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The Honorific Mantle as Furnishing for the Household Memory Theater in Late Antiquity: A Case Study from the Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit

Thelma K. Thomas

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A key premise for the present exploration is that the conception of architecture as a spatial framework for memory could guide late antique viewers’ responses to objects in architectural settings. The objects under discussion are textiles functioning as clothing and furnishings, and wall paintings as architectural decoration in which such textiles are represented. Conjunctions of these different categories of evidence are richest in late antique Egypt, especially in monastic settings. Although my main concern is how viewer response was guided by the representation of the honorific mantle in wall-painting programs of portraits of monastic fathers (apas) and forefathers, the results of my research are applicable to a range of domestic wall-painting programs.

My approach is based, in part, on the trailblazing article by Bettina Bergmann, “The Roman House as Memory Theater.”B. Bergmann, “The Roman House as Memory Theater: The House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii,” ArtB 76, no. 2 (1994): 225–56. She presented the elite Roman’s decorated house as a frame for and an extension of his self, which, especially through ancestor portraits, signaled piety to divine protectors and social and genealogical status to the world. Bergmann considered various aspects of the visual construction of memory for viewers moving through the decorated house, arguing that “memory played a vital role in the creation and reception of Roman pictorial ensembles in domestic situations.”Ibid., 225. As I explore the continued vitality of the household memory theater in painted programs of the sixth and seventh centuries in assembly rooms at the thriving monastery and pilgrimage site of Apa Apollo at Bawit, I consider similarities to the traditional display of ancestor portraits in reception rooms of the governing elite. Although drawing a direct line from the wall decoration of the domus in early imperial Pompeii to that of Apollo’s monastery in sixth-century Egypt is impossible, the lives of late antique Roman elites and Egyptian monks did intersect. Desert Fathers, their monks, and their visitors came from all walks of life and practiced asceticism with varying degrees of rigor. Certainly, an elite background did not preclude a monastic vocation, and some who came from the highest levels of society continued to use their education and social knowledge after renouncing life in the world to take up the monastic life in Egypt.Consider, for example, Jerome, who was educated in Rome, then ensconced in the highest levels of Church and society there. His later travels included study in Alexandria and in the nearby monastic desert of Nitria: see S. Rebenich, Jerome (London, 2002).

From its foundation in the later fourth century, the monastery of Apa Apollo was semi-cenobitic, that is, it was a loosely regulated collection of hermitages under the aegis of Apa Apollo. Apollo, his teaching, and his monastery were well known within Egypt, Palestine, and beyond by the turn of the fifth century, thanks in part to the account of pilgrims from Palestine in the History of the Monks of Egypt. By the sixth century, when the monastery entered its most prosperous phase, with much new building, renovation, decoration, and redecoration, Apollo’s establishment was a double monastery with hundreds of groups, or households, of men and some women. As we know much more about the men of the monastery, I focus on the male viewer. To date, of the small fraction of the monastery that has been excavated, the combined expense of the many wall-painting programs undertaken from the sixth through the seventh century suggests not only an openness to dramatically programmed interiors but also the messages that the programs were intended to communicate.For an overview of textual and archaeological evidence for late antique monasticism across Egypt and for the monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, see E. Wipszycka, Moines et communautés monastiques en Égypte (IVe–VIIIe siècles) (Warsaw, 2009), 143–50. On the architectural setting of the monastery at Bawit as appropriate accommodation for the loose variation on cenobitic monastic life developed by its founder: H. Torp, “Le monastère copte de Baouît: Quelques notes d’introduction,” ActaIRNorv 9 (1981): 1–12, and idem, “The Laura of Apa Apollo at Bawit: Considerations on the Founder’s Monastic Ideals and the South Church,” Arte Medievale, n.s., 5, no. 2 (2006): 9–46. On the wall paintings: J. Clédat, Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît, 2 vols. (Cairo, 1904–16); the more recent publication of previously unpublished documentation, J. Clédat, Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît, ed. D. Bénazeth and M.-H. Rutschowscaya (Cairo, 1999); and J. Maspero, Fouilles exécutées à Baouît, 2 vols. (Cairo, 1931–43. On the apse paintings: A. Iacobini, Visioni dipinte: Immagini della contemplazione negli affreschi di Bāwīt (Rome, 2000). On the History of the Monks of Egypt, see W. Harmless, S.J., Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism (Oxford, 2004), 277–83 and 290–99; and N. Russell, trans., The Lives of the Desert Fathers: The “Historia monachorum in Aegypto” (Kalamazoo, MI, 1981).

Schematic reconstruction of the painted program of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 1. Schematic reconstruction of the painted program of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit. Approximate locations for known programmatic elements using photographs from J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999). Drawing by Allyson McDavid.

In these portrait programs, the figures were identified by their clothing and other attributes as well as by dipinti, that is, painted inscriptions (fig. 1). For the portraits of Antony and Athanasius, I ask how literate monastic viewers would have read the mantles worn by the fathers in the painted programs as representative of the categorical identity of the saint, his authority, and the honor due to him, and how the fictive mantle could have been seen to furnish the space of the room and function as a cue to memory (fig. 2). I also address associations of clothing and other attributes that located the saint in relation to the monastic viewers assembled in these rooms. These aspects of the program underscore how the monastic community adapted traditions of the elite household extending back to the early Roman Empire. Both in early imperial elite society and in the deeply scripturalized monastic communities of late antiquity, clothing had the capacity to carry memory, transfer authority, and even transform the wearer. In short, clothing was a critically important and venerable traditional element for the memory of individual monks and that of the monastic community.

Portrait of Antony, south side of west wall of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 2. Portrait of Antony (and Apa Pamoun of Hnes), south side of west wall of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 162, fig. 37.

Among clothing motifs, I focus on a particular type of mantle, the himation, a large rectangular piece of cloth, typically worn as an outer garment over the tunic from classical antiquity. Similar arguments for the transfer of authority have been made for another kind of mantle, the smaller skin or fleece melote, which is perhaps best known as the miraculous mantle handed down by Elijah to Elisha in the moment before the former’s ascension to heaven, which replaced Elisha’s himation.See 2 Kings 2:8 for the himation of­­ Elisha and 2 Kings 2:13 and following for the melote of Elijah. N. K. Rollason, Gifts of Clothing in Late Antique Literature (Abingdon, 2016), 129–69, addresses these scriptural passages and other late antique texts using the terms melote, pallium, and, to a lesser extent, himation, including the same passages in the Life of Paul and the Life of Antony that I address in this article. The present article builds upon my previous work: T. K. Thomas, “Mimetic Devotion and Dress in Some Monastic Portraits from the Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit,” Coptica 11 (2012): 37–79; “Fashioning Ascetic Leadership: The Enduring Tradition of Mantles of Authority in Portraits of Egyptian Monastic Fathers,” in Egypt and Empire: Religious Identities from Roman to Modern Times, ed. E. O’Connell (in press); and a current book-length project on the figuration of the earliest monks of Egypt through their dress and portraiture, Dressing Souls, Making Monks: Monastic Habits of the Egyptian Desert Fathers. The pictorial motif of the monastic himation, as representative of clothing and furnishings and as a memory prompt, does much the same work as the imaginary objects that furnished the spaces of memory in techniques employed by educated members of late antique society. Indeed, clothing and other textile motifs were presented as mnemonic devices in saints’ lives, sermons, and other teaching texts for a wide range of audiences.

I begin with two rich passages from the fourth-century roots of monastic hagiography to suggest the broader parameters of the subject (as it includes other types of garments) so as to underscore the close links between clothing and memory in the monastic context, and the honorific character of the monastic himation. In Jerome’s Life of Paul, upon the death of the elder hermit, Antony, obeying Paul’s request, dutifully undertook the arduous journey back to his own small monastery to retrieve his pallium (the Latin word for himation)—the type of mantle he wears in the painted portrait—so that it might serve as Paul’s burial shroud: “and then, that the affectionate heir might not be without something belonging to the intestate dead, [Antony] took for himself the tunic which after the manner of wicker-work the saint had woven out of palm-leaves. And so returning to the monastery he unfolded everything in order to his disciples, and on the feast-days of Easter and Pentecost he always wore Paul’s tunic.”Jerome, Vita Pauli 16; see “The Life of Paulus the First Hermit,” trans. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 6, Jerome: Letters and Works, repr. (Peabody, MA, 1994), 302. Antony thereby exchanged his own mantle—which had been given to him by Athanasius—for Paul’s rough, handmade tunic of palm leaves. This scene was Jerome’s rewriting in the later fourth century of a concluding scene in the Life of Antony composed in Greek by Athanasius following Antony’s death in the mid-fourth century. Athanasius recounted how Antony had bequeathed his clothing as his legacy to his spiritual students and heirs: “Distribute my clothing. To Bishop Athanasius give the one sheepskin [melote] and the cloak [himation] on which I lie, which he gave to me new, but I have now worn out. And to Bishop Serapion give the other sheepskin, and you keep the hair garment. . . . And each of those who received the blessed Antony’s sheepskin [melote], and the cloak [himation] worn out by him, keeps it safe like some great treasure. For even seeing these is like beholding Antony, and wearing them is like bearing his admonitions with joy.”Athanasius, The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, trans. R. C. Gregg (New York, 1980), 97–98. I have chosen to use this most literal translation, following David Brakke’s review (in Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 4, no. 2 [2004]: 247–50) of the more recent English translation cited below. Gregg’s translation is based on the Greek text in Migne, PG 26: 837–976. For a recent, much-lauded critical edition of the Greek text and French translation, see Vie d’Antoine, ed. G. J. M. Bartelink (Paris, 1994). Bartelink’s text provided the impetus for new, “more readable” (Brakke, 249) English translations in Athanasius, The Life of Antony, trans. T. Vivian and A. N. Athanassakis (Kalamazoo, MI, 2003). Brakke notes that “the scholar and the student will always want to check the Greek and perhaps also Gregg (still useful and accurate) and Bartelink’s subtle and graceful French” (250). Brakke critiques Vivian’s distinctions between the Coptic and the Greek texts, appealing to the “Letters of Anthony [which], if authentic, render any tidy distinction between Greek and Coptic cultures in late antique Egypt problematic.” (Problematic issues of cultural difference may be reflected in the period of the translation as well.) Also based on the Migne text: Athanasius, Life of Antony, 91–92, trans. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, repr. (Peabody, MA, 1994), 452–53. In these late antique accounts, garments given upon death become focal points for the transmission of spiritual authority.The present reading in no way exhausts the potential meaning of these texts. Rollason, Gifts of Clothing, usefully provides a political reading of the gifting and regifting of Antony’s mantle, grounding her discussion in traditional non-Christian contexts of the gifting of garments; see above, n5. Possible scriptural intertexts include Proverbs 3:35: “The wise will inherit honor.” (The verse continues: “but fools get disgrace.”) In addition, the gift of clothing from the wise elder, regardless of garment type, is framed as an inheritance that functions as a particularly effective souvenir, a mnemonic device for the father’s lessons. Sight of the gifted clothing is equivalent to seeing the teacher, while wearing it prompts an even more intimate and intense transformative experience, sustained by the disciple’s continued reflection upon the life and lessons of his exemplar.Including, it seems, the choices of Paul and Antony to leave behind lives made comfortable by family wealth. Tertullian’s De pallio equates this Christian ascetic renunciation with the rejection of the Roman (“world-ruling”) toga and the adoption of the himation by Christian philosophy: Tertullian, De pallio, trans. V. Hunink (Amsterdam, 2005). In both texts, Antony regifts the himation, whereas in the painted portrait at Bawit he is shown wearing it. Clearly, neither text presented a source for the later painting to illustrate. Instead, these texts reflect for us knowledge shared by literate late antique viewers of the traditional gifting of garments among monks as among their biblical precursors and Roman elites.Rollason, Gifts of Clothing.

