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Florian Oppitz

Places of Christian-Motivated Charity in the Eastern Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. An Interdisciplinary Study Based on Archaeological and Other Ancient Sources (working title)

The study deals with places of Christian-motivated charity in the Eastern Mediterranean controlled by the Roman Empire. The time frame ranges from the late 3rd CE to the mid-7th CE. While charitable acts have been the subject of numerous studies, the localities of their performance have generally received little attention. This is even more surprising since the sites of charity essentially shaped the appearance of Late Antique societies. In addition to purpose-built buildings (e.g. Xenodocheia or Nosokomeia), the charity also took place in multifunctional areas such as atriums of churches.

The lack of previous research on the subject also results from a methodological problem. How can places of charity be identified? Up to now, hardly any confirmed archaeological findings are known that allow a doubtless identification as a charitable site. Thus, scholarly discussion of the subject has increasingly focused on written sources such as hagiographies or ecclesiastical histories, which generally report in passing on endowments of charitable institutions. Many aspects, such as the design of the sites, their topographical location, or their importance in everyday life, have only been addressed marginally in the context of these studies.

This interdisciplinary study aims to bring archaeological, epigraphical, and literary sources together, and an attempt will be made to grasp places of charity in their entirety. Therefore, it is necessary to make a representative collection of significant archaeological complexes and critically examine them regarding their function and use. The focus is further on the comparison of these complexes in the context of selected case studies to answer the research questions posed.

  • Which statements can be made about the layout of the buildings/places (characteristics, type)?
  • To what extent did the function/needs of the people affect the architecture (sociology of architecture)?
  • In what topographical and socio-religious context were the areas integrated (sanctuary, monastery, bishop's residence, city outskirts/center)?
  • What role did charitable institutions play in the spread of Christianity or intra-Christian controversies?
  • What traces did people (associated with charity) leave behind (medical instruments, pilgrim souvenirs), and what do they tell us about the connection between places and the people?
  • What can be inferred from subjective messages, such as votive inscriptions, about the socio-religious self- and world-relations of people in this place?


Academic Career:
Since October 2022
International Graduate School "Resonant Self-World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices" at the University of Graz (in cooperation with the Max Weber Centre in Erfurt), "Interdisciplinary Doctoral programme in Ancient and Modern Cultures and Societies in the European Context"

2016 – 2021
Master's degree in Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna; Title of Master Thesis: ‘The Late Antique opus sectile Floors of Ephesos’ (Supervisor: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Sabine Ladstätter; in preparation for publication)

2012 – 2019
Diploma studies in Teacher Training Programme - History, Social Studies and Political Education as well as Catholic Religion at the University of Vienna (semester abroad at the University of Münster); Title of the Diploma Thesis: ‘"Christian Daily Life" in the Danubian Provinces of the Pannonian Diocese from the 3rd to the 7th Century’ (supervisor: ao. Univ.-Prof. DDr. Rupert Klieber; awarded with the “Bischof DDr. Stefan László” Prize 2020, in preparation for publication)

2012 – 2016
Bachelor studies in Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna (semester abroad at the Humboldt University of Berlin)

Professional Career:
Until October 2022
Project Fellow at the Austrian Archaeological Institute/Dept. of Classical Studies (Projects: ‘The Episcopal District of Side’, ‘Lodging/Living in a Sacred Context’, ‘Riders – Pictorial Traditions and Contexts of Meaning of Ancient Equestrian Representations’, ‘Pilgrimage/Pilgrim Ampoules from Asia Minor’)

Since 2016
Participation in various field campaigns (excavations, building survey, field survey) of the ÖAW (ÖAI and former IKAnt) in Ephesos, Side, Deir el-Bachît, Carnuntum, and at Hemmaberg

F. Oppitz, The opus sectile Floors of Byzantine Ephesos, Musiva & Sectilia 18, 2021, 65–124.
F. Oppitz, Modularität als Schlüssel zum Erfolg? Der Aufschwung von geometrischen opus sectile-Böden in der Spätantike am Beispiel von Ephesos, in: S. Archut – S. Schrenk (Hrsg.), Variatio in Kunst und Handwerk. Modulare Arbeitsweise in spätantiker und frühbyzantinischer Zeit (in print)

Coordination Erfurt

Dr. Elisabeth Begemann


Coordination Graz

Dr. Anna-Katharina Rieger

Phone:+43 316 380 - +43 (0)316 380 - 2391

Doctoral positions are open for the study year 2023/24. Deadline extended (end of April. For further information on the call see here.

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