IV. The baptistery. 1. Baptistery and cathedral. In the primitive church, baptism was reserved to the bishop and was generally given to adults at an advanced age, sometimes at the point of death the famous case of Constantine, and was generally by immersion. Often, in consequence, some have wanted to identify a cathedral by the discovery of a baptismal font. This conclusion has now been superseded. The multiplication of rival sects each led by a bishop explains how more than one cathedral could be found in the same city. Rivalry is particularly well attested in the East, the Balkans, Italy and Africa for the Arian heresy, and Africa for Donatism. It also seems that, very early on, numerous urban churches belonging to the same community, cemeterial or monastic churches, and rural churches e.g., in Spain, may have simultaneously had baptisteries. 2. Position of the baptistery. The baptismal font was not generally in the church, as it was from the Middle Ages.
The few exceptions e.g., Bulla Regia in Tunisia must be explained by a particular evolution of the church building, though in certain regions we recognize the very early use of small portable fonts e.g., in Spain. Normally the baptismal rite implied the nudity of the catechumen and so supposed privacy. But the position in relation to the church varied greatly. The baptistery might be a place directly attached to the church and could then be near the fa§ade association with the narthex is frequent in the Balkans or near the apse e.g., in a sacristy in the vicinity of the apse, or behind the apse and on its axis in a series of African buildings or on one side. When the baptistery was a separate building, its position varied: ideal models include behind the apse and on its axis e.g., Siagu in Tunisia, beyond the atrium but still on the axis Aquileia or Parentium in the Adriatic, and between two parallel churches Grado. A direct or indirect link with the cathedral church was normal since the rite supposed the immediate participation of the baptizand in the synaxis.
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