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Scenting Salvation – Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination - California Scholarship Online
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Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination

Susan Ashbrook Harvey


This book explores the role of bodily, sensory experience in early Christianity (first–seventh centuries c.e.) by focusing on the importance of smell in ancient Mediterranean culture. Following its legalization in the fourth-century Roman Empire, Christianity cultivated a dramatically flourishing devotional piety, in which the bodily senses were utilized as crucial instruments of human–divine interaction. Rich olfactory practices developed as part of this shift, with lavish uses of incense, holy oils, and other sacred scents. At the same time, Christians showed profound interest in what smells ... More

Keywords: sensory experience, smell, early Christianity, ancient Mediterranean culture, Roman Empire, devotional piety, bodily senses, human–divine interaction, olfactory practices, incense

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2006 Print ISBN-13: 9780520241473
Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012 DOI:10.1525/california/9780520241473.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, author