The relevance of these passages of late antique monastic hagiography and the later portrait paintings from Apollo’s monastery to early imperial customs may not be immediately evident, in part because modern scholars continue to battle the stereotyping of Coptic monks as poor illiterate peasants that had begun to emerge already in the fourth century. We need look no further than Athanasius’s strategic mischaracterization of Antony as barely lettered and Jerome’s similar mischaracterization of Coptic simplicity in the preface to his translation of the Pachomian rules.See, e.g., E. A. Clark, Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity (Princeton, NJ, 1999), 53–56. The stereotype of Coptic simplicity reached mythic proportions; see J. E. Goehring, “The Dark Side of Landscape: Ideology and Power in the Christian Myth of the Desert,” JMEMS 33, no. 3 (2003): 437–51. The wall paintings at Apollo’s monastery surely did not frame social spaces of poverty and ignorance (nor should these paintings of a sixth- to seventh century semi-cenobitic monastery be held to the saintly standards of the fourth-century founders of anchoritic and cenobitic monasticism). The portrait programs created visually impressive places that did not fit the legendary ascetic discipline of Egyptian monasticism presented in such well-known texts as those of Athanasius and Jerome. Of course, the painted portrayals of fathers in formal tableaux in paradise do not reflect everyday monastic clothing. They may acknowledge softer living among some later monks. In one fifth-century saying, for example, a Roman aristocrat-turned-Desert Father explained to an Egyptian peasant-turned-Desert Father (and to the reading audience) why it was right for him to maintain a relatively luxurious standard of living.Apophthegmata Patrum 10.110, trans. J. Wortley, The Book of Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers; The Systematic Collection (Collegeville, MN, 2012), 170–72.

Moreover, monks represented one of the most literate segments of the population of late antique Egypt. That literacy is typically attributed to the insistence in the Pachomian cenobitic tradition on teaching monks to read. In fact monastic education that was steeped in scripture and theology rather than the classics of Greek and Latin literature of worldly education helped to create and sustain a predominantly scriptural perspective across all monastic practice.E.g., H. Lundhaug, “Memory and Early Monastic Literary Practices: A Cognitive Perspective,” Journal of Cognitive Historiography 1, no. 1 (2014): 98–120. On this scripturalism, see D. Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (New York, 1993). As concerns Apollo’s monastery, Alain Delattre has established the literacy of the monks during the period when the painted programs were made, noting evidence including formal inscriptions in paintings (such as the dipinti accompanying portraits as well as more extensive texts like those on the unrolled scrolls displayed by depicted prophets) and visitors’ prayers later written on the walls (including painted walls) of assembly rooms, cells, and other buildings.A. Delattre, “Intellectual Life in Middle Egypt: The Case of the Monastery of Bawit (Sixth–Eighth Centuries),” in Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt: Al-Minya and Asyut, ed. G. Gabra and H. N. Takla (Cairo, 2015), 15–19. Most of the literary excerpts known from the site were found on walls rather than on papyri or on ostraca.Ibid., 17, notes that among the documentary papyri and ostraca are the references to kathegethai (that is, professors or schoolmasters). School exercises were written on walls at Apollo’s monastery—Room 18 seems to have been used as a school—as they were in nonmonastic schoolrooms, like that of the fourth century CE found recently at Amheida (ancient Trimithis), in the Dakhleh Oasis: R. Cribiore, “Multifunctionality of Spaces in a Late Roman House in Egypt,” in Public and Private in the Roman House and Society, ed. K. Tuori and L. Nissin (Portsmouth, RI, 2015), 149–59, esp. 150–52. Delattre argues as well that a schoolbook attributed to the site even allows the reconstruction of the students’ curriculum at Apa Apollo’s monastery.Delattre, “Intellectual Life,” 18. The schoolbook has been attributed to the site. Written in Coptic, it contains passages from a homily by Basil the Great as well as scriptural quotations and a saying. In consequence, the wall paintings should not be seen as mere picture books for the illiterate; rather, as I show below, they carried on a tradition of books about illustrious men—some with painted portraits—for the literate elite.The wall-painting programs supported an intellectual environment that could be as deeply “textualized” as it was pictorial. I borrow the term from Leslie MacCoull to register similarity to the densely inscribed spaces of the monastery of Epiphanius in western Thebes (founded late sixth century): L. S. B. MacCoull, “Prophethood, Texts, and Artifacts: The Monastery of Epiphanius,” GRBS 39, no. 3 (1998): 316.

Apollo’s monks may well have known the Life of Antony and the Life of Paul. Translations of the Greek Life of Antony into Latin and other languages in the fourth century were joined by a Coptic translation by at least the sixth century, around the time the paintings were made.See above, n7. I do not know whether any of the 165 surviving Greek manuscripts of the Life of Antony were products of late antiquity. Bartelink’s translation relied on fifty manuscripts of which none can be dated earlier than the ninth/tenth century. Bartelink, Vie d’Antoine, 77–108. The earliest surviving Coptic version, from Hamouli, is securely dated to 822–823 (Pierpont Morgan Library, M579, fols. 15v–72r). Bartelink reports that the Syriac translation seems to attest a fourth-century version in “un grec copticisant” (99). Vivian, Life of Antony, xlvii–xlviii, suggests that a Coptic version may be assigned a date as early as the sixth century (see also Brakke, Review, 249), which is the earliest likely date for Antony’s portrait at Bawit and for John of Shmūn’s Encomium based on the Life. Jerome’s popular Life of Paul was also translated into Coptic.On the Coptic and Arabic translations, see W. Lyster, “Introduction: The Monastery of St. Paul the Hermit,” in W. Lyster, ed., The Cave Church of Paul the Hermit at the Monastery of St. Paul, Egypt  (Cairo, 2008), 323n4. For Syriac, Armenian, and Ethiopic translations: A. Bremer-McCollum, “Jerome’s Life of Paul the Hermit in Syriac (and a Colophon on Dayr al-Suryān),” in hmmlorientalia (blog), October 1, 2014, https://hmmlorientalia.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/jeromes-life-of-paul-the-hermit-in-syriac-and-a-colophon-on-dayr-al-suryan/. And, see S. Rebenich, “Inventing an Ascetic Hero: Jerome’s Life of Paul the First Hermit,” in Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings and Legacy, ed. A. Cain and J. Lössl (Farnham, UK, 2009), 13–15 and 26–28. Indeed, to appeal to his intended audience of the classically educated, Jerome wanted Paul, the first monk, to be learned, unlike the scarcely lettered Antony presented by the Life attributed to Athanasius.Ibid., 25–28. S. Rubenson, “Philosophy and Simplicity: The Problem of Classical Education in Early Christian Biography,” in Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, ed. T. Hägg and P. Rousseau (Berkeley, CA, 2000), 110–39, addresses The Life of Antony and The Life of Paul, and other examples of early monastic hagiography. The viewing audiences of the portrait programs at Apollo’s monastery, however, did not need to know these two texts to understand the symbolic import of the transfer of authority by the gifting of a garment. N. K. Rollason has demonstrated that the practice and the rhetoric of gifting clothing were widespread and just as inextricable from the social life of monasticism as from secular society.Rollason, Gifts of Clothing.

Particularly helpful for the monastic context is a 2014 article by Rebecca Krawiec that addresses the conceptually twinned authorial processes of writing and dressing in the production of monastic social memory, processes I see evoked in the Life of Antony and the Life of Paul.R. Krawiec, “‘The Holy Habit and the Teachings of the Elders’: Clothing and Social Memory in Late Antique Monasticism,” in Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity, ed. K. Upson-Saia, C. Daniel-Hughes, and A. J. Batten (Farnham, UK, 2014), 55–73. See also R. Krawiec, “Clothing Makes the Monk: The Rhetoric of Clothing in Late Antique Monasticism,” in Living for Eternity: The White Monastery and Its Neighborhood; Proceedings of a Symposium at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, March 6–9, 2003, ed. P. Sellew (Minneapolis, MN, 2009), http://egypt.umn.edu/abstracts.html (abstract only). For the literate monk at Apollo’s monastery, there were also the paired processes of viewing images while wearing the habit. The monk-viewer’s own habit was a constant reminder of his role as disciple and son to his monastic father, his membership in his father’s monastic community, and his own ongoing ascetic work. Pictorial clothing would have resonated powerfully with a monk’s memory of his own investiture, in which his father gave him his clothing, which he took up as a symbolic promise to submit to his father’s authority and teaching. A monk’s habit also symbolized the transmission of ascetic and spiritual authority and lineage, and had the capacity to convey a father’s teachings. Several examples of painted portraits from the monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit make this clear.

My main example belongs to the painted program of Chapel LVI that surrounded the rectangular space with forefathers and one mother (fig. 1).Following convention, I retain the numbering systems established by the excavations—the Roman numerals of Jean Clédat and the Arabic numerals of Jean Maspero: Clédat, Monastère, and Maspero, Fouilles. On the left, or southern, part of the long western wall was a rare (now lost) late antique portrait of Antony (fig. 2). Exactly like the fathers portrayed with him, Antony stands facing the viewer, holding a jeweled codex in his left hand and making a gesture of blessing or speech with his right. Antony wears a long white tunic that reaches the ground and a large white himation. His age, demeanor, dress, halo, and the jeweled codex all emphasize his affiliation with the cohort of monastic pioneers with whom he is represented.

Two iconographic motifs, the himation and the book, indicate the importance of literacy for understanding the presentation of Antony’s character. The traditional wrapping of the himation around the body to create a sling for the right arm evoked, inter alia, traditional associations of bookishness, a respect for learning, and the ways of life made possible by such learning.M. Bieber, “Roman Men in Greek Himation (Romani Palliati): A Contribution to the History of Copying,” PAPS 103, no. 3 (1959): 374–417. Although Bieber undertook her study as a way of assessing Roman copies of Greek models, she charts uses of the motif in a “continuous history right up into the early Christian era” (377). Essential reading: P. Zanker, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, trans. A. Shapiro (Berkeley, CA, 1995); R. R. R. Smith, “Late Antique Portraits in a Public Context: Honorific Statuary at Aphrodisias in Caria, AD 300–600,” JRS 89 (1999): 155–89; and idem, “Late Roman Philosopher Portraits from Aphrodisias,” JRS 80 (1990): 127–55. The mantle figures Antony as learned, as does the book he holds, whereas his presence among a group of similarly dressed monastic saints holding books identifies him as one of a group of wise men. Although diverging from his characterization in the Life of Antony, this depiction accords with other late antique Egyptian views and resonates with the philosophical aspects of the teachings disseminated through Antony’s letters that Samuel Rubenson has brought to light.S. Rubenson, “Monasticism and the Philosophical Heritage,” in The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, ed. S. F. Johnson (Oxford, 2012), 487–512; idem, “Philosophy and Simplicity”; idem, The Letters of St. Anthony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis, MN, 1995). See also P. Rousseau, “Antony as Teacher in the Greek Life,” in Hägg and Rousseau, Greek Biography, 89–109.

Together, book and himation function as iconographic pendants for the painted portraits of Antony and the company of wise monastic forefathers. The codices also would have evoked the theme of memory, not only because the book was a memory device; as a compositional motif, the book qualifies the father as learned. Because the codices are not labeled—their contents are not identified as biblical, biographical, or any other specific text—their work as an attribute is not specific, restricted, or fixed, but layered and multivalent. The motifs together represent the wise father as “a living library, one who makes a mental chest of memorized texts and materials,” as Mary Carruthers puts it.M. Carruthers, “Mechanisms for the Transmission of Culture: The Role of ‘Place’ in the Arts of Memory,” in Translatio; or, The Transmission of Culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Modes and Messages, ed. L. Hollengreen (Turnhout, 2008), 1. This idea was current in late antique ascetic circles and often articulated in the context of pastoral teachings, as when Jerome advised the correspondent of his sixtieth epistle that “by means of careful reading and daily meditation he should make himself into a library for Christ.”Ibid., 2. Rousseau, “Antony as Teacher,” 91, points to the passage in the Life of Antony: “memory took for him the place of books.” Rubenson, “Philosophy and Simplicity,” 116, addresses the same passage.

The motifs work in tandem in another way to establish common referents for the figure they qualify: the mediating role of books in transmitting knowledge from author to reader is paralleled by that of the himation in the Life of Paul and the Life of Antony and embedded in Christian tradition stretching back to at least the early third century.As known from, e.g., Tertullian’s De pallio, which traces Greek and Roman history through the himation, but sees Christian use of the garment as even more inclusive, and rightly indicative of “a better philosophy” (6.4, trans. Hunink, 63). In this tradition, the himation could have evoked a related Platonic conception of the philosopher as “the privileged imitator of God.”Gerontius, The Life of Melania the Younger, trans. E. A. Clark (New York, 1984), 74, citing C. G. Rutenber, “The Doctrine of the Imitation of God in Plato” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1946), 58–61 and 86 on Plato’s moral philosophy. Indeed, imitation remained the basis of education throughout late antiquity in secular and monastic society; one imitated one’s teachers.Clark, Melania the Younger, 82–83. In this way, the philosopher-teacher who imitated God and, in turn, whose students imitated him, was also “a mediating figure.”Ibid., 75.

Moreover, dressing Antony in a himation—the garment worn by the apostles—was certainly a means of presenting him as apostolic to encourage the emulation of devout monastic viewers.On the clothing of disciples of Christ, see, e.g., Zanker, Mask of Socrates, 315. On emulation in visual devotion, see Thomas, “Mimetic Devotion,” and on this aspect of mimesis as Pauline (and belonging to a Greco-Roman tradition that Paul inherited), see E. A. Castelli, Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power (Louisville, KY, 1991). For Pauline mimesis and John Chrysostom, see M. M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville, KY, 2002). In addition to Mitchell’s discussions of mimesis being transformative when correctly performed, see the richly evocative passages in P. C. Miller, The Corporeal Imagination: Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity (Philadelphia, 2009), 60 and 87. On the philosophical context of Christian mimesis, see B. Stefaniw, “A Disciplined Mind in an Orderly World: Mimesis in Late Antique Ethical Regimes,” in Metapher – Narratio – Mimesis – Doxologie: Begründungsformen frühchristlicher und antiker Ethik, ed. U. Volp, F. W. Horn, and R. Zimmermann (Tübingen, 2016), 235–56. He is also presented as emulating the apostles and as a figure for emulation in the Life attributed to Athanasius.As noted, e.g., by several articles in Hägg and Rousseau, Greek Biography, including A. Cameron, “Form and Meaning: The Vita Constantini and the Vita Antonii,” 81 (emulation), and Rousseau, “Antony as Teacher,” 90 (Antony taking up Christ’s call to the apostles) and 97 (Antony saying that the pagan philosophers should imitate him). In that text and this image, the himation retains positive associations with wisdom, moral authority, pedagogy (even by the barely lettered, as Athanasius had represented Antony in his biography), and learned men of the past.See, e.g., A. P. Urbano, “Sizing Up the Philosopher’s Cloak: Christian Verbal and Visual Representations of the Tribon,” in Upson-Saia, Daniel-Hughes, and Batten, Dressing Judeans, 175–94, esp. 187–88 (“true philosophy” in Chrysostom and Tertullian), 184 (pedagogy and moral authority), and 192 (identification with figures of the past). Aptly put at 193: “The decorative program of the so-called Orthodox, or Neonian, baptistery in Ravenna (dated to the mid fifth century) shows how image-clothing could saturate liturgical space, creating an aura of wisdom and binding the liturgical actors to the sages of the past.” Of course, depicting Antony in the himation in the painted portrait could have elicited memory of the gift from Athanasius as well.

Despite this wealth of associations, the himation is typically omitted from discussions of monastic dress, perhaps because, since Oppenheim’s studies of the early 1930s, research has relied on monastic literature.P. Oppenheim, Das Mönchskleid im christlichen Altertum (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1931) and idem, Symbolik und religiöse Wertung des Mönchskleides im christlichen Altertum (Münster, 1932). More recently, see, e.g., K. Innemée, Ecclesiastical Dress in the Medieval Near East (Leiden, 1992); R.-G. Coquin, “À propos des vêtements de moines égyptiens,” BSAC 31 (1992): 3–23; and R. Krawiec, “‘Garments of Salvation’: Representations of Monastic Clothing in Late Antiquity,” JEChrSt 17, no. 1 (2009): 125–50. Especially relevant for this project is eadem, “‘The Holy Habit.’” Like Oppenheim, many of the scholars analyzing monastic literature on the habit have considered several artistic and archaeological examples of monastic clothing, but they have not assessed the extensive corpus of monastic paintings that includes alternative figurations of monastic fathers to those emphasized in texts.Innemée, Ecclesiastical Dress, is exceptional for sustained attention to pictorial evidence. For an example of this kind of interpretive distance between text and image, see Eunice Dauterman Maguire’s (correct, I think) reading of a textile hanging (Abegg-Stiftung, inv. no. 2439) with the biblical story of the transmission of prophetic authority to Elisha through the melote, in which the melote has been replaced by the schema (a kind of pocketed apron emblematic of the monastic state): E. D. Maguire, “Dressed for Eternity: A Prelude,” in Sellew, Living for Eternity, 43–44; noted in Rollason, Gifts of Clothing, esp. 168n125 and illustrated on the cover of the book and as fig. 4.1. Reading monastic literature on the habit through the lens of portrait paintings suggests a spectrum of dress ranging from ideal, typological representations in which monastic fathers might be shown as, for example, apostles in apostolic garb, to the various habits actually worn in the different households of this semi-cenobitic monastery.Addressed throughout Thomas, “Mimetic Devotion.”

Within the program of Chapel LVI at Bawit, reference to the himation as indicative of especially apostolic character would have been made clear by a pendant composition on the eastern wall (opposite Antony on the western wall) of a group portrait of sixteen identical figures, including twelve named as apostles in their inscriptions and four unnamed saints. Unfortunately, there are no photographs of that composition, which was noted only briefly by the excavators before it was destroyed. Documentation of these rooms is spotty at best and many of the buildings, like Chapel LVI, even lack plans.Fortunately, this situation is changing thanks to ongoing exploration, including the mapping project outlined in T. Herbich and D. Bénazeth, “Le kôm de Baouît: Étapes d’une cartographie,” BIFAO 108 (2008): 165–204. The simple rectangular shape (entrance in the southern wall) of Chapel LVI is indicated on p. 200, in fig. 17, and on maps a and b as near the grand entrance complex containing Room 6.

East wall of Room 20, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 3. East wall of Room 20, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit. J. Maspero, “Fouilles exécutées à Baouît” (Cairo, 1931–43), 2: plate XXXI(A).

Detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 20, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 4. Detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 20, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, showing fathers-as-apostles behind apostles, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 8012. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

The incomplete photographic record and the lack of ground plans are frustrating for considerations of spatial memory. These were, however, typically uncomplicated spaces: rectangular rooms with a central niche or small apse in the eastern wall. Most likely some of the apostles and monks-as-apostles on the eastern wall of Chapel LVI would have been in a niche, as was conventional at the monastery. Compare, for example, a niche composition of apostles with monks-as-apostles (again, as indicated by their dress as well as their grouping with apostles) in the apse of the eastern wall of Room 20, as seen in an excavation photograph (fig. 3), and a detail of the niche now in the Coptic Museum in Cairo (fig. 4), with the better-known apse painting from Room 6, representing monks-as-apostles in a visionary composition with Eucharistic associations (figs. 5a–e).

Apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 5a. Apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 7118. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Angel (left), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6
Fig. 5b. Angel (left), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 7118. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Angel (right), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6
Fig. 5c. Angel (right), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 7118. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Monks-as-apostles (left), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6
Fig. 5d. Monks-as-apostles (left), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 7118. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Monks-as-apostles (right), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6
Fig. 5e. Monks-as-apostles (right), detail of apse painting in east wall of Room 6, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. Coptic Museum, Cairo, inv. 7118. Artwork in the public domain; photograph © Heather Badamo, by permission of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Although these are rhetorical rather than documentary images, they point to continued use of the large himation mantle within late antique monastic visual discourse and in monastic practice.The himation is mentioned in a wide range of texts; see Thomas, “Fashioning Ascetic Leadership” and eadem, “Mimetic Devotion.” Within these rhetorical, conventional images, the mantle establishes an apostolic appearance that is implicated in the theme of memory. The mantle is visible proof of monastic fathers’ attainment of apostolic virtues, that is, a successful imitation of the apostles guided by active, purposeful remembrance. Monastic fathers appear in the likeness of apostles because they have become like the apostles.Mitchell, Heavenly Trumpet, 35–42, traces this as a Pauline theme through a range of monastic and theological literature, but especially through the work and character of John Chrysostom.

In Chapel LVI, some or all of the apostolic monastic fathers may represent Antony’s disciples and successors, although it is difficult to match all of the labeled portraits with historical personages known from texts.As Columba Stewart has noted, “Anthony’s influence on Ammonas, his successor [at his monastery] at Pispir, and Macarius the Great, teacher of Evagrius [at Kellia], placed him at the origins of the most important theological tradition of the Egyptian desert”: C. Stewart, “Anthony of the Desert,” in The Early Christian World, ed. P. F. Esler (London, 2000), 2:1100. This is the sort of “communication across generations” noted by Ann Marie Yasin that “functioned as a powerful means of extending pre-existing notions of corporate identity, intensifying social hierarchies, and connecting local Christian groups to larger earthly and heavenly communities”: A. M. Yasin, Saints and Church Spaces in the Late Antique Mediterranean: Architecture, Cult, and Community (Cambridge, 2009), 5–6. Yasin ends her survey in the seventh century, whereas in Egypt the evidence argues for continued developments through the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries. Regardless of their respective identity, Antony’s portrayal as one of many apostolic figures within a monastic family tree firmly rooted in fourth-century hagiography is clear.A. P. Johnson, “Ancestors as Icons: The Lives of Hebrew Saints in Eusebius’s Praeparatio Evangelica,” GRBS 44 (2004): 251, notes a rivalry between visual (painted and sculpted) and written portraits, leading to a Neoplatonic turn away from “material memorialization” in late antiquity. Brief inscriptions for portraits at the tomb and at home that served to identify the subject of commemoration were further elaborated in more public funeral eulogies and other laudatory texts. Both portraits and speeches “were designed to present the same picture of family prestige” (Flower, Ancestor Masks, 158). That lineage included the Church in the guise of “Apa Athanasius the Archbishop of Rhakote” (Alexandria), standing immediately next to Antony (fig. 6). Placing Antony and Athanasius next to each other would have cued the viewer to consider how they are related in history and in the monastic family tree. Athanasius is the only one wearing a clerical vestment, the mantle known as the phelonion, which had come into common use as a clerical vestment by the mid-sixth century. The garment thus characterizes Athanasius as a bishop, presenting him much as he came to present himself during his episcopacy, as the leader of the Church in Egypt and as a spiritual father of monks.E.g., D. Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Baltimore, 1998), 132. Figuring Athanasius as bishop by his mantle, and specifically as archbishop by his inscribed title, underscores his ecclesiastic, pragmatic authority in contrast to a more specifically monastic character that might have been represented by the gifted sheepskin or regifted himation of the fourth-century texts. That pictorial distinction between the mantles of Athanasius and Antony is consonant with Athanasius’s successful campaign to locate monasticism within the Church.Ibid., e.g., 203, emphasizes Antony’s submission to the Church in Athanasius’s Life. Thus, Athanasius’s phelonion associates his authority with his clerical status, emphasizing institutional hierarchy as well as shared apostolic lineage of Church and monastery.

Portrait of Athanasius, south side of west wall of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit
Fig. 6. Portrait of Athanasius, south side of west wall of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 161, fig. 136.

Although knowledge of the lives of Anthony and Paul may well have nuanced the understanding of the images in this pictorial program so that Antony might be seen to wear the gifted himation, and in this way be more closely affiliated with Athanasius, the portrait compositions and their clothing motifs do not purport to show the fathers at any particular moment of their lives and thus do not illustrate any given episode in these texts (or, I think, any other texts).The pictorial programs of the assembly rooms at Apollo’s monastery address similar themes and employ the same repertoire of motifs, but no two programs are exactly alike. Nor, to my knowledge, does the iconography of the paintings present exact parallels to known hagiographical literature, although painted programs and written hagiography share concerns about the commemoration of exemplary fathers and, of course, the dissemination of their teaching. Nor is Antony depicted as one who had withdrawn from society as in the earlier biographies. The program of the group portrait is quite emphatically not narrative, but rather enumerative in the manner of lists.Miller, Corporeal Imagination, 58.

Portraits of martyrs, north wall of Chapel LVI (opposite entrance)
Fig. 7a. Portraits of martyrs, north wall of Chapel LVI (opposite entrance), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 165, fig. 144.

Portraits of martyrs, north wall of Chapel LVI (opposite entrance)
Fig. 7b. Portraits of martyrs, north wall of Chapel LVI (opposite entrance), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 166, fig. 145.

