University of Notre Dame, Department of History

"FAITH TAKING SHAPE: Early Christianity and the Arts"

Minor Hall /  University of Virginia
April 7, 2011 / 5:15pm

The St. Anselm Institute concluded its 2010-2011 Public Lecture Series on a high note by welcoming back a dear and distinguished friend: Thomas F. X. Noble, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and our former UVA colleague in the Corcoran Department of History. Prof. Noble is a highly regarded historian of the papacy and of all things related to western civilization in the late antiquity and early medieval eras.  He is the prodigious author and editor of numerous scholarly books and more than 40 articles, the well deserved recipient of excellence in teaching awards at both UVA and Notre Dame as well as the recipient of research grants from the NEH and American Philosophical Association. He presently is Chair of Notre Dame's History Department and he also has served as the Director of Notre Dame's widely acclaimed Medieval Institute.  

Prof. Noble's lecture untangled the interesting history of the relationship between Christianity and the visual arts. 

Given Scriptural prohibitions against graven images and likenesses, and the ancient world's support of visual representations, it was by no means clear that early Christianity would embrace the visual arts.  Nevertheless, as he explained, from the fourth through the ninth centuries--precisely the period when the Church Fathers first developed a theological language for talking about God--Christianity developed  visual art in profusion and a vocabulary for talking, criticizing, and defending it, too. The development of this early discourse eventually became normative in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Robert Bellarmine and others, thereby encouraging and sustaining subsequent developments in the visual arts. 

If you missed this final lecture of our year, you can enjoy it here.

The 2010-11 St. Anselm Institute Public Lecture Series is supported by a generous grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute.


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