M4C Logo AHRC Logo

Margherita Riso

Archaeology, University of Leicester

Thesis title:

Rural Christianity In Late Antique and Byzantine Sicily, 5th-9th Centuries Ad: An Archaeological And Textual Analysis

The late Roman to early medieval period witnesses the rise and expansion of the Church across the Mediterranean and Roman world, and is marked by the progressive emergence of churches as new foci for religion, community, and administration. Yet our picture of this major transformation of space and mentality is very much urban-oriented and the Church’s impact in the landscape is less well understood in terms of chronologies, influences, and patronage. This project will study evidence of Christian churches communities in rural Sicily from the fall of the Roman West in the late 5th century until the Muslim conquest in 827. Given its geographical position at the crossroads of Mediterranean maritime interfaces, Sicily formed a highly important province of the Byzantine Empire. However, archaeological and textual evidence for Christian communities in Sicily has remained understudied. I will ask key questions with regard to the physical, excavated, material and documentary sources: when do these churches appear and how did they fit in the landscape? What forms do they exhibit and what do these tell us of patrons and the communities they served? What role did churches play in landholding and administration? What does archaeological evidence disclose about church development, especially during the 7th-8th centuries, when many are considered to have been abandoned? Finally, how does Sicily fit into wider Mediterranean discussions concerning the impact of Christian institutions on rural life?

Research Area

  • Archaeology


  • Riso, M. (forthcoming), “Reassessing the Christianisation of Sicily between the late 4th and early 9th century AD: new considerations on the distribution of Late Roman and Byzantine rural places of worship”. In Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Christian Archaeology (Utrecht-Nijmegen, 2-6 July 2018).


Conferences Organised 

  • Reception, Appropriation, and Innovation: Byzantium between the Christian and Islamic Worlds. 2nd Annual International Graduate Edinburgh Byzantine Conference (The University of Edinburgh, 30th November-1st December 2018).



Conference Posters 

  • Archaeological approaches to the Christianisation of Sicily: A New Distribution Map of Early Christian and Byzantine rural churches in light of recent discoveries. Poster presentation at the 17th International Congress of Christian Archaeology, Frontiers: The Transformation and Christianization of the Roman Empire between Centre and Periphery (Utrecht-Nijmegen, July 2018)


Public Engagement & Impact

  • Travel Bursary Grant (£100) from the British Epigraphy Society to attend th BSR Postgraduate Course in Epigraphy 2021.
  • Summer School Bursary Grant (£500) from the Classical Association to attend th BSR Postgraduate Course in Epigraphy 2021.
  • The Society for Church Archaeology Annual Grant (£1,000) for conducting the project In the footsteps of early Christian rural communities (4th-9th centuries AD): exploring a sacred landscape in central Sicily combining digital technologies and experimental archaeology.
  • CSSAH PGR FUND (£250) from University of Leicester to attend the International Congress of Byzantine Studies (August 2022). 

Other Research Interests

  • Late Antique Archaeology
  • Sicilian Archaeology
  • Early Christian Studies
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Early Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture
  • Archaeology of the Late Roman Empire
  • Cross-Cultural Interaction in the Mediterranean World


  • Member of Churches Conservation Trust
  • Member of  the Museums Association 
  • Member of the Society for Church Archaeology

Research and Work Experience

Placement at Historic Environment Scotland (April-July 2022).

- Archaeological Excavation campaign at the late medieval stronghold of Monte Jato, Parco Archeologico di Monte Jato e delle aree aree archeologiche di San Giuseppe Jato (Palermo, Italy). Scientific Director: Prof. Ferdinando Maurici (September 2016).

- Field Surveys in Western (Palermo) and Central (Enna) Sicily. Director: Paropos Cooperative (May, September 2013/2014).

Archaeological Excavation campaign at Parco Archeologico di Monte Jato e delle aree aree archeologiche di San Giuseppe Jato (Palermo, Italy). Director: Prof. Ferdinando Maurici (May 2013). 

Archaeological Excavation campaign at Early Christian Catacomb of Villagrazia di Carini (Palermo, Sicily). Scientific Director: Prof. Rosa Maria Carra, University of Palermo (July 2012).

Field Surveys in Palma di Montechiaro (Agrigento, Italy). Scientific Directors: Prof. Oscar Belvedere, Prof. Aurelio Burgio, University of Palermo (June 2011).

Laboratory of Greek Pottery at the Antiquarium of Himera, Parco Archeologico di Himera (Palermo, Italy). Director: Prof. Nunzio Allegro, University of Palermo (June 2010).

Training Courses and Workshop Attended

  • Introduction to QGIS for Historic Envirnment Professionals by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (Augusr 2022).
  • Postgraduate Course in Epigraphy (British School at Rome, July 12th-21st 2021).Postgraduate Course Epigraphy_20210729_0001.pdf
  • First Aid Essential Online Course by EduCAre in collaboration with NHS WestMidlands Ambulance Service (July 2010).First Aid Essentials (2018)_Download.pdf
  • Corso Speciale Instrumentum Domesticum della Tarda Antichità e dell'Alto Medioevo organised by the Pontificio Instituto of Christan Archaeology (Rome, 2nd-4th March 2020).
  • M4C Royal Literary Fund First Year Workshop (De Montfort University, 25th-26th  2020).
  • How to carry out Archaeological fielwalking organised by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (University of Leicester, 30th November 2020).