Call for papers: EAA 2020 Budapest, Hungary – Session 281: The Archaeology of Baptism in Early Modern Europe

Please see below for a session being organised at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual conference which is taking place in Budapest from 26-30 August 2020. The session organisers are Eileen Murphy and Colm Donnelly (Queen’s University Belfast), Mark Guillon (Université de Bordeaux) and Émilie Portat (Direction de l’archéologie, Chartres Métropole). The deadline for submission of contributions is 13 February and further details can be found at   If you have any queries about the session please email Eileen Murphy (

Session: #281

Theme & Session Format

5. Theories and methods in archaeology: interactions between disciplines
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

The Archaeology of Baptism in Early Modern Europe
Baptism is a sacrament of critical importance within the main Christian denominations. Within the early Christian church it was considered essential to cleanse a person of Original Sin, the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and subsequently inherited by humankind ever since. If baptism did not occur, however, then the sin remained in place and, as such, the unbaptized were condemned to Hell. A strong advocate for this position in the early church was St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) who believed that all infants should be baptised as soon as possible after their birth in order to avoid potential eternal damnation should they die unbaptised. This harsh doctrine was later modified by moderate theologians within the Medieval church who advocated the existence of Limbo. By the late 16th century, however, baptism had become a contentious issue between the Catholic Church and the Reformed Churches, and also within Counter-Reformation Catholicism with certain theologians placing extreme importance on the teaching of St Augustine and his views on what happened to the souls of the unbaptised after death and their burial in unconsecrated ground.

It is the intention that this session will provide new insights and challenge existing paradigms on baptism across Early Modern Europe through the integration of theological, historical, architectural and archaeological perspectives. Papers are invited to cover issues such as burial rites and practices for the unbaptised (e.g. children’s burial grounds in Ireland), the material culture associated with baptism (e.g. religious objects and clothing), and the architectural expression of baptism (e.g. sanctuaires à répit [respite sanctuaries], shrines, and baptismal fonts).

Unbaptised, Unconsecrated ground, Sanctuaires à répit, Shrines, Counter-Reformation, Reformation