The problem of semiotic status of the belt in clothes of bishop Caesarius of Arles

Darya Michaylovna Omelchenko PhD in History, researcher, Laboratory for Comprehensive Research of Manuscript Monuments St. Petersburg Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences (Petrozavodskaya St., bld. 7, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 197110)

Omelchenko D. M. The problem of semiotic status of the belt in clothes of bishop Caesarius of Arles, Religiya. Tserkov’. Obshchestvo. Issledovaniya i publikatsii po teologii i religii [Religion. Church. Society: Research and publications in the field of theology and religious studies], Saint-Petersburg, 2022, vol. 10, pp. 134–157.

doi: 10.24412/2308-0698-2022-10-134-157

Language: Russian

The article deals with the problems of pragmatism and the symbolic meaning of the belt, which is kept in the Departmental museum of ancient Arles. It is believed to have belonged to bishop Caesarius of Arles (502/503–542). The type of embroidered chrysmon and the iconography of the Resurrection of Christ (Anastasis) on the ivory buckle allow us confidently speaking about its origin from South Gaul. What role did the expensive belt play in the bishop’s clothing?It is not easy to answer this question as there is little information about it in the narrative and visual sources of Late Antiquity. From visual sources it follows that the belt had no liturgical status. There is no doubt that the clerics girded in their daily lives. This is indicated by the obvious practicality of such an action, as well as its biblical connotations. However, this leather belt with expensive ivory buckle does not seem to be suitable for everyday life. In the wardrobe of an ascetic bishop, this thing is altogether strange. Some space for interpretation is opened by the initial ambivalence of the belt in traditional culture, its belonging both to things and to signs. Based on the idea of the semiotic status of a thing, proposed by the anthropologist A. K. Bajburin, the author makes an assumption about possible extra-liturgical contexts for its use. These could be: audiences, performance of vicar’s duties, the bishop’s annual trips to the diocese

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Key words: Caesarius of Arles, semiotic status of a thing, clothing, belt, ivory, chrismon, iconography of the Resurrection, Late Antiquity


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