Prof. Nathan Dennis

Nathan S. Dennis

Assistant Professor

Full-Time Faculty

(415) 422-4938 Masonic 223


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.

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

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