to dictate behaviours, their prescriptions often conceded local realities that render sermons as much goldmine as landmine to the historian.

Linked to the paucity of written sources by lay Christians, there remains the challenge of locating lay Christians in an age better known for its ascetics. To Christians who did not forsake food, family, sex or money, the phrase 'lay devotion' might have seemed an oxymoron. As the preacher John Chrysostom (349-407) once imagined a congregant saying, 'I cannot live in the world and in the midst of so many concerns and be saved.'2 Such despair is not difficult to imagine for a laity whom pastors often cast in the shadows of ascetic heroes. Even if shaped by ascetic ideals, the lay men and women could aspire to know God by other means than the austerities of monastic regimens.

This fraught relation between location and salvation provides a useful framework for investigating lay devotion. Like the ascetic movement, for which the desert provided a potent symbol, the laity also defined itself through places and transformed them during the fourth to sixth centuries. Just as asceticism made 'the desert a city', as Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 293-373) famously said, lay devotion re-made home, tomb and church. This essay, then, approaches lay devotion as situated in space rather than defined primarily by actions. Some church leaders expressed reservations about practices that bound Christian identity too closely to place, as in Gregory of Nyssa's (c. 335-95) famous critique of pilgrimage: 'change of place does not effect any drawing nearer unto God' (Ep. 2). Such criticism did not slow the laity's attempts to 'draw nearer' within their own homes, churches and cities. These attempts to downplay holy places remind us how deeply locative Christian piety had become in the centuries after legalisation.

Place - particularly home, church and tomb - can serve as a framework for examining lay devotion. With reference to these places, we may investigate what practices and dispositions constituted lay devotion. We may also consider how places were more than a backdrop for practices, but even moulded those practices. Built space can reveal many features of piety, such as the typical size of a gathering, how bodies moved through space, and what perceptions shaped devotions in that space. Also worth asking is how devotions transformed existing spaces. For instance, how did devotions in the home transform that space or evoke others? Or, how did church architecture adapt to accommodate new devotional realities? To describe lay devotion, then, is to situate it.

2 Chrysostom, On repentance, Hom. 9.2 (FOTC 96:127).

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