Symposium on “The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy”

Date(s) - 05/23/19
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

University of Chicago Swift Hall

Hosted by
Lumen Christi Institute

Symposium on “The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy”

Lumen Christi Institute

Thu, May 23 at 5:00pm

Free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event by the Seminary Coop Bookstore. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact us at 773-955-5887 or by email.

Join us for a symposium discussion of the recent book by Robin Jensen, The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy (Harvard University Press, 2018).

The cross stirs intense feelings among Christians as well as non-Christians. Robin Jensen takes readers on an intellectual and spiritual journey through the two-thousand-year evolution of the cross as an idea and an artifact, illuminating the controversies—along with the forms of devotion—this central symbol of Christianity inspires.

Jesus’s death on the cross posed a dilemma for Saint Paul and the early Church fathers. Crucifixion was a humiliating form of execution reserved for slaves and criminals. How could their messiah and savior have been subjected to such an ignominious death? Wrestling with this paradox, they reimagined the cross as a triumphant expression of Christ’s sacrificial love and miraculous resurrection. Over time, the symbol’s transformation raised myriad doctrinal questions, particularly about the crucifix—the cross with the figure of Christ—and whether it should emphasize Jesus’s suffering or his glorification. How should Jesus’s body be depicted: alive or dead, naked or dressed? Should it be shown at all?

Jensen’s wide-ranging study focuses on the cross in painting and literature, the quest for the “true cross” in Jerusalem, and the symbol’s role in conflicts from the Crusades to wars of colonial conquest. The Cross also reveals how Jews and Muslims viewed the most sacred of all Christian emblems and explains its role in public life in the West today.

Robin Jensen is the Patrick O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a PhD from Columbia University. Her research and publication focuses on the relationship between early Christian art and literature and examines the ways that visual images and architectural spaces should be regarded as modes of theological expression. She is the author of several books, including Understanding Early Christian Art, Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity, and The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy. Her current project, tentatively titled “From Idols to Icons” (under contract with the University of California Press) examines the emergence of a Christian material piety in the fourth and fifth centuries.

Karin Krause is Assistant Professor of Byzantine Theology and Visual Culture at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is an art historian who specializes in the Christian visual culture of Byzantium and the pre-modern Mediterranean. Her first book, The Illustrated Homilies of John Chrysostom in Byzantium, published in German, won an award from the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft). Krause is currently completing a second book with the working title Images of Inspiration: Art, Authenticity, and the Sacred in Byzantium. Krause’s third monograph, tentatively titled Propaganda, Cult, Scholarship: The Response to Byzantine Artifacts in Venice is far advanced, and builds on her previous publications on the impact of Byzantine culture on medieval and early modern Italy.

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about the history of apocalyptic thought, spirituality, and mysticism. McGinn’s many books includeAntichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, The Presence of God, a multivolume history of Western Christian mysticism, and most recently Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography.