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Art major works under the guidance of Ida Sinkevic, associate professor of art

Caroline Conway ’08 is majoring in art. This school year she is working as an EXCEL Scholar under the supervision of Ida Sinkevic, associate professor of art. Conway is working with Sinkevic on a project entitled “Relics of St. John: Textual and Visual Evidence.” The following is a firsthand account of her experience.

What is Byzantine art? This question floated through the air last fall and the students in Professor Sinkevic’s Byzantine art class looked at one another. She had stumped us. We knew we would be taking Byzantine art but did any of us truthfully know what Byzantium was all about? No. It may seem silly that this was our answer. We all signed up for the class, but what Christianity did for art in the Eastern Roman Empire from the 5th century to the fall of Constantinople in the mid-15th century, was beyond our knowledge.

I was personally taking the class because I was headed to Greece in the spring to study abroad and wanted to learn more about the art that had encompassed the region. Little did I realize, I would become fascinated with the iconography and study of Byzantium and would, in turn, be conducting research with Professor Sinkevic this year on a Byzantine relic.

A relic is typically defined as an object, usually a piece of a body or a personal item, of someone with a religious significance. The relic is then preserved and housed in a reliquary, or a shrine. It may travel around the world or followers may take pilgrimages to see the relic.

In our case, we are conducting research on the relic of St. John the Divine’s right hand, which is believed to be the hand that baptized Christ. It is currently contained and preserved in an elaborate gold and jewel-encrusted box, housed in a monastery in Montenegro. However, with such grave importance, this relic has traveled from Constantinople to Russia, Berlin, and even Yugoslavia. We are looking at the history of this relic both during and after the Middle Ages and are examining the changes in its meaning and function from medieval to modern times.

While looking through manuscripts, journals, articles, and historical and biblical references, we have begun depicting the relic from the earliest occurrence of the hand leaving St. John’s body. With current information on the relic already examined and explored, we have yet to conclude any concrete evidence. However, through the researching process, I have learned about the patience and effort it takes to solidify the outcome, while continuing the process of developing my research skills.

Professor Sinkevic is a wonderful mentor and has really helped me in exploring what I would like to pursue following graduation. Having her both as my EXCEL supervisor and my independent study advisor, Professor Sinkevic has made a positive influence upon my studies here at Lafayette.

I would like to pursue a research-based job following graduation and I am currently exploring jobs in historic preservation and museum studies as well as field schools in colonial archaeology.

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