Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Testa, Judith Anne, 1943-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

School of Art


Theodora; Bishopages; Basilica of Saint Prassede (Rome; Italy)--History; Catholic Church--Italy--Rome--Bishops--Biography; Basilicas (Roman architecture)--Italy--Rome--History; Mosaics--Italy--Rome--History; Ordination of women--Catholic Church--History


The basilica of St. Prassede in Rome has a history every bit as colorful as its exquisite mosaics. Inside its plain and unassuming exterior is an intriguing history of building and re-building, a pope accused of murder, martyr’s bones hidden in an ancient well, female saints that the Catholic Church says are no longer worthy o f veneration, and, at the heart of this paper, the image of a female bishop, Theodora. This thesis is an investigation into the history of St. Prassede. It explores the contradiction between written history, art history, and the history that the Catholic Church has written in its own best interest. At the heart of this complex history is a single image: that of a woman with the words ‘Theodora Episcopa” inscribed around her image. Translated, this means “Bishop Theodora.” Along with the art works of St. Prassede, this paper will explore the idea of female ordination, from the very early Church through our own time.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [80]-84)


viii, 84 pages




Northern Illinois University

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