• Erik Thunø
  • Position: Professor
  • Research Interests: Medieval Art
  • Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University

Biographical Information:

My area of interest is western medieval art from the early Christian period to the late Middle Ages. Although Italy is a main geographical focus of my research, my goal is not to work on Italy per se, but to engage conceptually with medieval visual representation in ways that combine object-based and historical research with current approaches and theoretical frameworks. In past publications, I have worked on reliquaries in Rome and medieval image theory, icons and semiotics, interactions between images and altars, the miracle-working image between the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the ‘iconicity’ of script.My next book, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2015, is the first large-scale study on the apse mosaics produced in Rome between the sixth and ninth centuries. Here, I situate the mosaics within their viewer-oriented and ritual contexts and rethink issues related to time, repetition, materiality, vision, and the cult of martyrs.

Select Publications:



The Apse Mosaic in Early Medieval Rome. Time, Network, and Repetition. Cambridge University Press. In press.

Image and Relic. Mediating the Sacred in Early Medieval Rome. (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2002).

Decorating the Lord’s Table. On the Dynamics between Image and Altar in the Middle Ages, eds. Søren Kaspersen and Erik Thunø (Copehagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2006).

The Miraculous Image in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, eds. Erik Thunø and Gerhard Wolf (Rome: L’erma di Bretschneider, 2004).


“The Pantheon in the Middle Ages,” in The Pantheon. History, Meanings, Intentions, eds. Mark Wilson Jones and Tod Marder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) forthcoming.

“’Living Stones’ of Jersalem. The Triumphal Arch Mosaic in S. Prassede in Rome,” in Visuaql Constructs of Jersalem, eds. Bianca Kühnel et. A. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013) forthcoming.

“Thessalonikian Weddings. The Miracle at Cana in Saint Nicolas Orphanos,” in Synergies in Visual Culture / Bildkulturen im Dialog, Festschrift für Gerhard Wolf, eds. Manuela De Giorgi, Annette Hoffmann, Nicola Suthor (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2013), 315-25.

“Inscriptions and Divine Presence. Golden Letters in the Early Medieval Apse Mosaic,” in The Iconicity of Script, ed. Jeffrey Hamburger, Word and Image 27.3 (2011): 279-91.

:Inscriptions on Light and Splendor. From Saint-Denis to Rome and Back,” in Inscriptions in Liturgical Spaces, eds. Kristin B. Aavitsland and Turid Karlsen Seim, Acta ad archaeologiam et atrium pertinentia 24, nw. 10 (2011): 139-59.

Fellowships and Awards:

Richard Krautheimer Professor at the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut fuer Kunstgeschichte), Rome (2014-15)
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Clark Art Institute
Carlsberg Foundation
Danish Research Council of the Humanities
Danish Research Academy
Queen Ingrid Foundation for Roman Studies at the Danish Academy in Rome
Fulbright Commission
Johns Hopkins University
Villa Spelman, Florence (Johns Hopkins University)


Member of Nominating Committee, International Center of Medieval Art, 2009-2010

Session chair at the international conference: "Interactions. Artistic Interchange between the Eastern and Western Worlds in the Medieval Period," Princeton Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, 8-9 April 2005.

Organized with Gerhard Wolf the international conference L’immagine miracolosa nella cultura tardomedievale e rinascimentale as a collaboration between the Danish Academy and The Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte) in Rome, 31 May - 2 June 2002

Organized and chaired with Søren Kaspersen the double-session Image and Altar: Interrelationships at the 36th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, 3-6 May 2001

Member of editorial board of Analecta Romana Instituti Danici and co-editor of the volumes 27-30 (2000-2004)


“‘All Eye:’ Some Thoughts on the Representation of Christ in the Early Medieval Apse, Johns Hopkins University, April 2012

Participation in international roundtable discussion on the state of Italian art history, Forum Kunstgeschichte Italiens, Munich, April 2012

"The Eye and the Apse. On Seeing and Being Seen in Early Medieval Art," the Ritchie Markoe Scribner '75 Lecture in the Department of Art History, New York University, March 2011

"'Living Stones.' Jerusalem and the Body," Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and organized by the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, November 2010

“The Early Medieval Apse Mosaic. Observations on Liturgy and Reception,” at the Delaware Valley Medieval Association’s annual meeting, hosted by Medieval Studies at Princeton University, December 2008

“Inscriptions on Light and Splendor. From Saint Denis to Rome and Back,” Inscriptions in Liturgical Spaces, Norwegian Academy in Rome, November 2008

“Church Unity and the Reciprocal Gaze. Considerations on Some Early Medieval Apse Mosaics,” Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome, April 2008

“ From Holy Fragment to Material Artifact and Back. On Relic and Image in Early Medieval Visual Culture,” /The Interrelationship of Relics and Images in Christian and Buddhist Culture/, University of Tokyo, December 2007

“The Implied Viewer. The Case of Ss. Cosmas and Damian in Rome,” Claremont Consortium for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 42nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 2007, Kalamazoo MI

“Text Image and Time in some Early Christian Mosaics,” Visual Representation and Cultural History Seminar, Harvard University, April 2006

“The Word made Flesh. Text as Image in Early Christian Rome,” Tensions between Image and Text in Medieval Art, College Art Association, Boston, February 2006

“From Neglect to Sacred Space. The Discovery and Institutionalization of the Miracle-Working Image of the Early Modern Period,” The Sacred and Idolized Image, 28th International Colloquium of Art History, Universidad Nacional Autnoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Campeche, 24-29 October 2004

“Transgressing the Sanctioned Space: The City Moves Closer to God,” Sites et territoires de l’histoire de l’art, 31e Congrès du Comité international d’histoire de l’art (CIHA), Montreal, August 2004

“The Miraculous Image in the Italian Renaissance,” Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, March 2004

“Materializing the Invisible in Ealy Medieval Rome: The Case of S. Maria in Domnica,” Verbal and Pictorial Imaging. Representing and Accessing Experience of the Invisible 400-1000, University of Utrecht, December 2003

“The Enamelled Cross from the Sancta Sanctorum: Material and Iconography,” History of Enamel from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, The Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities, The British Museum, London, November 1999

“Image and Intercession: The Apse Mosaic of Sta. Maria in Domnica,” Bilder in Texten - Texte in Bildern. Zur Korrelation und Kontradiktion von Text und Bild im Wirkungskreis der Bibel, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, October 1999

“A Monumental Reliquary: Santa Prassede in Rome,” 33rd International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 1998


Current Interests & Research:

--Medieval art in Italy
--Carolingian art
--Cult images in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
--Byzantine art

Undergraduate Classes Taught:

--Carolingian art
--Early Medieval art
--Medieval art
--Romanesque and Gothic Art
--The Imagery and Achitecture of Medieval Rome
--Rome Summer Abroad

Graduate Classes Taught:

--Narrative cycles in the Middle Ages
--The Mosaics of Medieval Rome: New --Approaches
--The Medieval Image. Concepts and Theories
--Text and Image in Early Medieval Art
--Methods of Art History

Longer List of Publications