"Unmissable... a fascinating journey through the art of religions from India to Ireland" – Mary Beard


Why do we think of Jesus Christ with a beard? Or Buddha as cross-legged? Today, the pictures people conjure when they think of the world’s major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – are distinctive and immediately recognisable. But two thousand years ago that was not the case.

Between 1–1000 AD, systems of belief developed across Europe and Asia. The images associated with them were forged not in isolation but in a vibrant exchange of ideas and in the contact between different societies and local traditions. One of the earliest known depictions of Christ shows a young man bearing a striking resemblance to a classical god, not the bearded holy-man we know today. Before the invention of the cross-legged figure in meditation, the Buddhist faithful were inspired to worship merely by an impression of the Buddha’s footprints. 

This unprecedented exhibition showcases some of the world’s oldest religious art from India to Ireland, and reveals how the exchange of ideas and objects in the first millennium influence our thinking about the Divine today. On display will be the first known depiction of Christ north of the Alps, as well as some of the first surviving Qurans.

This exhibition is ticketed. Entry is free for Ashmolean Members.


Timed tickets will be in operation.

Full Price Ticket with Gift Aid Donation £11 (£10 for a Standard Full Price Ticket)

Entry is FREE for children under 12 years, University of Oxford students and Members of the Ashmolean.

Tickets are discounted at 50% for children aged 12–17 years and Art Fund Members.

Concession tickets are available for senior citizens, students, those who are unemployed, and University of Oxford staff & alumni.


The fastest way to book exhibition tickets is online. Click on the 'Buy Tickets' button above to visit our online booking pages.

To book exhibition tickets by telephone please call 01865 278 112.


The exhibition will be open late, until 8pm, on the following dates:

Friday 27 October
Friday 17 November
Friday 26 January
Friday 17 February


Exhibition Tours

Wednesdays, 3.30–4.15pm
Free with the price of admission, no booking required


The Leverhulme Trust has generously funded the Empires of Faith research project.

Exhibition supported by: The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, The Patrons of the Ashmolean.

Additional support from: The British Museum, The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, Wolfson College Oxford, Corpus Christi College Oxford, the Soudavar Memorial Fund, Richard and Jacqueline Worswick.

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