Djemila Baptistery Font with Ciborium and Floor Mosaic
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. This sheltering structure is called a ciborium. The bishop, the minister of Baptism, would have been seated behind the font. The arched doorway visible through the ciborium communicates with the outer ambulatory, paved in a repeating geometric pattern of Greek crosses. The inner ambulatory is paved with a mosaic teeming with sea creatures whose focus is a large chalice. This image captures the relationship of that portion of the mosaic to the baptismal font. ca. June 1983
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