The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity

The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity

Paperback Cornell Studies in Classical Philology

By (author) Eric Rebillard, Translated by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings, Translated by Jeanine Routier-Pucci

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  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 234mm x 18mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 8 May 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Ithaca
  • ISBN 10: 0801477956
  • ISBN 13: 9780801477959
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 937,605

Product description

In this provocative book Eric Rebillard challenges many long-held assumptions about early Christian burial customs. For decades scholars of early Christianity have argued that the Church owned and operated burial grounds for Christians as early as the third century. Through a careful reading of primary sources including legal codes, theological works, epigraphical inscriptions, and sermons, Rebillard shows that there is little evidence to suggest that Christians occupied exclusive or isolated burial grounds in this early period.In fact, as late as the fourth and fifth centuries the Church did not impose on the faithful specific rituals for laying the dead to rest. In the preparation of Christians for burial, it was usually next of kin and not representatives of the Church who were responsible for what form of rite would be celebrated, and evidence from inscriptions and tombstones shows that for the most part Christians didn't separate themselves from non-Christians when burying their dead. According to Rebillard it would not be until the early Middle Ages that the Church gained control over burial practices and that "Christian cemeteries" became common.In this translation of Religion et Sepulture: L'eglise, les vivants et les morts dans l'Antiquite tardive, Rebillard fundamentally changes our understanding of early Christianity. The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity will force scholars of the period to rethink their assumptions about early Christians as separate from their pagan contemporaries in daily life and ritual practice."

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Review quote

"Eric Rebillard's important work fills a gap in the field of late antiquity by addressing burial customs and the development of early Christian communities in the West. His innovative research integrates complex historical and archaeological sources in a way that changes our perspective of the role of the church in this period. The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity strips away assumptions about the functioning of the church that derive from later periods and forces us to think about the way in which clerics first began to expand their reach." Bonnie Effros, University of Florida"