Djemila Baptistery Font and Ciborium
Cioffi, Paul L., 1928-2004
Central to the round Christian baptistery at Djemila (late 4th / early 5th C.) is a square, canopied font. The font is enveloped by a richly decorated inner ambulatory which, in turn, is surrounded by an outer ambulatory. The building was designed to accommodate a single ritual, that of Christian Initiation (Baptism). The rectangular, 2-step font is covered with a stone canopy hewn from a single rock that is supported by four Corinthian columns that have fluted shafts and capitals carved with acanthus leaves. The columns are mounted on large pedestals. The sturdy lintels help bear the weight of the stone canopy and were likely draped with curtains to protect the modesty of catechumens who descended into the waters of Baptism stripped naked. When the baptistery was in use, a lamp hung from the center of the canopy. This sort of canopy, frequently seen over altars, is also called a ciborium or baldachin. ca. June 1983
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