The Byzantine conquest of Africa in the 530s is often portrayed as the simple, if contested, liberation of the region from heretical barbarian rule, but rarely as an episode of imperialism. Yet Justinian’s self-proclaimed aim went beyond restoring Rome’s former territories to the far-reaching ambition of uniting a doctrinally divided Christian world under one empire, one God and one Church. During his reign, the Church grew in importance as an imperial agent in other ways, collecting taxes, owning and administering large rural estates, building town defences and organising civic life. Paradoxically, the best evidence for the period – the churches themselves– have played very little part in recent scholarship which has rather approached these problems through image and text. Yet in a society where few could read, claims to authority were asserted and disputed through architecture and place. Church buildings not only embodied complex theological and political concepts from the nature of the Trinity to the relationship between Church and state, but also reordered local identities, memories and experiences of place. This paper will examine the central role played by churches in the construction of new networks of political, religious and economic power in North Africa.
Corisande Fenwick is Lecturer in Mediterranean Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. After receiving a PhD from Stanford University, she held postdoctoral fellowships at Brown University and the University of Leicester. Her research focuses on the archaeology and history of the late antique and Islamic West and comparative approaches to empire. Her publications include Early Islamic North Africa (Bloomsbury, in press) and the co-edited Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology (OUP, in press) and Aghlabids and their Neighbours (Brill, 2017). She co-directs excavations at the late antique church of Bulla Regia (Tunisia) and the medieval quarter of Volubilis (Morocco).
When? 26 November 2019, 18:00 to 20:00
Where? Kings’ College London, Bush House Room S2.03, Strand Campus, London