Book Series Collection des Études Augustiniennes : Série Antiquité, vol. 165

The Key to the Brescia Casket: Typology and the Early Christian Imagination

C. Tkacz (ed)

  • Pages: 273 p.
  • Size:165 x 250 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2002

Out of Print
  • ISBN: 978-2-85121-178-1
  • Paperback
  • Out of Print


A vivid expression of fourth-century Christian thought, equally orthodox and original, the carved ivory reliquary known as the Brescia Casket has perplexed and fascinated scholars for two centuries. Fifty-nine carvings of biblical depictions and Christian symbols are deployed on it in a coordinated program whose very proportions are meaningful: on each surface the New Testament is allotted more physical area than the Old, and from every angle the New Testament is focal. St. Augustine's coining of the word play of velatio / revelatio is expressed as a visual pun on the front, in the focal depiction of Christ preaching in the Synagogue. Augustine's clavis crucis, referring to typological exegesis, proves to be the key to the entire iconographic program. Balanced representation of the sexes is a consistent feature of the Brescia Casket, with men and women shown in positive and negative relation to God. For instance, on the front are Susanna and Daniel as prefigurations of Christ in his Passion, while on the back are Sapphira and Ananias, exemplifying self-destructive rejection of God; on the ends are the resurrections of Jairus's daughter and Lazarus. Types of Christ in his Passion encircle the casket. Derived from the Commendatio animae, these types were selected for their twofold valence as examples of Christian hope and as types of Christ in his Passion. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation generously funded the 163 illustrations in the fully indexed volume.