Guest Lecture by Bonnie Effros


Thursday, November 2 at 10.30–11.30
Lecture Hall Janus
Sirkkala Campus (Kaivokatu 12)

Ancient Relics and Christian History in Late Nineteenth-Century Poitiers

Although heightened anticlericalism in the late nineteenth century caused significant prejudice against religious scholars, a few intrepid clerics and their allies inside and outside of France dedicated their careers to identifying traces of the early flourishing of Christianity in ancient Gaul. Despite the lack of much in the way of documentary evidence, these historians, epigraphers, and archaeologists lay claim to architectural evidence for what they believed to be cultic spaces commemorating some of the earliest martyrs in Europe. The identification of holy remains and the structures that housed them became the means by which to redraw the map of an increasingly secular France; the bodies of the saints became cartographic placeholders for small but thriving communities of devout Christians in ancient Gaul. Although these discoveries were overshadowed by the more dominant Romanist-Germanist debate about the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms, clerically-oriented research nonetheless persisted due to a small but powerful, international network of scholars stretching from Rome to North Africa. As a case study, I will point to the controversial publications of the Jesuit archaeologist Père Camille de la Croix in Poitiers at the baptistère Saint-Jean and the Hypogée des Dunes, the latter of which he alleged held the remains of 72 previously unknown martyrs. This example will offer the oportunity to discuss the implications of de la Croix’s and other late nineteenth-century clerical scholars’ obsession with martyrial passions and relics.

Bonnie Effros, Department of History, University of Liverpool / University of Florida

Bonnie Effros is professor of History and Rothman Chair and Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida, USA. Her research interests include early medieval history and archaeology, history of archaeology (nineteenth and twentieth centuries), and gender history.

The lecture is organised by the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS), the Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC) and the Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS).