Discovering Early Church Women Leaders in the Visual Record

Discovering Early Church Women Leaders in the Visual Record February 15, 2023

Were women involved in leadership during the early centuries of the church? Over the New Year’s holiday, my husband and I joined a group of my fellow graduate students in Italy for a two-week tour in which we searched for evidence of such women. Why go on location? Because the written record we could access from America is woefully lacking. Church historical documents are filled with information on noteworthy men. Those documents were also largely written by men and for men.

So if there were noteworthy women, how do we learn about them? Italy, Turkey, England … wherever ancient churches stand, they likely include artwork that tells the biblical and historical tales worthy of passing down to those who follow. So we traversed Italy, walking miles per day as we visited church upon church, countless museums, and historical sites. We looked up at the walls and ceilings. And there we saw women, from Eve to Mary to Crispina to Praxedes to Theodora … 

As women studying theology now, some of us pursuing calls to serve the church in pastoring, teaching, and leading, we looked for evidence of women doing the same in the early days of the church. And we wondered what the stories of those women would tell us about our callings as Christ-followers today.

For a taste of what we experienced, enjoy the following images.


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