Evan Freeman Lectures on Visualizations of Byzantine Liturgical Objects in the New Byzantine Series

Author: Brandon Cook

Byzantine imageDetail of the Communion of the Apostles, 1105/6, Church of the Panagia Phorbiotissa, Asinou, Cypress

On Friday, February 17th, the Medieval Institute warmly welcomed guest speaker Evan Freeman, Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art at Yale University and Lecturer in Liturgical Art at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. Freeman led a seminar entitled “Ritual Object, Represented Object: Visualizing Liturgy in the Byzantine Church Program." Based on the most recent chapter of his dissertation, he focused on artistic renderings of portable liturgical objects in manuscript illumination, monumental fresco painting, and ecclesial mosaic work. Freeman's work thus far conscientiously documents the frequent appearances of Christian liturgical objects—Gospel books, thuribles, chalices, patens, ripidia (ceremonial fans), and textiles—in  representations of Old Testament or pre-Christian events, long before any such objects could have been created. For example, the moment in which the Christ child meets the Jewish prophet Simeon in the Temple at Jerusalem (Lk 2:22-35) was at times depicted within a church bedecked with Christian symbols. Freeman's preliminary findings suggest that such anachronistic representations of Christian objects and worship spaces in pre-Christian historical scenes intended both to signal those events as prefigurations of Christian ritual and to mark those events as analogs in harmony with contemporaneous Byzantine liturgical practice. Over a catered lunch, Freeman fielded questions from the seminar participants who included Notre Dame graduate students, fellows, and faculty as well as visiting artists. We look forward to future seminars in this fascinating series.

Evan Freeman is the second speaker in the new Byzantine series at the University of Notre Dame, inaugurated last semester by James Morton. To follow recent scholarship on the Byzantine Empire at the University of Notre Dame as well as events hosted by Notre Dame Byzantinists, please visit the Byzantine Studies website.