In these portraits, clothing, and especially the various mantles, functioned to cue memory in several ways. The phelonion, for example, functioned typologically by distinguishing a cleric from an apostolic monk wearing a himation. Another categorical type of monastic precursor in this program is the military martyr. Frequently, as on the northern wall in Chapel LVI, martyrs are included in portraits of high-ranking military saints wearing the chlamys and sagum, cape-like cloaks clasped at the shoulder: the long, status-laden chlamys has a rounded lower edge and the shorter, straight-edged sagum indicates lower rank (figs. 7a–b).At left, “the holy father Sabine martyr of the town” and the holy father Horion, and right, the holy father Abonas and the holy father Askla. A group portrait filling the northern half of the western wall presented two equestrian military martyrs flanking a bejeweled and modestly dressed woman identified as Ama Askla (mother of the nearby martyr of the same name). On the northern wall, another group portrait included nine figures in the scheme of high-ranking military officials in more up-to-date, ornate, multicolored tunics and cloaks, whereas the tenth, the holy father Alli the Martyr of Narmoute (Narmouthis in Greek) is presented in an apostolic scheme. Clédat, Monastère, 159n91, suggests a possible alternate reading of the place as Armant. There may well have been a space in the middle of the composition between two groups of five figures each. As in the many similar programs found in late antique monasteries throughout Egypt, portraits of later generations of monks bring the family tree into the era of the paintings (sixth to seventh century) through a characteristically monastic appearance (figs. 8a–b).I know of no surviving late antique portrait of Pachomius or his immediate successors. Quite likely, the lack of portraits is due to the paucity of archaeological evidence for Pachomian monasteries. Closer comparisons for a characteristically Pachomian cenobitic appearance than that offered by the paintings from semi-cenobitic establishments like that of Apa Apollo at Bawit come from the related cenobitic monastic federation of Apa Shenoute the Archimandrite in the painted gallery of fathers in the northern lobe of the sanctuary at the Red Monastery Church and in the limestone relief found at the White Monastery discovered in the 1980s at the refectory located to the east of the eastern wall of the Ptolemaic temple near the White Monastery. This relief was published most recently in E. S. Bolman, “‘The Possessions of Our Poverty:’ Beauty, Wealth, and Asceticism in the Shenoutean Federation,” in E. S. Bolman, ed., The Red Monastery Church: Beauty and Asceticism in Upper Egypt (New Haven, CT, 2016), 16–25, at 24 and fig. 3.8. The earliest painted portrait of Pachomius known to me belongs to the tenth-century group portrait of Athanasius flanked by Antony and Pachomius at Tebtunis: C. C. Walters, “Christian Paintings from Tebtunis,” JEA 75 (1989): 191–208. In this group from Chapel LVI, each figure makes a gesture of speech and/or blessing with his right hand and carries in his left hand large keys suspended from a cord. The keys indicate positions of responsibility and authority within the community, and may have referred to the location of these figures on the short southern wall, where the sole entrance to the room was located.Each has the characteristic short hair (apparently gray because lighter than their tunics and darker than their mantles), mustache, and beard. Although honored by portraits, they do not have haloes. One of the painted figures is identified as Papa Menas; for the other the inscription was only partially preserved as “Our father of Ne…” (for Sne?, also known as Latopolis in Greek, Esna in Arabic). The surviving inscription for the one shown on the left identifies him as Apa Mena, and both are categorized as later monastics by their clothing, including their dark, ankle-length tunics and brighter, smaller-scale himatia ornamented with crosses. Next to or behind the father on the right is a third portrait of a praying monk drawn by an unskilled hand, apparently a later updating of the program.

Portraits of latter-day monastic fathers, south wall of Chapel LVI
Fig. 8a. Portraits of latter-day monastic fathers, south wall of Chapel LVI (entrance wall), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 165, fig. 143.

Portrait of latter-day monastic father, south wall of Chapel LVI
Fig. 8b. Portrait of latter-day monastic father, south wall of Chapel LVI (entrance wall), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 164, fig. 142.

Thus, forms of mantles had temporal connotations, rendering the figures historically distinctive by differentiating a group in a first-century apostolic scheme from later generations of monastic fathers, the archbishop, and the martyrs. The program in its entirety evokes an eschatological future—a vision of the different generations of forefathers and fathers gathered together as they would be in heaven. Temporal aspects of the painted program would have been enriched yet again by the present tense of the viewers in the room. I suggested in another article that the painted programs are, in a sense, incomplete without monastic viewers and actors in the room: for example, the father who stood on the dais in front of the portrait of Apa Jeremias in Room 20 extended the lineage portrayed in the apse painting down to the present day.Thomas, “Mimetic Devotion,” 60–61. The monastic portrait program might be characterized more appropriately as a protective presence even when the room was empty, but it was more actively engaged during synaxis. The same dynamic would have been at work in Chapel LVI, as in the earlier Roman and late antique domestic reception spaces of which Bergmann wrote: “A living image . . . would have completed the decorative program.”Bergmann, “Roman House,” 255; at 254: “Indeed, the Roman paterfamilias was most likely a focal feature in the visual reception of the house. From the entrance, the visitor would have seen him seated on a dais in the tablinum, back-lit from the peristyle with the lararium prominent behind him, receiving calls from clients. His image would fit neatly into the scheme of seated males in the paintings of the atrium.” In the interrelationship of depicted mantles, conceptions of mantles, and actual mantles worn by the viewing audience of latter-day fathers and monks, this garment can be seen as a critically important iconographic motif, employed to identify types of saints and elicit from monastic viewers a range of responses both social and personal. In addition, the mantles established a formal rather than an intimate setting, one rendered ceremonial by locating figures in presentational stances all around the room.

The depiction of mantles in the extended program also established the setting as commemorative. The categorization and identification of saints in clothing schemes and the dipinti, with their names and titles, echo the synaxaria, that is, the listings of holy persons, including local saints, to be ritually commemorated in the church calendar, through readings of their lives and lessons from their teachings.Yasin, Saints and Church Spaces, 2, notes that often, “the inscription of saints’ names or images on church surfaces do not mark the location of relics but instead testify to votive prayers, donors’ benefactions, or liturgical celebrations.” On later compilations in Egypt, see A. Atiya, “Synaxarion, Copto-Arabic,” in The Coptic Encyclopedia, ed. A. Atiya (New York, 1991), 2171b–90a. For an example of a monastic synaxarion of perhaps the fifth century (specific location of origin unknown), including names similar to the listing in Chapel LVI, see W. E. Crum, “Fragments of a Church Calendar,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 37, no. 1 (1938): 23–32. These rooms, with their list-like, enumerative group portraits, served as places for assembly, often called synagogai in texts of monastic cenobitic and semi-cenobitic life. Some, like Room 6, accommodated visitors to the monastery, while others, like Room 20 and Chapel LVI, accommodated mainly local monks.In some instances, private quarters are located above on a second story. These assembly rooms and other ground-floor rooms do not utilize the color-coding of public and private found in the earlier Roman domus, as represented by the House of the Tragic Poet at Pompeii discussed in Bergmann, “Roman House,” 231. As in Chapel LVI, some portrait compositions, inscriptions, and finds in these chapels indicate that groups of monks shared these rooms for festal celebrations. One inscription from Chapel XXVIII lists amounts of wine by date;Clédat, Monastère, 1:162. other accounts recorded in Chapel XLIII document or estimate wine consumption during feast days.Inscriptions X and XI: Clédat, Monastère, ed. Bénazeth and Rutschowscaya, 67–68. Similar accounting lists may be found painted over or scratched into the walls of painted programs in elite secular houses.V. Scheibelreiter-Gail, “Inscriptions in the Late Antique Private House: Some Thoughts about Their Function and Distribution,” in Patrons and Viewers in Late Antiquity, ed. S. Birk and B. Poulsen (Copenhagen, 2012), 151: lists of expenditures and shopping lists apparently displayed the owners’ “economic affluence.” It is clear that the monastery was prosperous and displayed prosperity through these richly decorated interiors in which subsidiary motifs evoked even greater wealth in the form of silk panels and curtains. Other Roman domestic parallels to practices at Bawit and other monasteries include the presence of graffiti, which could be used as a guest book or as a means for collecting commentary on the household, and a similar use of semifixed furnishings (statues and their bases) along with the naming or commemorating of collegia and ancestors. Some domestic graffiti comment upon ancestors (in portraits) as role models for young aristocrats. The latter topic is developed more fully in several essays in S. Bell and I. L. Hansen, eds., Role Models in the Roman World: Identity and Assimilation (Ann Arbor, 2008). Fragments of amphorae, that is, wine storage jars, were found in a number of rooms. These rooms served multiple purposes, as was common in ancient and late antique architecture: an apparently portable terracotta altar from Room 40 indicates that these rooms could have been equipped for the occasional celebration of the Eucharist.The painted niches bear imagery paralleling that of apses in church sanctuaries: Iacobini, Visioni dipinte and C. Ihm, Die Programme der christlichen Apsismalerei vom vierten Jahrhundert bis zur Mitte des achten Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden, 1960). However, some of the painted niches are surrounded by small openings that, in some instances, as in Room 40, would have provided cupboard-like space for the regular storage of more items than were necessary for that liturgical purpose: Maspero, Fouilles, 2: plate XLVII a (niches) and plate LVI a (altar).

Seated saints and symbolic doorway, watercolor of south wall of Chapel XXVIII (entrance wall)
Fig. 9. Seated saints and symbolic doorway, watercolor of south wall of Chapel XXVIII (entrance wall), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1904), plate IX.

Compositional conventions of the portraits seem to have served multiple purposes as well in assisting commemorative devotion and providing directional instructions. At Bawit, Apollo, the most important local saint as the founder of the monastery, was in several chapels portrayed in a group of three seated on a bench, all clothed in long bright tunics and voluminous himatia. Typically, the group was located on the northern wall facing the entrance.As seen in the large watercolor and blurry photographs of this scene in Chapel XXXV: Clédat, Monastère, 2: plate 14, and Clédat, Monastère, ed. Bénazeth and Rutschowscaya, 31, figs. 28–29. The regular placement of Apollo’s portraits led me to investigate location as another memory prompt. Just as the ancient visitor to the elite Roman domus would have expected to find ancestor portraits near the atrium and visible from the entrance, so, too, the viewing monk could have expected to see fathers and monastic precursors opposite the entrance, welcoming him into the assembly room, visionary images associated with the Eucharist in the eastern niche, and images associated with passage upon exiting the room, as in, for example, the image of the door by the doorway in Chapel XXVIII (fig. 9). Standardized locational programming would have allowed the viewer to draw from prior memories of similar images in the commemorative spaces of other assembly rooms and, in this way, grounded the viewer’s understanding of the distinctiveness of a given program as he moved into, within, and out of the room.On the critical importance of spatial and social contextualization of portraits, see the excellent review article by B. E. Borg, “Recent Approaches to the Study of Roman Portraits,” Perspective 2 (2012): 315–20, https://perspective.revues.org/137.

Portraits of Saints Cosmas and Damian
Fig. 10. Portraits of Saints Cosmas and Damian, watercolor of south side of east wall of Chapel XXVIII (next to apse), Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1904), plate C.

Portraits of Anoup, Brother Lazarus, and Abba John who is our father
Fig. 11. Portraits of Anoup, Brother Lazarus, and “Abba John who is our father,” watercolor of south wall of Chapel XXVIII, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1904), plate CIX.

This kind of program was likely also diagrammatic and directive in facilitating the social organization of the monastic congregation.In this they resonate with later practices developed in monastic tradition in the medieval West. See Carruthers, “Mechanisms,” and eadem, The Craft of Thought: Rhetoric, Meditation, and the Making of Images, 400–1200 (New York, 1998); review by G. Frank in JEChrSt 7, no. 4 (1999): 625–26. Documentary watercolor paintings of Chapel XXVIII, for example, record subsidiary groupings of figures on the eastern wall wearing the phelonion, including figures of bishop-clerics and the physician saints Cosmas and Damian, who could have worn this as a high-status garment in the late third century (fig. 10).Note that Ambrose wears this garment in the early fifth-century (?) mosaic in the Chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro in Milan: see, e.g., G. Mackie, “Symbolism and Purpose in an Early Martyr Chapel: The Case of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro, Milan,” Gesta 34, no. 2 (1995): 91–101. Patterns in dress decoration and coloring denote similarity and difference among these subsidiary groupings. Another group, this one on the southern entrance wall, was also characterized by similar garments, along with other signs of the figures’ professions and authority; the group includes Apa Anoup, the steward; Brother Lazarus, the oil carrier; and Apa John, “who is our father” (fig. 11). On the western wall was a group of scribes following the discipline of silence, who seem to gesture silently, “scribes over here” (fig. 12). In these instances, affinities between depicted clothing and actual monastic clothing as it was worn would have located the audience in relation to the community of the saved. Other features, stances, and gestures may well have signaled proper behavior, including dress behavior, such as exactly how to wear one’s mantle for the ceremonial occasions—that is, how to act in the presence of the portraits.E.g., S. Davis, “Curriculum Vitae et Memoriae: The Life of Saint Onophrius and Local Practices of Monastic Commemoration,” in From Gnostics to Monastics: Studies in Coptic and Early Christianity in Honor of Bentley Layton, ed. D. Brakke, S. J. Davis, and S. Emmel (Leuven, 2017).

