Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
370
BAPTISTERY—BAPTISTS

brigands, and as Count Almaviva, in Beaumarchais' La Mère coupable. His success in this was so great that the directors of the Théâtre de la République—who had already secured Talma, Dugazon and Madame Vestris—hastened to obtain his services, and, in order to get him at once (1793), paid the 20,000 francs forfeit which he was obliged to surrender on breaking his contract. Later he, as well as his younger brother, became sociétaire. Nicolas took all the leading parts in comedy and tragedy. As he grew older his special forte lay in noble fathers. After a brilliant career of thirty-five years of uninterrupted service, he retired in 1828. But, after the revolution of 1830, when the Théâtre Français was in great straits, the brothers Baptiste came to the rescue, reappeared on the stage and helped to bring back its prosperity. The elder died in Paris on the 1st of December 1835. The younger brother, Paul Eustache Anselme, known as Baptiste cadet (1765-1839), was also a comedian of great talent, and had a long and brilliant career at the Comédie Française, where he made his début in 1792 in L'Amour et l'intérêt.


BAPTISTERY (Baptisterium, in the Greek Church φωτιστήριον), the separate hall or chapel, connected with the early Christian Church, in which the catechumens were instructed and the sacrament of baptism administered. The name baptistery is also given to a kind of chapel in a large church, which serves the same purpose. The baptistery proper was commonly a circular building, although sometimes it had eight and sometimes twelve sides, and consisted of an ante-room (προαύλιος οἶκος) where the catechumens were instructed, and where before baptism they made their confession of faith, and an inner apartment where the sacrament was administered. In the inner apartment the principal object was the baptismal font (κολυμβήθρα, or piscina), in which those to be baptized were immersed thrice. Three steps led down to the floor of the font, and over it was suspended a gold or silver dove; while on the walls were commonly pictures of the scenes in the life of John the Baptist. The font was at first always of stone, but latterly metals were often used. Baptisteries belong to a period of the church when great numbers of adult catechumens were baptized, and when immersion was the rule. We find little or no trace of them before Constantine made Christianity the state religion, i.e. before the 4th century; and as early as the 6th century the baptismal font was built in the porch of the church and then in the church itself. After the 9th century few baptisteries were built, the most noteworthy of later date being those at Pisa, Florence, Padua, Lucca and Parma. Some of the older baptisteries were very large, so large that we hear of councils and synods being held in them. It was necessary to make them large, because in the early Church it was customary for the bishop to baptize all the catechumens in his diocese (and so baptisteries are commonly found attached to the cathedral and not to the parish churches), and also because the rite was performed only thrice in the year. (See Baptism.) During the months when there were no baptisms the baptistery doors were sealed with the bishop's seal. Some baptisteries were divided into two parts to separate the sexes; sometimes the church had two baptisteries, one for each sex. A fireplace was often provided to warm the neophytes after immersion. Though baptisteries were forbidden to be used as burial-places by the council of Auxerre (578) they were not uncommonly used as such. Many of the early archbishops of Canterbury were buried in the baptistery there. Baptisteries, we find from the records of early councils, were first built and used to correct the evils arising from the practice of private baptism. As soon as Christianity made such progress that baptism became the rule, and as soon as immersion gave place to sprinkling, the ancient baptisteries were no longer necessary. They are still in general use, however, in Florence and Pisa. The baptistery of the Lateran must be the earliest ecclesiastical building still in use. A large part of it remains as built by Constantine. The central area, where is the basin of the font, is an octagon around which stand eight porphyry columns, with marble capitals and entablature of classical form; outside these are an ambulatory and outer walls forming a larger octagon. Attached to one side, towards the Lateran basilica, is a fine porch with two noble porphyry columns and richly carved capitals, bases and entablatures. The circular church of Santa Costanza, also of the 4th century, served as a baptistery and contained the tomb of the daughter of Constantine. This is a remarkably perfect structure with a central dome, columns and mosaics of classical fashion. Two side niches contain the earliest known mosaics of distinctively Christian subjects. In one is represented Moses receiving the Old Law, in the other Christ delivers to St Peter the New Law—a charter sealed with the X P monogram.

Another baptistery of the earliest times has recently been excavated at Aquileia. Ruins of an early baptistery have also been found at Salona. At Ravenna exist two famous baptisteries encrusted with fine mosaics, one of them built in the middle of the 5th century, and the other in the 6th. To the latter date also belongs a large baptistery decorated with mosaics at Naples.

In the East the metropolitan baptistery at Constantinople still stands at the side of the mosque which was once the patriarchal church of St Sophia; and many others, in Syria, have been made known to us by recent researches, as also have some belonging to the churches of North Africa. In France the most famous early baptistery is St Jean at Poitiers, and other early examples exist at Riez, Fréjus and Aix. In England, a detached baptistery is known to have been associated with the cathedral of Canterbury.

See Hefele's Concilien, passim; Du Cange, Glossary, article "Baptisterium"; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. x. 4; Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, book xi.

 (W. R. L.) 


BAPTISTS, a body of Christians, distinguished, as their name imports, from other denominations by the view they hold respecting the ordinance of baptism (q.v.). This distinctive view, common and peculiar to all Baptists, is that baptism should be administered to believers only. The mode of administration of the ordinance has not always been the same, and some Baptists (e.g. the Mennonites) still practise baptism by pouring or sprinkling, but among those who will here be styled modern Baptists, the mode of administration is also distinctive, to wit, immersion. It should, however, be borne in mind that immersion is not peculiar to the modern Baptists. It has always been recognized by Paedobaptists as a legitimate mode, and is still practised to the exclusion of other modes by a very large proportion of paedobaptist Christendom (e.g. the Orthodox Eastern Church). We shall distinguish here between two main groups of Baptists in Europe; the Anabaptists, now practically extinct, and the modern Baptists whose churches are in nearly every European country and in all other countries where white men reside.

I. The Anabaptists

The great spiritual movement of the 15th and 16th centuries had for its most general characteristic, revolt against authority. This showed itself not merely in the anti-papal reformation of Luther, but also in the anti-feudal rising of the peasants and in a variety of anti-ecclesiastical movements within the reformation areas themselves. One of the most notable of these radical anti-ecclesiastical movements was that of the Zwickau prophets, (Marcus Stübner, Nikolaus Storch and Thomas Münzer): the most vigorous and notorious that of the Münster Anabaptists. Although they have been called the "harbingers" of the Anabaptists, the characteristic teaching of the Zwickau prophets was not Anabaptism. (See, however, Anabaptists.) For although Münzer repudiated infant baptism in theory, he did not relinquish its practice, nor did he insist on the re-baptism of believers. The characteristic teaching of the Zwickau movement, so closely linked with the peasant rising, was the great emphasis laid upon the "inner word." Divine revelation, said Münzer, was not received from the church, nor from preaching, least of all from the dead letter of the Bible; it was received solely and directly from the Spirit of God. It is this daring faith in divine illumination that brings the Zwickau teachers most nearly into touch with the Anabaptists. But if they are not typical of Anabaptism, still less are the later representatives of the movement in the last sad months at Münster.

The beginnings of the Anabaptist movement proper were in