0228 Consecrated Virgins as Living Reliquaries in Late Antiquity

  • Vladimir Ivanovici (Author)

    Vladimir Ivanovici is a lecturer at the Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio and a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Early Medieval Studies, Masaryk University, Brno. He studied ancient history and archaeology (BA, MA, PhD), before obtaining a PhD in art history from the Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome and a summer fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks Library and Research Center in Washington, DC. He is the author of Manipulating Theophany: Light and Ritual in North Adriatic Architecture (ca. 400–ca. 800), Berlin 2016 and of a number of articles. His research explores the various manners used to materialise the divine in Late Antiquity, with a focus on the living body as theophanic medium.

  • Sissel Undheim (Author)

    Sissel Undheim is Professor in the Study of Religion at the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (AHKR) at the University of Bergen, where she among other topics teaches Roman religion, religion and popular culture, religion and gender and didactics of religion. She has published books and articles on all these topics, particularly on religion in Late Antiquity and religion and children's popular culture. Her most recent book is Borderline Virginities. Sacred and Secular Virgins in Late Antiquity, Routledge 2018.

Identifiers (Article)


This article discusses the ways in which the physical presence of consecrated virgins was perceived, described, and subsequently altered in Late Antiquity. In the course of the fourth and fifth centuries CE, through codes that regulated their behaviour and outward appearance, and through the assignment of specific ritual functions and spaces, bishops constructed a new and long-lasting image of consecrated virgins. The resulting model, the authors argue, was shaped by notions regarding female anatomy as well as by their association with the Virgin Mary; it was similar to a precious reliquary: a container whose aesthetic indicated the consecrated nature of its interior.


iconic, virgins, sanctity, dress, relics, living body, iconicity