Architects of Faith

This section moves beyond the Gospel narrative to the "architecture of faith," both the books of the New Testament and the major figures upon which Christianity rests: the Evangelists, St. Paul, and St. Peter.

Beginning in the tenth century, Byzantines, both officials and private persons, increasingly included their patron saint on one side of their seals. The saints depicted range from the ubiquitous, such as the Virgin, Nicholas or Theodore, to the idiosyncratic, such as Menas Kallikelados. The Evangelists Mark and Luke fall in the latter category, and are very rarely depicted on Byzantine seals. John the Theologian, believed to be both the author of the fourth Gospel as well as the Book of Revelation, appears more frequently, no doubt due in part to the greater frequency with which Byzantines were named John than either Mark or Luke. The Dumbarton Oaks and Fogg Museum of Art collections do not possess a seal depicting St. Matthew, likely for the same reason.

St. Peter is included here as a special case. He is frequently depicted with St. Paul, and his status as the "rock" of the Church, as well as the first bishop of Rome, sets him apart from the other apostles, several of whom (most notably Thomas) also appear on seals.

Whatever the reasons, personal but also socially mediated, for choosing to depict one saint or another, the appearance of the Evangelists as writers, holding their Gospels or seated at a desk (the two specimens to the left), is as rare as the narrative scenes presented in the other section.

 

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Architects of Faith