Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture



Major Professor

Gregor A. Kalas

Committee Members

Amy L. Neff, Katherine B. Ambroziak


In the fourth century, the Lateran Baptistery was sponsored by Constantine the Great; it is the first extant free-standing baptistery known from the Roman world. In the fifth century, Pope Sixtus III renovated the baptistery through a newly-emphasized spatial hierarchy and the appropriation of some of Rome's most cherished structural elements and decorating themes. The result was a unique space that created a dialogue with Roman memory for the specific function of the baptismal rite it hosted. This thesis will analyze the spatial and symbolic forms, and the baptism ritual to show Sixtus III’s interaction with the Roman tradition of memory making and preservation.

The Lateran Baptistery’s reuse of spolia and ancient iconography themes demonstrate the implications of Sixtus’ action concerning the memories preserved within the baptistery. Therefore, the baptistery linked the creation of the experiential memory of the initiate with the recalled memory of imperial Rome—especially in connection with the baptistery’s founding patron.

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