Saints and Salvation: Gold-glass, Sarcophagi and Inscribed Memorials from the Catacombs of Rome

Wednesday 13 March 18.00

Saints and Salvation: Gold-glass, Sarcophagi and Inscribed Memorials from the Catacombs of Rome

Dr Susan Walker tells the story of Charles Wilshere’s passionate interest in early Christian and Jewish archaeology. His collection was formed in Italy from 1860-1880 and has mostly been on public display ever since, in London and Oxford, where it is now shown in the Ashmolean Museum. The collection includes gold-glass and gravestones from two interesting collections of the southern Italian enlightenment, and Jewish tombstones from the Vigna Randanini.

Recent examination of the gold-glass has revealed interesting new information about how the glass was made in fourth-century Rome. The collection also offers a glimpse of the religious and social history of fourth-century Rome: Christians were discouraged from honouring their dead in pagan style with exuberant funerary feasts, and instead were encouraged to honour the memory of Christian martyrs. The Jewish community shared the traditional enthusiasm for feasting at the grave, and bought their gold-glass from the same workshops.

Susan Walker (Hugh Last Fellow / Ashmolean Museum Oxford)