Portraits of silent fathers
Fig. 12. Portraits of silent fathers, watercolor of west wall of Chapel XXVIII, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1904), plate CVIII.

Color, in particular, was a traditional strategy for making the imaginary objects placed in the architectural spaces of memory more efficacious.B. Bergmann, “Introduction: The Art of Ancient Spectacle,” in Art of Ancient Spectacle, ed. B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (Washington, DC, 1999), 26: “One common denominator that readily conveys the communicative power of this cognitive process [by which something functions and is recognized as a sign] of spectacle is color. As Christopher Jones says in his essay on the attire worn by participants in processions, ‘colors construct their own coded world.’ . . . Even the audience in the stands presented a polychromatic spectrum of society, in which clothing distinguished social groups, and spectators could instantly see the key persons in the crowd. In the Forum, a candidate needed simply to wear a bleached white toga to advertise himself as standing for election; hence our modern term candidate, derived from the Latin candidus, meaning ‘white, shining, bright, and open.’” The anonymous author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium, a first-century BCE handbook on rhetoric, described it in this way: “We ought, then, to set up images of a kind that can adhere longest in memory. And we shall do so if we establish similitudes as but active [imagines agentes]; if we assign to them exceptional beauty or singular ugliness; if we ornament some of them as with crowns or purple cloaks, so that the similitude may be more distinct to us . . . if we somehow disfigure them, as by introducing one stained with blood or soiled with mud or smeared with red paint, so that its form is more striking, or by assigning certain comic effects to our images, for that, too, will ensure our remembering them more readily” (Ad Herennium 3.22; translation in Bergmann, “Introduction,” 26, from F. A. Yates, The Art of Memory [Chicago, 1966]). Bergmann and other scholars of Roman art have noted the visual adaptation of this strategy in the color-coding of features in earlier domestic painting programs, including clothing and furnishings.E.g., Bergmann, “Introduction,” 26–27: “The ‘double-speak’ of spectacle signs that one finds in parodies also occurred in staged executions, when the condemned wore gold and purple, becoming the protagonists in their own public, fatal drama. Before his crucifixion, Jesus was dressed as a divine ruler in a purple mantle and a ‘radiate crown’ of thorns for the mockery of Roman soldiers. Contrived scenarios like these show the power of the sign to spark the memory and trigger certain associations, recalling the passage just quoted about making imagines agentes memorable. As Romans appropriated and ‘recycled’ the customs and images of those whom they conquered, Christians adopted the signs of pagan spectacles to describe the struggles and achievements of their martyrs. The very signs of humiliation became triumphal.” In several ways, then, the rooms were programmed to guide the viewer as if he were walking though the spaces of memory. Particular ideas were attached to mantles in these spaces, especially authority and its transmission, as well as the transmission of memory and character through the teachings of the fathers and the fathers’ gifting of garments.For a persuasive related consideration of late antique images of pilgrimage art as memory tools, see G. Frank, “Loca Sancta Souvenirs and the Art of Memory,” in Pèlerinages et lieux saints dans l’Antiquité et le Moyen Âge: Mélanges offerts à Pierre Maraval, ed. B. Caseau, J.-C. Cheynet, and V. Déroche (Paris, 2006), 193–201.

Mantles, then, made meaning in a number of ways. They also served multiple practical purposes. Although nowadays, at least in art historical scholarship, we tend to assign entirely different functions to clothing and furnishings, their functions overlapped throughout antiquity and late antiquity, as is seen in hagiographic texts like those quoted at the beginning of this essay, and in particular in legal texts, such in this passage from Justinian’s Digest:Even today, larger scarves and mantles may function within the house as blankets to cover the body and keep it warm, cover the hard surfaces of furniture, as well as other functional, decorative, and social uses. On the myriad functional and social uses of the sari, e.g., see D. Miller, Stuff (Cambridge, 2010), 23–31.

Men’s clothing is that provided for the benefit of the head of the household, such as togas, tunics, cloaks, bedspreads, coverlets and blankets and the like. Children’s garments are clothes used only for this purpose, such as toga praetextae, coats, Greek style cloaks and mantles that we provide for our sons. Women’s clothes are those acquired for the benefit of the matron of the household, which a man cannot easily use without causing censure, such as robes, wraps, undergarments, head coverings, belts, turbans, which have been acquired with a view to covering the head rather than for their decorative effect, coverlets, and mantles. Clothes adapted to the use of either sex are those which a woman shares in common with her husband, for instance, where a mantle or cloak is of the type that a man or his wife may use it without criticism, and other garments of this nature. Slaves’ clothing is that acquired for dressing the household, such as blankets, mantles, bed linen, and the like.Digesta XXXIV.2.23.2: The Digest of Justinian, ed. T. Mommsen, P. Krueger, and A. Watson (Philadelphia, 1985). In this legislation, clothing is understood to encompass the furnishings of the household, membership of which included not only family members related by blood, marriage, and adoption, but also servants and slaves, who constituted a category of household property. K. Harper, Slavery in the Late Roman Mediterranean, AD 275–425 (New York, 2011), 513–18; T. Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery (Baltimore, 1981), 13–30 (texts addressing the slave as property) and 1–12 (introductory commentary). On implications for the Roman household and gender relations, perhaps important for later monastic houses, see R. Saller, “Slavery and the Roman Family,” Slavery and Abolition 8, no. 1 (1987): 65–87.

Whether designated as clothing or furnishings, or both, textiles were valuable household assets, representative of both the character and the economy of the household.See E. Wipszycka, “Resources and Economic Activities of the Egyptian Monastic Communities (4th–8th Century),” Journal of Juristic Papyrology 41 (2011): 245 (discussing the monk Frange exchanging funerary clothing for a valuable object). The monastic economy, including the production and acquisition of textiles, was modeled on the household economy, an important point for understanding the social and cultural context of textile imagery in these monastic painted programs.Differences between monastic and lay household economies may have reflected great theological differences as the monastery came to be linked to heavenly Jerusalem as “complement and counterpart,” “microcosm” and “macrocosm,” much as the portrait programs represent local saints in universal, or cosmic, settings. For emphasis on the local as part of the monastic reformulation of heavenly Jerusalem, see K. B. Copeland, “The Earthly Monastery and the Transformation of the Heavenly City in Late Antique Egypt,” in Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions, ed. R. S. Boustan and A. Y. Reed (New York, 2004), 142–58. Within the secular sphere, slaves’ clothing provided by their owners remained the owners’ property, and that clothing would have reflected both the owner’s status and the slave’s status in the household: see above, n67. On the monastic economy as domestic economy, see M. C. Giorda, “Oikonomia domestica e oikonomia monastica: Scambio di ‘buone pratiche’ tra due tipologie di famiglie in Egitto (IV–VII secolo),” Rivista di storia del Cristianesimo 8, no. 2 (2011): 329–56. See also Wipszycka, “Resources,” 172–78 (on Theban and other loom pits, and on the weaving of shrouds and burial tapes in western Theban monasteries). Krawiec discusses the monastic household in Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford, 2002), esp. 150–54 on the production of clothing.

A household’s character was on display both inside the home and outside in public. As Ramsay MacMullen pointed out long ago, the livery of a household processing through city streets on the way to the baths, dinner, or a state occasion could make a spectacular impression.Clothing within households of means and power could announce household identity through livery: R. MacMullen, “Some Pictures in Ammianus Marcellinus,” ArtB 46 (1964): 435–56. For textile furnishings representing other aspects of household identity, see T. K. Thomas, “Material Meaning in Late Antiquity,” in Designing Identity: The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity, ed. T. K. Thomas (Princeton, NJ, 2016), 20–53. Deliberate self-conscious display of status and character in public, imperial, and ecclesiastical settings only grew more remarkable over the centuries of late antiquity. Monastic dress, as it developed within the dynamic late antique vestimentary system, provided equally impressive displays of household and lineage in semi-cenobitic practice, as at the monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, and more so in fully cenobitic practice. Texts present additional evidence of costume and choreography shaping dramatic corporate monastic appearance. The History of the Monks of Egypt, for instance, describes how Apa Apollo’s monks sang hymns while dressed in white garments in imitation of heavenly choirs.N. Russell, trans., The Lives of the Fathers: The “Historia Monachorum in Aegypto” (Kalamazoo, MI, 1981), 8.18–19; see also the similar image of Apa Or’s monks, 2.12.

Acknowledgment of the performative, instrumental, and transformational symbolism of dress permeated the monk’s experience, beginning with the vesting that signaled the ongoing transformation of the man into a monk by giving him the outward form his spiritual father wanted him to have. In the adoption of his new schema, his habit, the monk displayed his membership in his new family and household. Across most of the spectrum of monastic practice, proper dress behavior was reinforced by the watchfulness of the new monk, of his elder brothers, and of spiritual fathers, and his continued imitation of those more knowledgeable and practiced than he.In the two best-known cenobitic traditions of late antique Egypt, Pachomian and Shenoutean cenobitism, the monastery’s rules required renunciation of all clothing owned personally by the monk: B. Layton, “The Monastic Rules of Shenoute,” in Monastic Estates in Late Antique and Early Islamic Egypt: Ostraca, Papyri, and Essays in Memory of Sarah Clackson, ed. A. Boud’hors et al. (Cincinnati, OH, 2009), 170–77; idem, “Rules, Patterns and the Exercise of Power in Shenoute’s Monastery: The Problem of World Replacement and Identity Maintenance,” JEChrSt 15 (2007): 45–73; and, most recently, idem, The Canons of Our Fathers: Monastic Rules of Shenoute (Oxford, 2014).

Furnishings, like garments, also visibly shaped monastic life. The Life of Antony presents precious little in the cell of the ascetic hero in his monastery at Pispir: a tunic, a goatskin hair shirt, a floor mat he sometimes slept on, and the himation given to him by Athanasius that served as a cover throughout his life and that he lay on as he died.Stewart, “Anthony,” at 2:1096: “He wore a goatskin garment with the hair turned inside, and slept on a mat or sometimes on the bare ground using a cloak given him by Athanasius (Life 4.1; 7.6; 47.2; 91.8–9).” On the superior quality of mats produced in the monasteries of the Wādi al-Naṭrūn, see Wipszycka, “Resources,” 229–30 and n141, and 234–35 on monastic productions of baskets, mats, and other small-scale items as countergifts for monetary donations. His possessions would have included as well the sheepskins he was to bequeath to Athanasius and Serapion, which were known to have served as both mantles and furnishings in monastic practice.On the single garment as symbolic of deliberately assumed social marginality and ascetic renunciation, see J. N. Bremmer, “Symbols of Marginality from Early Pythagoreans to Late Antique Monks,” Greece and Rome 39, no. 2 (1992): 206–7. Connections between clothing and furnishing in the monastic setting may be found as well in multipurpose mantles, especially the sheepskin of prophets and the himation/pallium of philosophers, apostles, Antony, and other ascetics. In the Life of Antony, his characteristic appearance was clothed, unlike some other famous, heroic hermits who went about clad only in rags, their own hair, or leaves. His painted portrait does not necessarily represent him as less ascetic, but does place the image of his resurrected body among the company of others in formal dress. Indeed, the mantles of military martyrs with the allover repeating patterns characteristic of silk may function similarly to depicted curtains in denoting ritual space (figs. 13–14).

Martyr wearing patterned cloak
Fig. 13. Martyr wearing patterned cloak, north wall of Chapel LVI, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 166, fig. 145.

Detail of painted textile hanging, east wall of Chapel XLII
Fig. 14. Detail of painted textile hanging, east wall of Chapel XLII, Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit, 6th–7th century, wall painting. J. Clédat, “Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît” (Cairo, 1999), 51, fig. 47.

Importantly, the large himatia of the monastic fathers could well have carried funereal associations. Large mantles, such as the Greco-Roman himation and the Roman toga, were traditionally reused as shrouds.The toga may have alluded to the entire life cycle. L. Coon, Sacred Fictions: Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Philadelphia, 1997), 57, notes that in ancient Roman tradition, the toga was used as “swaddling cloth, blanket, and shroud.” Certainly, different forms of the toga were ceremonially assumed and worn during different phases of life. Interestingly, with respect to the subject of this essay, the toga had originated as an all-purpose garment. For a brief overview, see L. Cleland, G. Davis, and L. Llewellyn-Jones, Greek and Roman Dress from A to Z (London, 2008), 190. Burial was included among these ceremonial occasions: J. M. C. Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (Baltimore, 1996), 44 and 46, describes the dressing of the body of the dead male citizen in a toga. The review by J. L. Rife in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/1997/97.06.10.html, emphasizes (as Toynbee did not) traditions in the Greek East, the importance of social status in the funerary context, and Christian continuities and differences. Egypt, of course, belonged in this eastern Roman world. For thoroughgoing discussion of the representation of the himation in Greco-Roman Egyptian funerary portraiture, see C. Riggs, The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion (Oxford, 2005). For a comparison in Roman Jewish culture: J. Hastings, ed., Dictionary of the Bible (New York, 1909), 1:197–98, describing the Jewish sādīn as “a product of the domestic loom. From the mishna we learn that it was a plain sheet of fine linen with tassels, which could be used as a light upper garment, as a curtain, and as a shroud.” An essential part of presentation before burial was to lay out officials in mantles representative of the highest honors they had achieved in life as well as other items symbolic of special character. Even palliati, statues of figures wearing the himation, were reused in the military cemetery at Alexandria, as were chlamydati and togati statues.See, for example, the entries in the Last Statues of Antiquity database, Oxford University, http://laststatues.classics.ox.ac.uk: LSA 1560, a male himation statue with the portrait head of a girl, fourth century, Egyptian Museum, inv. no. 27478; and LSA 2101, a himation statue with the recarved head of a young man, third to fourth century, Graeco-Roman Museum, inv. no. 24006. These practices provide further indications that the representation of the himation in monastic commemorative portraits should be seen as acknowledging the honor attained by the deceased.Late antique practice followed more ancient traditions in the reuse of garments and furnishings as shrouds, differentiated in part by the greater number of layers of cloth, and the high monetary value they represented. That value underlies one of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, “The Story of the Three Blind Men and How They Became Blind,” in which the third blind man told of following the funeral of a “richly decked out corpse” so he could steal the clothing. Going back to steal the shroud too, he had his eyes clawed out by the dead man: J. Moschus, The Spiritual Meadow, trans. J. Wortley (Kalamazoo, MI, 1992), 59–60, no. 77. Production within the monastery would have mitigated a considerable “household” expense: see S. E. Bond, “Mortuary Workers, the Church, and the Funeral Trade in Late Antiquity,” JLA 6, no. 1 (2013): 135–51. Bond notes the organization of funeral workers into associations overseen by bishops in Eastern Mediterranean regions and the commercial opportunity in providing “funerary equipment such as shrouds and biers” (144). In Egypt, the parabolani carried out a wider range of tasks, including care of the sick and dying (136, 140–43). Moreover, special garments associated with transformative rites of passage, such as the toga praetexta, or, in a Christian context, those worn for monastic vesting, baptism, or even pilgrimage, were sometimes reserved for reuse as burial garments.G. Vikan, Byzantine Pilgrimage Art (Washington, DC, 1982), 26, in a consideration of links between pilgrimage and death, notes pilgrims taking amulets and “their burial garments on pilgrimage in order that, through contact, they might be ‘blessed.’” See also Frank, “Loca Sancta Souvenirs,” 198, where she complicates the idea that imagery of place helped the pilgrim remember what she had seen and done at the site by exploring how the imagery could serve to spur contemplative thought. Melania’s burial in the garments given to her by various teachers could be seen in light of her journeys to study with them as well as the virtues she had achieved thanks to their teachings and gifts: discussed by Krawiec, “‘Garments of Salvation,’” citing Gerontius, Sanctae Melaniae Junioris Vita 69 (SC 90:268–70; trans. Clark, Melania the Younger, 81–82). Burial in the clothing of baptism or pilgrimage attested the highest spiritual status of the deceased: Jerome’s Epitaph on Paula: A Commentary on the Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae, ed. and trans. A. Cain (Oxford, 2013), 330. Burial in full monastic habit likewise affirmed ascetic status, as discussed in Y. Hirschfeld, The Judean Desert Monasteries in the Byzantine Period (New Haven, CT, 1992), 134 (paralleling secular honorific mantles’ attestation to the highest office held by the deceased). Moreover, as for baptismal garments, conceptual associations between garments for monastic vesting, burial, and the Last Judgment could all draw on the theme of “wedding garments”; see, e.g., the Pachomian Testament of Horsiesios 19, trans. A. Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia, vol. 3, Instructions, Letters, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples (Kalamazoo, MI, 1982), 183–84. Even purpose-made shrouds, however, can be seen as “multipurpose” items when used, for example, as a cover for the deathly ill before reuse in burial, as recounted in the Life of George of Choziba 36, trans. T. Vivian, “What Is Spiritual Is Local: Saint George of Choziba,” in Journeying into God: Seven Early Monastic Lives (Minneapolis, MN, 1996), 53–105. George of Choziba’s choice to live in extreme poverty, and his lessons embedded in the narrative, may account for why he used his shroud for a cover. In light of such traditions, documented burials of monks with sheepskins, cloth mantles, and even plain rectangular cloths used as shrouds need closer analysis and interpretation.Although the monastic fathers are represented wearing himatia in their portraits, and described in texts as using them as shrouds, the archaeological and documentary evidence for the reuse of large himation-like mantles as shrouds in monasteries has not been assessed systematically.

Shrouds woven in monasteries were products of monks’ ascetic work and would have been imbued with the virtue of that work. Shrouds of reused monastic mantles would have carried a similar kind of devotional charge from their use during the monk’s life, as suggested in a number of hagiographic recountings of monastic burials.MacCoull, “Prophethood,” 313, describes a particular category of textile woven by the monks of the Monastery of Epiphanius in western Thebes comprising their own grave clothes, shrouds, and tapes for binding the shrouds, citing H. E. Winlock, The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes (New York, 1926), 1:70–71, no. 532. Antony’s reuse of his himation for Paul’s shroud before taking the tunic as his inheritance in Jerome’s tale is just one example among many.Similarly, in the Life of Onnophrius, at the beginning of his journey deep into the outer monastic desert, when Paphnutius found an unnamed dead hermit in his cave, he wrapped the disintegrating body in his own garment before burying it; later, upon the death of Onnophrius, Paphnutius used half of his mantle for Onnophrius’s shroud: Paphnutius, Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt and the Life of Onnophrius, trans. T. Vivian (Kalamazoo, MI, 1993), 2 (p. 146) and 24 (pp. 158–59). The venerable and widespread practice of the reuse of special clothing, including the honorific mantle, for burial may have had ramifications for the instrumentality of these portraits as memento mori to help the monk remember his future death and work toward his hopes for resurrection. Of course, all those images of dead and resurrected fathers, whose lives would have been read aloud on their days of commemoration in these spaces, would have been potent reminders of the goal of the monk’s ongoing ascetic work—his salvation, which, notably, was often presented in terms of self-portraiture, as monks and other disciples modeled themselves on their spiritual fathers.The fathers’ portraits cued the memory of viewing monks in many ways, including reminding them of the continued vigilance of the fathers. Particularly relevant studies on this theme include D. Krueger, “Hagiography as an Ascetic Practice in the Early Christian East,” JR 79 (1999): 216–32; Mitchell, Heavenly Trumpet; Castelli, Imitating Paul; and Miller, Corporeal Imagination.

The shroud, any shroud, may be understood as an object occupying a middle space between furnishing for the tomb—often conceived as small-scale domestic architecture—and clothing for the dead.For a recent consideration of this subject, see E. Thomas, “‘Houses of the Dead’? Columnar Sarcophagi as ‘Micro-Architecture’,” in Life, Death, and Representation: New Work on Roman Sarcophagi, ed. J. Elsner and J. Huskinson (Berlin, 2010), 387–436. On Bawit, see Thomas, “Mimetic Devotion,” 63, and now, more importantly, Innemée, “Funerary Aspects.” Also included in that middle or transitional category is clothing repurposed to serve as an altar cloth, a liturgical furnishing symbolic of Christ’s shroud.On the altar as Christ’s body, and the altar cloth as pallia, representing Christ’s mystical body or the Church in the Western tradition, see, e.g., Coon, Sacred Fictions, 60–61. The altar cloth is related to a widespread early Christian tradition of what Nicholas Constas calls the “exegesis of clothing” that was founded in venerable Greco-Roman tradition, and widely used in visual/material discourse:N. P. Constas, “Weaving the Body of God: Proclus of Constantinople, the Theotokos, and the Loom of the Flesh,” JEChrSt 3, no. 2 (1995): 169­–94, esp. 180 (“exegesis of clothing”), 188–89 (the tradition of clothing the altar), and 189 (Pulcheria’s “robe” serving as an altar cloth). Following the campaign against the Theotokos of Nestorius during his term as archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, Proclus, archbishop from 434 to 446, developed numerous such biblical, courtly, and everyday-life images of the Theotokos (ibid., 176–88) in an exploration of the idea of a “single incarnate person, or hypostasis, in Christ” (170), which, as expressed in his homily on Mary delivered from Nestorius’s own pulpit in Hagia Sophia in 430, has been preserved in “almost every language of the ancient Church” (175n24). For the earlier roots of this “exegesis of clothing,” see J. Scheid and J. Svenbro, The Craft of Zeus: Myths of Weaving and Fabric (Cambridge, MA, 1996). “The loom was an object that could be found in every home, and that could now serve as an ever-present reminder of the Incarnation. Such mnemonic associations were part of the common homiletic tradition. . . . Anyone seeing a loom could now see the womb of the Virgin, who had offered the “inner workshop” of her body for the fabrication of the cultic veil that was God’s mode of manifestation in the world.”Constas, “Weaving the Body of God,” 193–94. Manifestations of traditional and well-known conceptual associations of cloth with flesh and person, with death, and with the containment and transmission of sacrality may have been particularly acute in late antiquity with the notable gifting and vesting practices of monasticism, the continued reuse of clothing for burial, and the use of especially precious cloths as reliquaries and as linings for reliquaries (thus, as a special, sacral furnishing), and as relics themselves.For relics of biblical clothing emerging as a major trend in the fifth century, see C. Metzgar, “Tissus et culte des reliques,” AntTard 12 (2004): 183, and 184–86 on pieces of cloth as contact (or “secondary”) relics. Moreover, vesting rituals throughout much of the ancient and medieval world symbolized transmission of authority.S. Gordon, Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture (New York, 2001).

The depicted fathers’ mantles participated as well in the range of conceptions of veiling to which the “cultic veil” fabricated by Mary belonged. John W. Stephenson has demonstrated that textiles were integral elements of architectural design that served practical functions, and conveyed a multitude of meanings by concealing, revealing, and encompassing (spaces, people, and things).J. W. Stephenson, “Veiling the Late Roman House,” Textile History 45, no. 1 (2014): 3–31, following earlier scholars, observes the increased use of curtains and hangings to accommodate the twin developments in late antique domestic architecture of private spaces and the stagecraft of the presentation of household and householder. See also C. Kondoleon, “Late Antique Textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Expanded Vistas,” in Thomas, Designing Identity, 86–95, on representations of members of the household in curtains as in wall paintings and floor mosaics, and on the play of representations of curtains on curtains. Thus, veiling may operate at many levels in the wall paintings at Apollo’s monastery. As literal representations of furnishings such as clothing and cloth hangings, they can be seen to function as pictorial emblems of the actual textiles in the possession of the monastery and its households. By their associations with wisdom and apostolic authority, the fictive himation mantles of the monastic fathers would have metaphorically cloaked the monastic assembly room in the honored spirituality of those they designated, putting those gathered in the room under their aegis. Furthermore, the portrait programs in Chapel LVI and other assembly rooms allude to shrouding. Given the various funereal uses of honorific mantles (as in the use of the himation to bury Paul, or the burial of elites in the garments representative of the highest honors they attained in life), representations of mantles could also function as memento mori. Thus, the saints’ mantles clothed and furnished the space in multiple ways but especially by cuing the monastic viewer to contemplate complex sets of conceptual associations with the habit that delineated his own form and his place in monastic society, and offered a way toward his salvation.

