Last week I took a quick trip to Nashville to discuss a new project that seeks to produce a comprehensive (but not exhaustive) catalogue of baptisteries for the Early Christian World. I am part of an editorial team (with Robin Jensen of Vanderbilt and Richard Rutherford of the University of Portland) who will assemble and manage a team of scholars to bring together their specialized regional knownledge of the Early Christian architectural remains.
The project will not be an ordinary catalogue (a version of which already exists in S. Ristow's Frühchristliche Baptisterien (Münster 1998)), but serve as the basis for a regionally and chronologically informed discussion of "site and rite". That is to say, our catalogue of baptisteries will be informed by an interest in the interaction between Early Christian baptismal liturgy and architecture. The hope is that this will not only bring the importance of liturgy to the attention of archaeologists and art historians working on these buildings in a new way, but also provide a resource for modern church leaders and liturgical planners as they seek to find points of dialogue between the contemporary rite and antiquity. To serve more fully the latter goal, we plan to complement our written catalogue with an online database with interactive maps, searchable texts, and images. It's a big project, but we have a substantial and competent team assembled.
And, it allowed me to visit Nashville including the famed Parthenon. It was as bizarrely wonderful as one might suggest of any ancient Greek monument translated onto American soil.