The Architecture and Imagery of Early Christian and Medieval Rome


Imperial capital until the late 3rd century and home to the papacy, Rome was the city where Octavian was proclaimed Augustus and Saints Peter and Paul were martyred. This lecture series considers how Rome became a Christian city and examines its artistic culture between c. 300 and c. 1200.

The very earliest Christian art and architecture in Rome often amounted to no more than simple signs and inscriptions, and its monuments were almost invisible to view – an ordinary house front, an underground burial chamber along one of the roads leading out of the city. Constantine’s granting of a legal personality to the Church in 313 changed that, or at least accelerated change by embracing a public monumental Christian art and architecture.

Thereafter, population collapse, external pressure, and the emergence of papal administration, reshaped the city, eventually giving rise to modes of art and architecture that from a European perspective could be seen as recognisably Roman. An important aspect of this is material, an interest in recycling architectural spolia, particularly coloured marbles, which promoted lustrousness and colour and favoured columns and mosaics as means of dramatising interiors.

Please note: this lecture series will close to enrolments at 23:59 BST on 27 October 2023.

Programme details

Lecture programme

Lectures take place on Tuesdays, from 11am–12.15pm (UTC/GMT).

Tuesday 31 October 2023
Rome around 300 AD

Tuesday 7 November 2023
Planning and painting in the catacombs

Tuesday 14 November 2023
Architecture from Constantine to Pope Honorius I (625-38)

Tuesday 21 November 2023
Carolingian Rome

Tuesday 28 November 2023
A Turbulent eleventh century (Trastevere, San Clemente)

Tuesday 5 December 2023
Twelfth-century reform

How and when to watch

Each lecture will last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by questions.

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place from 10.30am before the first lecture (31 October only). Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.30am.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time.


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £155.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £140.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr John McNeill


John lectures in the history of medieval art and architecture and is a part-time tutor for OUDCE. He is Honorary Secretary of the British Archaeological Association, for whom he has recently edited volumes of essays on Romanesque Patrons and Processes, and English medieval chantries.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this lecture series. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.