Prayer and Piety: The Orans-Figure in the Christian Catacombs of Rome

Title: Prayer and Piety: The Orans-Figure in the Christian Catacombs of Rome
Authors: Sutherland, Reita J.
Date: 2013
Abstract: The orans, although a gesture with a long ‘pagan’ past, was easily adopted by Christians for its symbolic meanings of prayer and piety and quickly attained a number of other more nuanced meanings as it was refined and reused. By restricting the scope of this thesis to the orans in the Christian catacombs of Rome, it becomes possible to approach the figure from a multi-directional perspective, not merely concerned with what the gesture meant to the Christian, but with its literary and material pedigrees, its transition to Christian art, and its cultural significance. To this end, chapter one examines ‘pagan’ precursors of the Christian orans through an examination of coins, sculptures, inscriptions, and reliefs, as well as by looking at the two figures whose appearance most influences that of the orans – the goddess Pietas, and the Artemisia-Adorans funerary portrait type. Chapter two addresses the importance of the orans in the Christian literary community, and examines not only the actual usage of prayer with raised hands by the Christian faithful, but also examines the aesthetic and theological reasons for the popularity of the gesture – the parallel between the spread arms of the orans and the posture of the crucified Christ. Finally, chapter three presents a spatial-thematic analysis of the usage of the orans in the Roman Christian catacombs, using a corpus of 158 orantes. This chapter enables the reader to draw conclusions about the veracity of the academic theories presented in the previous chapters, as it compares the usage of the orans against its scholarly interpretation.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -