Fragrant Flotsam

Fricke, Beate (12 January 2021). Fragrant Flotsam (Unpublished). In: KHI 2021+ Lecture Series. Online. 12. Januar 2021.

Seven bronze censers were donated by Friedrich Ludwig Breusch to the Antikenmuseum Basel in 1971. Since then, these censers have been described as Byzantine, even though their makers were not necessarily deeply immersed in emerging Christian culture; these works were likely part of an early mass-production of bronze objects marketed to pilgrims by Syrian craftsmen. Since no written sources speak for the objects, we must listen closely to what they tell us through their appearance, the traces of their use, contemporary objects revealing information about censers, and the paths taken by the bronze censers as they traveled through the past. Their decoration, which consists of cycles featuring the life of Christ, differs from earlier censers, and raises important questions about the rise of narrative imagery in religious art and their original use. The healing power of incense, as well as the censers' references to specific sites and the potential links between their shape and the ritual and spaces in which they were used have not been addressed in the extant scholarship. Furthermore, these factors point to an opposition between profane and religious ancient cultures, and speculations about acculturation or a coexistence of different cultures in early Christianity. However, the censers also feature marks of their makers at the bottom. Comparing these marks to similar features on Islamic metal works with inscriptions helps us to understand why these early examples display such a practice.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Teaching Staff, Faculty of Humanities

UniBE Contributor:

Fricke, Beate


700 Arts




Beate Fricke

Date Deposited:

28 Apr 2022 15:14

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:19


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