The Sixty-Third A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Renaissance and Reformation Europe, Part 5: Martyrdom and Persecution: The Uses of Early Christian Suffering
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University. In this six-part lecture series entitled Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Renaissance and Reformation Europe, Anthony Grafton focuses on the efforts of artists and scholars to recreate the early history of Christianity in a period of crisis in the church from the 15th to the 17th century. In this fifth lecture, entitled “Martyrdom and Persecution: The Uses of Early Christian Suffering,” originally delivered at the National Gallery of Art on May 4, 2014, Professor Grafton shows that early Christian martyrs were seen as the core of the true church and thus were used in the Renaissance by Catholic and Protestant scholars alike to defend either the status quo or reform agendas. Visual and textual references to ancient and modern martyrs were tightly linked in this period. Ancient martyrdom resonated with both the devout and the radical at a time when the theater of violence created by the first ideological wars in Europe made martyrdom not a distant, but a living experience, melding past, present, and future.