Prof. Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis

Assistant Professor

Full-Time Faculty


Nathan Dennis is an assistant professor in the Art History and Museum Studies programs at USF. He specializes in late antique and medieval art and architecture, particularly of the Mediterranean and Near East, including the material and visual traditions of Western Christian, Byzantine/Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Islamic cultures. He received a PhD in the History of Art from Johns Hopkins University, writing his dissertation on the pictorial, material, and liturgical strategies employed in early Christian baptisteries to create and manipulate visions of paradise. He is currently revising that study for publication as Paradise Regained: Reconstructing Eden in the Early Christian Baptistery. He is also the editor (with Robin M. Jensen and Nathan P. Chase) of Baptisteries of the Early Christian World (2 vols.). The work documents, through both the print volumes and a searchable database, every known baptistery from the third to early-seventh century and examines regional variations in architecture, decoration, and liturgical function. He has published or is currently completing additional art historical and archaeological projects related to late antique and early medieval North Africa, early medieval Rome, and the role of visual hermeneutics and sensory perception in early Christian art and theology.

Nathan has held a number of travel fellowships for research in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, and he is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome.


  • Roman, Early Christian, Medieval, and Byzantine Art
  • Early Christian Baptisteries
  • Ancient and Medieval Mosaics
  • Late Antique and Early Medieval Mediterranean World

Research Areas

  • Roman, Early Christian, Jewish, Western Medieval, Byzantine, and Islamic Art
  • Late Antique and Early Medieval Archaeology
  • Ancient Jewish and Christian Theology
  • Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices


  • University of San Francisco, Thacher Gallery Curatorial Advisory Board Member
  • University of San Francisco, Faculty Adviser for the Museum Studies Graduate Association
  • University of San Francisco, Faculty Adviser for the Art History Student Association
  • ABside: Rivista di Storia dell'Arte (Journal), International Scientific Committee Member


  • PhD, History of Art, Johns Hopkins University, 2016

Awards & Distinctions

  • University of San Francisco Davies Forum, Fall 2020

  • University of San Francisco Graduate Student Organization Adviser of the Year, 2020

  • Rome Prize Fellow, American Academy in Rome, 2014-2016

  • ARCS Fellow, American Research Center in Sofia (Bulgaria), 2014

Selected Publications

  • Baptisteries of the Early Christian World (with Robin M. Jensen and Nathan P. Chase), 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

  • "A Tale of Two Inscriptions: Tipasa, Djemila, and the Role of Textual Icons in the North African Cult of Saints," Mosaic 47 (2020): 20-32.

  • "Optical Games and Spiritual Frames: A Reassessment of Imitation Marble Mosaics in Late Antiquity," Convivium 8 (2021).

  • "Bodies in Motion: Visualizing Trinitarian Space in the Albenga Baptistery," in Perceptions of the Body and Sacred Space in Late Antiquity and Byzantium, ed. Jelena Bogdanović (London: Routledge, 2018), 126-149.

  • "Living Water, Living Presence: Animating Sacred Space in the Early Christian Baptistery," in Holy Water in the Hierotopy and Iconography of the Christian World, ed. Alexei Lidov (Moscow: Theoria, 2017), 89-119.