25 October 2019


On the internet it is claimed that there is a history of Christian missionaries re-identifying representations of pagan divinities as objects of licit Christian cultus.

Well, I'm old enough to be wise enough not to assert universal negatives. So I won't claim that this could never have happened anywhere. But I would like to be shown some evidence.

Because the ancient world provides interesting examples of quite the opposite. It would be very easy for a statue of Isis with Horus upon her lap to be recycled as Our Lady. Perhaps the easiest place for this to have happened would have been in the home teritory of Isis, Egypt ... where, indeed, the cultus of the Theotokos was to find enthusiastic adherents earlier than it did in some other places.

But the evidence is that when Christians converted an Isiac temple to the true faith, they did not dedicate the church to the Mother of God.

On the contrary: the christianisation was performed by placing the relics of martyrs within the buildings, and offering them cultus. The building was regarded as dedicated to those martyrs.

This is completely in line with what S Bede records S Gregory as Magisterially commending at HE I: 30.


Marco da Vinha said...

Father, it might interest you, but in my patria if you visit the cathedral of Braga you will find something quite interesting on one of the outer walls. Apparently a temple of Isis Augusta was demolished and its stones were then used to build the cathedral. One of those stones has an inscription on it refering to its origins. Curiously, the cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady (as are the majority of the Portuguese sees). I leave you a link to a picture of said stone:


Banshee said...

There are a couple examples of miraculously or handily found statues of Roman patrician women getting repurposed as saints or Mary, but that was mostly in Roman areas that got taken over by barbarians. Mistaking pagan Roman sarcophagi for saint burials was more common.

Aqua said...

The only missionaries I see are Pagan and they are happily re-dedicating Christ in the demon idols. Christ is utterly absent, (as one would expect).

I am stunned. Stunned by what they are doing. Stunned that no one declares anathemas. All are floating down the River Styx on the Pachamama boat.

Not I. I am not with them. If that is the Catholic Church (it isn’t) count me out. I declare anathema against Jorg√© Berg√≥glio, since no one else will.

Oliver Nicholson said...

There are examples of monks (S. Daniel the Stylite near Constantinople comes to mind) deliberately occupying temples in order to drive out the demons who lived there. This is the polar opposite of pagan-Christian continuity; it is deliberate disinfection. I think Gregory the Great's advice to S. Augustine (of C) needs to be viewed in that spirit.

Alan said...

I'm sorry to be vague, Father, but I rely on a very vague memory. I seem to recall, maybe in Italy, seeing a representation of a seated pagan goddess with a child which uncannily resembled OLW as represented in both Anglican and RC iconography.