mary Farag, ‘What Made a Church Sacred in Late Antiquity?’

Advanced studies’ seminar on sacred space hosted by Eric Parry Architects, 16 April 2024. With Mary Farag (Princeton University), “What Made a Church Sacred in Late Antiquity? Two Different Views and the Tension between Them”:

00:00:00 Mary Farag
00:34:16 José de Paiva
00:43:08 Christian Frost
00:51:55 José de Paiva

Online talks on sacred space:
Presence, Person, Beauty

This series brings contemporary authors to reflect on some of the most primary questions for theology and philosophy as well as the history of art and architecture. From divine dwelling in the Old Testament to its Christian understanding, the question of divine presence in the visible world has been at the heart of the community of the faithful. From the ancient search for the face of God to the traditional understanding of person, the question of personhood and its myriad implications have challenged our understanding throughout history. They have also guided our understanding of what it means to live together and build our world. And yet, in our contemporary lives, we often seem oblivious to the natural goodness and beauty of the created world in which we dwell and build; even in today’s sacred art and architecture, the word beauty is scarcely, if ever, used. These online seminars on presence, person and the theology of beauty – of the created world, of art and architecture – explore these topics in a way that is by no means exclusive to the sacred, but hopefully provocative in the best sense of the term.

Synopsis: The juristic and liturgical spheres were not separate in late antiquity, and the personnel even overlapped with bishops serving in some juridical capacities and former lawyers becoming bishops. Nevertheless, the two contexts conceived of “the sacred” in ways that produced demonstrable tension, even though the two ideas of ecclesial sacrality were not necessarily mutually exclusive. The dossier pertaining to the trials of one bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, offers an especially detailed view of a conflict over ecclesial property and over perceptions of its sacrality.

Mary K. Farag is a historian of Christianity in late antiquity. Her book, What Makes a Church Sacred? Legal and Ritual Perspectives from Late Antiquity, has just appeared both in a paperback edition and an open access downloadable book. In general, Farag’s research focuses on Christian liturgical practices in late antiquity and their role in the wider Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic worlds. Her geographic specialty of Egypt often leads her abroad to study Coptic and Arabic manuscripts and participate in archaeological projects. Farag is active in educational work in Coptic Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox parishes.