Materializing the Community in the Late Antique Syrian Church - a seminar by Dr Sean Leatherbury - Milton Keynes - Thursday 11th July 2019

Events > Dr Sean Leatherbury

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This talk will be related to Dr Sean Leatherbury’s current book project on the mosaics of Roman and late antique Syria, and will focus on the ways in which artists and patrons articulated their places in the social and religious hierarchies of local communities through inscriptions and images in floor mosaics.

The talk will begin at 1.30pm, and a sandwich/buffet lunch will be available from 1pm. If you have any special dietary or other requirements, or any questions about the event, please email the organiser Jessica Hughes (

The seminar will take place on The Open University campus at Walton Hall, in Christodoulou Meeting Room 15. This room is behind the Hub restaurant/café (signs will be posted on the day).

This is a free event which is open to everyone, but spaces are limited, so please follow the link below to book your place via Eventbrite.

Seminar abstract: “Hundreds of carved and mosaic inscriptions survive from the interiors of houses, churches, and synagogues built in greater Syria from the third through the seventh centuries A.D. While these texts have been mined for the raw information that they provide the contemporary archaeologist, historian, or art historian—including names of patrons and patron saints, and dates of completion—their mentions of artists, especially mosaicists, involved in the construction and decoration of buildings often has been overlooked. This paper utilizes this rich trove of epigraphic evidence to reconsider the place of these individuals in their communities. After a brief survey of what the Greek and Syriac inscriptions can tell us about patrons—including their diverse social statuses, and the common practice of donation by subscription, i.e. donors paying for parts of a building like the fourth-century synagogue at Apamea—I focus on the material epigraphic traces left behind by artists in the houses, churches, and synagogues of the region. Some artists, like Zosimos of Samosata, a mosaicist active at Zeugma, “signed” their work, indicating at least a regional level of renown, as well as a degree of itinerancy. However, while traveling masters and their workshops were undoubtedly a feature of the landscape, other inscriptions indicate that artists were more deeply rooted in their localities, which accords with the mentions in late antique homilies of artists who attended religious services. Based on the inclusion of artists’ names in dedications placed in prominent locations within churches especially, I suggest that artists were valued members of faith communities, who were invited to leave their marks within sacred buildings. Looking at the epigraphic evidence with new eyes, this paper argues for a reconsideration of the categories of ‘patron’ and ‘artist’, recovering important facets of the lives of late antique artists.”

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