I conclude this exploration by considering how strongly the earlier Roman tradition of ancestor portraits resonates with the later monastic portraits and encompassing portrait programs. Jerome’s Life of Paul can be seen as an extended entry in a tradition of written portraiture originating in the early imperial period.As in M. Vessey, “Cities of the Mind: Renaissance Views of Early Christian Culture and the End of Antiquity,” in A Companion to Late Antiquity, ed. P. Rousseau (Malden, MA, 2009), 50. See also P. C. Miller, “Strategies of Representation in Collective Biography: Constructing the Subject as Holy,” in Hägg and Rousseau, Greek Biography, 209–54. The best-known work of this genre may be Varro’s Imagines (now lost), an early imperial refashioning of republican ancestor portraits into “a massive picture book containing portraits of seven hundred distinguished Romans and Greeks with accompanying epigrams. In a manner similar to Cicero’s appropriation of the wax masks of the elite in his “new man” rhetoric, Varro’s work appears to have attempted to extend the uses of the model of self-fashioning contained in the nobility’s imagines to a more inclusive notion of exemplarity.”J. Dugan, Making a New Man: Ciceronian Self-Fashioning in the Rhetorical Works (Oxford, 2005), 15. For a similar characterization of Varro’s Imagines as an expansion of ancestor portraits with tituli to include Greek as well as Roman poets, philosophers, performers, and priests, see A. Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography (Cambridge, MA, 1971), 96. Varro’s immense, inclusive group portrait redefined Roman conceptions of nobility and ancestry. Such ideas underlying Varro’s work were taken up again in Latin literature of the fourth century, as in Jerome’s pictureless On Illustrious Men (De viris illustribus), which included writers in Greek, Syriac, and Coptic, much as many of Varro’s exemplars had hailed from the Greek East.M. Vessey, “Varro and Christian Ways with Books,” in Being Christian in Late Antiquity: A Festschrift for Gillian Clark, ed. C. Harrison, C. Humfress, and I. Sandwell (Oxford, 2014), 260–61 and 266–68. Jerome organized his group portrait of illustrious men in chronological order beginning with the apostle Peter and ending with Jerome himself: these were his precursors.

Images of ancestors of the father of the household, the paterfamilias, in wall paintings, floor mosaics, statue collections, and other media were joined in late antiquity (as before) by mythological figures as well as philosophers and other wise men from history, images that established such figures as the householder’s ideal precursors.Vessey (ibid., 258) dubs late antiquity “the age of portraits and the ‘biographic’”; for another perspective that helped shape the present project, see P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity: A Quest for the Holy Man (Berkeley, CA, 1983). On visual references to self-selected precursors as a “notional patrimony” in a variety of media in domestic settings as well as emulation of precursors, see I. Uytterhoeven, “Know Your Classics! Manifestations of ‘Classical Culture’ in Late Antique Elite Houses,” in Faces of Hellenism: Studies in the History of the Eastern Mediterranean (4th Century B.C.–5th Century A.D.), ed. P. Van Nuffelen (Leuven, 2009), 312–42, phrase at 328. On the relation of hangings to paintings and open-ended commentary on both household and householders, see Thomas, “Material Meaning.” All served as exemplars for the householder and, especially, for younger members of the household. In this light, the program of Chapel LVI was traditional in combining portraits of illustrious ancestors of the household with virtuous men (and women) of the past, in this case incorporating biblical and subsequent Christian history into local monastic history.Bergmann, “Roman House,” 225–26 and passim. On mythological painting in the tablinum in relation to the the salutatio and on the continuation of this tradition from the early imperial period up to late antiquity, see Z. Newby, Greek Myths in Roman Art and Culture: Imagery, Values and Identity in Italy, 50 BC–AD 250 (Cambridge, 2016), especially chaps. 2–5.

Just as developing conceptions of ancestry provide important background for understanding the monastic programs, the development for the elite of architectural forms that accommodated ritual household devotion and decoration that depicted (actual and ideal) ancestors also enhances our understanding of the setting of the later programs. In early imperial elite houses, the tablinum, typically located on the side of the atrium facing the entrance, was a focal point of the household as the office, reception room, and location of a household shrine. The nexus of atrium and tablinum was where current household business and family history were concentrated: ancestor portraits were kept in this area, where they oversaw family celebrations and rites of passage, and inspired the young to emulate them; and this was where important household documents were kept and where the dominus met his clients during the morning reception, the salutatio. In addition, this area linked the household to the business and governance of the wider civic community; later in the day, for example, the householder and his entourage made their way to the forum from here. Private funeral rites were also performed in this location, from which the household processed to public commemoration, in the forum for those of the highest social stations, a tradition extending from the late Republican period well into late antiquity.H. I. Flower, Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture (Oxford, 1996), 91–126. I. Östenberg, “Power Walks: Aristocratic Escorted Movements in Republican Rome,” in The Moving City: Processions, Passages and Promenades in Ancient Rome, ed. I. Östenberg, S. Malmberg, and J. Bjørnebye (London, 2015), 245, goes so far as to say that “the funeral procession could be interpreted as the aristocrat’s final salutatio and last deductio [procession], now accompanied by lament and a retinue dressed in black.” Here, more than any other location within the house, domestic life was inextricable from public life.K. Bowes, “Christianization and the Rural Home,” JEChrSt 15, no. 2 (2007): 144, briefly mentions the example of Ausonius in the transformation of the traditional domestic rituals of (private) morning prayers and the (quite public) salutatio for the Christian aristocratic elite of fourth-century Gaul. D. Frankfurter, “The Interpenetration of Ritual Spaces in Late Antique Religions: An Overview,” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 10 (2008): 199, writes of the importance of religion in domestic space for understanding “the complex interpenetration of institutional ideology and domestic sphere,” discussing domestic rituals performed at the household hearth or threshold in Egypt and across the wider world of late antiquity.

In late antique domestic architecture, as in earlier traditions, most rooms served multiple functions and were sparely articulated. Reception rooms and dining rooms, however, stand out in the houses of the wealthy governing elite as distinctively shaped and decorated so as to promote the social identity of the powerful men to whom they belonged. Reception rooms were public spaces, like the atrium and tablinum of earlier Roman houses, in that visual access was open and entry did not require the visitor to pass through other spaces. The apsed reception room of late antique elite dwellings also served the key functions of the tablinum. In her study focused on Asia Minor, Lale Özgenel directly compares forms and functions of tablinum and audience hall, demonstrating that there was no single architectural model for the apsed audience hall and that the surviving examples vary considerably according to such factors as social status and patronage function.L. Özgenel, “Public Use and Privacy in Late Antique Houses in Asia Minor: The Architecture of Spatial Control,” in Housing in Late Antiquity: From Palaces to Shops, ed. L. Lavan, L. Özgenel, and A. Sarantis (Leiden, 2007), 268–69 and 273–77.

Monastic households did continue some of the traditions of earlier Greco-Roman elite households, but I do not mean to imply a linear formal development from the earlier Roman domus to Egyptian monastic architecture of late antiquity. Although the salutatio was practiced in Egypt from the early imperial period, little evidence survives for reception rooms in the early Roman Egyptian courtyard house, the parallel to the Roman atrium house of the elite, but which developed from the Aegean peristyle house and eastern rather than western Mediterranean traditions.R. Alston, The City in Roman and Byzantine Egypt (New York, 2002), 50 and 81. Notable among recent Egyptian discoveries is the Roman Villa of the Birds (built in the first century CE and in use into the late third century) in Alexandria, near the imperial baths-gymnasia complex (with lecture halls). Arranged around a peristyle courtyard, the villa preserves opus sectile and mosaic floors with geometric and animal motifs: W. Kołątaj, G. Majcherek, and E. Parandowska, eds., Villa of the Birds: The Excavation and Preservation of the Kom al-Dikka Mosaics (Cairo, 2007). On the salutatio, C. Haas, Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (Baltimore, 1997), 311–12, asks whether the “literary and philosophical types hanging about the residence of their teacher,” Hypatia, might be seen as “the traditional salutatio given to a patron by clientes.” Although a woman, Hypatia dressed like philosophers who were men; she also received civic honors: M. Dzielska, “Learned Women in the Alexandrian Scholarship and Society of Late Hellenism,” in What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?, ed. M. El-Abbadi and O. Fathallah (Leiden, 2008), 129–48. Archaeological evidence does suggest that, even in more modest homes of early Roman Egypt, important household documents were archived in spaces used for receiving visitors.S. R. Huebner, “Egypt as Part of the Mediterranean: Domestic Space and Household Structures in Roman Egypt,” in Mediterranean Families in Antiquity: Households, Extended Families, and Domestic Space, ed. S. R. Huebner and G. Nathan (Newark, NJ, 2017), 154–73. The loss of contents from the cupboards and of portable furnishings from most of these rooms limits our understanding of the range of functions the rooms may have served: see above, n57. The concentration of inscriptions made by visitors in Room 6 suggests that most visitors congregated in the complex of Rooms 1–6, near the entrance to the monastery, with secular visitors mainly in Rooms 5 and 6. Monastic visitors seem to have left their mark throughout the monastery. Perhaps within the late antique monastic setting, the niche in the east replaced the household shrine. The simple architectural shell of the monastic assembly room, rectangular and apsed, bears a generic resemblance to the reception or audience hall of late antique elite residences; however, the assembly rooms, too, vary in their size, in the relation of the apse to the rest of the room, and in their painted portrait programs, perhaps also in response to similar social variations. Any emphasis on similarities between the monastic assembly room and domestic reception hall should be balanced by associations with schoolrooms, as well as tombs, saints’ shrines, and churches.Of course, architectural form and the monastic portrait programs should not be seen only through the lens of the household: church and school may have evoked other associations. Scholars have long noted compelling similarities between the painted compositions of theophanic visions in the niches of these chapels and apse decoration in late antique churches in Egypt and across the Mediterranean; to the repertoire of shared themes should be added Ann Marie Yasin’s interpretation of saints’ portraits ringing church spaces as a means of constructing community identity: Yasin, Saints and Church Spaces (n49 above).  Moreover, the organization of such rooms at the monastery of Apa Jeremias at Saqqara brings to mind the rows of lecture halls in the sixth-century Alexandrian complex at Kom el-Dikka. Indeed, J. Leemans, “‘Schoolrooms for Our Souls’. The Cult of the Martyrs: Homilies and Visual Representations as a Locus for Religious Education in Late Antiquity,” Paedagogica Historica 36, no. 1 (2000): 112–27, notes a general conceptual similarity between shrines and schoolrooms. See also Ihm, Programme der christlichen Apsismalerei, and Yasin, Saints and Church Spaces. On the similarities between churches, schoolrooms, and tombs, see above, nn15 and 83. Traditional similarities between the architecture and social spaces of house and tomb are well known: S. Hales, The Roman House and Social Identity (New York, 2003), 2, notes that “the family tomb [is] the equivalent of the domus for the deceased branch of the familia.” Such similarities raise questions about relations between the capacity of architecture for the practice of memory and specific acts of commemoration.

As noted by Harriet Flower in her foundational Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture, ancestor portraits took on additional significance as the dominant feature in the first complex of rooms entered in the Roman house; this complex, which was also visible from the entrance, was designed for formal reception, business, and family ritual.Flower, Ancestor Masks, addresses, inter alia, the architectural framing of conceptual spaces for remembering, seeing, and being seen by ancestors in Greco-Roman tradition, paying special attention to the major role played by mantles in the construction of ancestral identity. Traditionally, lineage was displayed in the home in several ways. For example, images of famous ancestors might be shown with trophies located outside and around the entrance. Portraits in early imperial family trees were sometimes painted on the wall or on a board (tabula), again in rooms near the atrium.Insofar as the ancient tablinum, which could be in a separate room visible from the atrium or in the atrium itself, was where family records were stored and functioned as a reception area and as a working office, the assembly rooms at Bawit, with their multiple cupboards (as at Room 40) and inscribed accounts (see nn54–56), may have stored household papers and accommodated meetings for household business. Imagines, ancient Roman ancestor portraits, although not the object of cult, were associated with cult practices such as offerings made to the Lares, the Penates, and the genius of the paterfamilias.Flower, Ancestor Masks, 210. An honorific mantle could be handed down as well and could “dress” the ancestral mask when they were displayed together near the atrium, and both mask and mantle were worn by actors impersonating the deceased at funerals of the special dead of elite families.The inheritance of garments is rarely commented upon in analyses of inheritance in Roman studies or even biblical studies, such as M. Forman, The Politics of Inheritance in Romans (Cambridge, 2011). Forman’s work is useful for the idea of inheritance as symbolic. He discusses one mainstream interpretation of inheritance as a symbol of a relationship “transcending the present state of things on earth” (6) and critiques that reading through consideration of “Paul’s inheritance language” with recognition of “this-worldly” political and social aspects (9–13); honor is closely allied with status and its symbols (12–19). Inheritance conceptualizes a “new relationship between themselves as subjects and the new powerful ruler” (23).

The idea that the subject of the honored ancestral portrait was only familial and drawn from the ranks of men who governed is too limited to characterize fully the practice, which was reinvented in the early imperial period and was later recast in, for example, Jerome’s On Illustrious Men. Similarly, an understanding of the paterfamilias as only familial excludes the reality of the extended household of slaves, servants, and adopted sons. Indeed, associations of the paterfamilias of the Roman household with the father of a monastic community are fairly widespread in current scholarship.See R. Krawiec, Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery, 142–45, on Shenoute as monastic father in a role equivalent to that of the paterfamilias, including the extended monastic family of his federation. D. Brakke, Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity (Cambridge, MA, 2006), 182, disagrees with the characterization of the monastic father as paterfamilias, because he did not climb “the ladder of public offices that brought a man public recognition and acclaim.” Perhaps related to this discussion is the professionalization of monasticism addressed in D. F. Caner, “‘Not of This World’: The Invention of Monasticism,” in Rousseau, Companion to Late Antiquity, 588–600.

Moreover, ancient Roman portraits allowed illustrious ancestors “to appear as spectators” of the rituals and as role models for the living.Flower, Ancestor Masks, 202. The gathering of monastic portraits, like the groupings of their early Roman precursors, both assisted ritual remembrance of ancestors and inspired emulation in successive generations. They also appeared as familial and familiar watchers to oversee the various commemorative, pedagogical, and ritual activities that occurred within the assembly room. This extended group portrait functioned as visible testimony to the community of saints in the tabernacles of heaven who watched over the living, the heavenly community that the righteous, by emulating the virtues of the saints, would join after death. Following this set of associations, monastic portrait programs like that of Chapel LVI in Apollo’s monastery can be seen to represent both forefathers of the local community and exemplars in the cosmic history of the community.On legal forefathers, see M. C. Giorda, “Writing Monastic Testaments: A Communication from Generation to Generation,” in Writing and Communication in Early Egyptian Monasticism, ed. M. Choat and M. C. Giorda (Leiden, 2017), 129–50. The portrait programs are closer to the spiritual patrimony that a father pronounced on his deathbed (133) than to the legal papers that would have been stored in the tablinum, such as the legal will or testament concerned with practical matters in which the testator speaks to his heir(s) about the transfer of authority, property, and the maintenance of rules (145). These late antique testaments are in Coptic, except the one well-known example in Greek, the Testament of Abraham (144–45). In addition to representing the main branches of monastic genealogy and, in many cases, clearly locating viewers in a spatial relation to precursors most closely associated with their household or profession, the portrait programs at Apollo’s monastery encouraged inner-directed mimetic devotion, that is, comparison of themselves to the virtuous lives of depicted exemplars.In this regard, contextualizing monastic mimesis in relation to broader Christian, pre-Christian, and continuing late antique pagan trends is essential: see Stefaniw, “A Disciplined Mind.”       

The practice of keeping ancestral portraits that flourished during the late republic and early empire was not a lively or even a living tradition when the later apostolic-monastic portraits were created. Yet in the sixth century, imagines legally and by ancient custom were still understood to constitute a particular type of home furnishing, part of the household “passed on intact” as an inheritance and with enduring ties to funereal ritual in the use and reuse of characteristic mantles.Impersonating the elite subjects of the masks seems to be limited to the imperial family by the later third century, yet vital enough in the mid-fourth century for this practice to be included in the funeral arrangements for Julian: Flower, Aristocratic Masks, 223. On the persistence of the funereal tradition of miming distinguished deceased persons into the mid-fourth century, as at the mocking funeral of Julian, see G. S. Sumi, “Impersonating the Dead: Mimes at Roman Funerals,” AJP 123, no. 4 (2002): 575, citing Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 5 (Contra Julianum II), 18.33 (PG 35:688A). Note the social inversion of an actor, who occupied a low place on the social scale, playing the role of an aristocrat or emperor; Sumi, “Impersonating the Dead,” 581–82, and Flower, Ancestor Masks, 264–65. Ancestor portraits “continued to be powerful symbols of rank and political aspiration, both within and outside of the aristocratic home” beyond the third century, citing the three other references to imagines known from the fourth through sixth century (ibid., 256). Flower noted the first mention of imagines, a description in the Historia Augusta of the household shrine of the third-century emperor Severus Alexander, which is said to display “images of Christ and Abraham next to traditional imagines of the Ancestors”; Flower, Ancestor Masks, 266. The Historia Augusta passage should not be taken as documentary evidence of what was actually in that shrine, although it does provide a glimpse of a fourth-century idea of what was in it. Nor does the passage mention textiles or clothing. More important in regard to clothing iconography is the second late antique mention of imagines, a passage in a letter written a century later by Sidonius Apollinaris (ca. 430–489) of Gaul, a poet and high-ranking official who later became bishop of Clermont, describing “a man of senatorial descent, who [kept] company every day with the images of his ancestors in consular dress”: Sidonius Apollinarius, Ep. 1.6, discussed in Flower, Ancestor Masks, 264–69, quotation at 268n58. The third mention, from nearly a century later, is by the senator Boethius in his Consolation of Philosophy. Imprisoned and condemned to death, Boethius nostalgically compares smoke-stained imagines to the torn and “once fine, now torn and sordid” clothing of his muse, Philosophy: Flower, Ancestor Masks, 265. This reference may have been meant to evoke imagines of the past rather than to document then-current practice. On these texts, see also S. Sande, “The Icon and Its Origin in Graeco-Roman Portraiture,” in Aspects of Late Antiquity and Early Byzantium: Papers Read at a Colloquium Held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 31 May–5 June 1992, ed. L. Rydén and J. O. Rosenqvist (Stockholm, 1993), 75–84, in which she argues that imagines were precursors to icons. Most reliable in regard to knowledge of traditional practice, if not actual sixth-century use of imagines, may be the reference in the Justinianic Law Code (quoting an edict of Constantine), where they are “part of the furnishings of a house which must be passed on intact to an heir . . . upon the death of his father”: Codex Iustinianus; Flower, Ancestor Masks, 264. Ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures also had domestic cults, including ancestor cults, but the possible intertwining of these developments in ancient and late antique commemorative portraiture has yet to be charted.On these distinctive ancient cultural traditions, see the following essays in J. Bodel and S. M. Olyan, eds., Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (Oxford, 2008): R. K. Ritner, “Household Religion in Ancient Egypt,” 171–96; B. S. Lesko, “Household and Domestic Religion in Ancient Egypt,” 197–209; and S. K. Stowers, “Theorizing the Religion of Ancient Households and Families,” 5–19. Especially important is the essay by J. Bodel, “Cicero’s Minerva, Penates, and the Mother of the Lares: An Outline of Roman Domestic Religion,” 248–75, which, in specific reference to the description of the lararium of Septimius Severus in the Historia Augusta (see above, n109), emphasizes an ancient tradition of eclecticism (pp. 263–64). In the same article (pp. 270–71 and n29), Bodel notes as well that the term “lararium” is not attested before the third-century reign of Maximinus Thrax (235–238). Most lararia (including Egyptian-themed examples) are from Italy, Gaul, and Germany (p. 273n36), however I know of no concerted attempt to survey the archaeological evidence for Roman domestic shrines in Egyptian houses and villas, despite documentary evidence for wealthy estates and a high concentration of imperial officeholders through the sixth century, as outlined in P. Sarris, Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian (Cambridge, 2006). See also Alston, City in Roman and Byzantine Egypt, 109–24 and 236 (on Roman houses and villas in Egypt), and 94 and 214 (on domestic shrines). These monastic portraits may well have participated in more widespread developments in visual commemoration.Also relevant for interpreting the monastic portraits in assembly rooms at Apa Apollo’s monastery is Flower’s recognition of strong links between ancestor portraits in home and tomb and those in public places. Display at home was a family matter; beyond funerary processions, display in a public place (“outside a home or grave or temple precinct”; Flower, Ancestor Masks, 55) required public permission (see ibid., 55, 58, and 184–85).

Depicted honorific mantles insisted upon reverential commemoration of the deceased saints, who, in the tabernacles of heaven achieved by their holy and virtuous lives, presented ideal exemplars for the emulation of the monk hoping to reach the same end. Indeed, the many votive inscriptions written on these paintings offer prayers in perpetuity for the fathers to watch over them so as to help them reach that goal. Much like teachers in schoolrooms and preachers in shrines on feast days, the fathers who led ritual commemoration and taught within this enveloping ring of ancestors could use the imagery as exempla for their exegeses. In this way, too, the late antique monastic viewers of these programs should be seen as comparable to the early imperial-period viewers of Roman domestic paintings.Z. Newby, “Reading Programs in Greco-Roman Art: Reflections on the Spada Reliefs,” in The Roman Gaze: Vision, Power, and the Body, ed. D. Fredrick (Baltimore, 2002), 110–48, draws on Bettina Bergmann’s “The Roman House as Memory Theater,” especially the “mnemonic” connection between viewing and delivering a speech: “The connections that a private viewer perceives between images are constructed in the same way that the orator moves from one part of his speech to the next. The parallel goes both ways. Not only does the orator use his private house to recall his speech, attaching values to the objects that he approaches in his imagination, but the domestic activity of viewing, approaching those objects and forging connections between them, is analogous to public rhetorical activity” (Newby, “Reading Programs,” 112). The monastic viewer would seem to have forged similar connections with the painted portrait programs. Coincidentally, Newby goes on to comment that the decoration of the space of the salutatio, in accommodating rituals associated with the prestige of the dominus, needed to express his status and the honor due to him. The painted portraits also played the role of audience for the monastic congregation and for each viewer who, in devotional emulation, imagined his own transformed, ideal self.

The multiple associations of honorific mantles compel attention to the signifying roles of textiles among the painted portraits and living tableaux. At Apollo’s monastery, the long-term practice of using imaginary architecture as a space for storing things to be remembered worked in tandem with the regular programmatic placement in assembly rooms of images of items traditionally associated with and used for memory storage, such as books and honorific mantles. The utility of these pictorial memory tools was activated in the present tense of the lived architectural space, when architecture and “bright colored pictures” furnished a stage for the devotion of the monastic viewer that he stored on the “walls of [his] mind.”Mitchell, Heavenly Trumpet, 61, citing John Chrysostom, Catech. 2: “Just as those who make beautiful homes decorate them all over with bright colored pictures, thus also let us paint on the walls of our mind. . . . so that, by furnishing our lovely house with the variety of this painting, we might make a suitable dwelling for the king of the heavens. For if he sees such paintings in our minds, he will come with the Father, and will make an abiding-place with us in the company of the holy spirit. . . . No absurd thought will be able to come into it while the memory of the martyrs, like some bright-colored painting, is always stored up within us and releases a great shining splendor. And God, the king of all, dwells continually in us.”


My thanks to Gudrun Bühl, Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, and the participants in the “Liminal Fabric” symposium for their helpful comments; my colleague Hsueh-man Shen and students at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, for their comments during my Work In Progress session; Lain Wilson, Joel Kalvesmaki, and Shannon Wearing for their effective editing; and, as ever, Kelly Goodknecht for her inspiring work with monastic sources during her internship with me at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology of the University of Michigan. I thank Heather Badamo for allowing me to publish her photographs, Allyson McDavid for working with me to develop a legible presentation of the spotty visual and archaeological evidence, and Christopher Richards for his indispensable research assistance. I owe special thanks to Jenn Ball and Ellen Poteet for continued, fruitful dialogue.


Cite this Essay

Thelma K. Thomas, “The Honorific Mantle as Furnishing for the Household Memory Theater in Late Antiquity: A Case Study from the Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit,” in Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection, ed. Gudrun Bühl and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams (Washington, DC, 2019), https://www.doaks.org/resources/textiles/essays/thomas.