Author: Jörg Rüpke

Urban and religious change: A comparative perspective

Jörg Rüpke. Religious change and changes of urbanity (summarizing urban practices and reflexive urban imaginations) must be analysed in their mutual dependency to give better accounts of both, urban history and religious history. Many crucial developments in local and trans-local religion and religions need to be reviewed with regard to their specifically urban conditionality. At the same time, such urban conditions and the very discourses and practices that defined conditions as urban have not been “independent variables” for religious change but are themselves in part the outcome of religious practices and agents.

Christmas carols

Sometimes it is the absence that makes the obvious visible. On 4 December 2023, the music stopped at some German Christmas markets, including Erfurt. The reason for this was the protest against the high licence fees for the public – and undoubtedly sales-promoting – playing of music recordings by composers and performers who had not long since died. Christmas and songs, indeed celebrating Christmas and singing, seem to belong together.  From “Silent Night” to “Dreaming of a White Christmas” and even more recent songs: it’s hard to imagine Christmas without them. And vice versa: without the festival, all these songs would lose their meaning. 

Urban religion and objects

by Jörg Rüpke. The summer school “Roman rituals: dynamics, topography and objects: Introduction to Roman religion through the prism of its materiality” – co-organized by the “Religion and Urbanity” group in Erfurt with the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, La Sapienza, Rome, and the Université catholique de Louvain in cooperation with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, the Ecole française de Rome, the Academia Belgica and the Museo Nazionale Etrusca Villa Giulia in September 2023 – has addressed the questions of urbanity as being reflected in and constitutive for religious objects.


Religion is the human attribution of capabilities and agency to superhuman actors, which one tries to share with other humans but people also use to gain superiority over other humans and maybe their gods. In this way, in religious action people create a reality that allows for alternative experiences and interpretations of the everyday or even of the extra-ordinary. This opens a unique creativity. Nowhere else but in religion does human action create such different and diverse worlds (notwithstanding all those worlds of fantasy that often build on religious narratives and establish religious figures).

Christmas and Christmas Markets

The basic theological idea of the Christian Christmas is the incarnation of God, the “birthday of the Lord”, as it has been called since the fourth century AD, natalis domini. What the Latin churches celebrate on 25 December, the Eastern churches associate with 6 January, Epiphany, the “Epiphany of the Lord”. You have to delve deep into the philosophy and mythology…

Religious and urban ambivalences

The concept of ambivalence – in difference to diffusionism, historical dialectics, development, or progress – takes a synchronic stance and observes tensions and contradictions. It stresses conflict and constitutive ambiguity, bi-polar orders, bi-valence at any given moment. The opposition in a religious or urban ambivalence is neither dissolved in good and bad religion, good and bad urbanity nor are such ambivalences seen as ephemeral and transitory. As a consequence, metamorphosis of such ambivalences is not about gaining in mono-valence, one-to-one, or reduction of complexity.

Urban Religion in the Metropolis Tokyo and in Kyoto

Religious practices, religious spaces, and religious times are part of urban diversity in today’s towns and cities. A 40-page picture book, grown out of a cooperation with Japanese universities in the framework of research on “Religion and Urbanity”, documents some impressions of that from visits to Tokyo and Kyoto…

Getrennte Wege – geteilte Praktiken: Überlegungen zum kaiserzeitlichen Religionswandel in den Städten des römischen Reiches

Religion wurde im Laufe der Kaiserzeit in den ans Mittelmeer grenzenden Regionen Afrikas, Asiens und Europas immer wichtiger. Verantwortlich dafür werden immer wieder bestimmte (aber immer wieder anders gruppierte) Symbol- und Glaubenssysteme gemacht…

Wie religiöse Minderheiten die Stadt zur Stadt machen

Dieser Beitrag möchte eine konkrete Behauptung in den Mittelpunkt stellen und plausibel machen: Religiöse Pluralität, und gerade auch das Vorhandensein von religiösen Gruppen, die als Minderheiten gesehen werden oder sich so betrachten, gehört rund um das Mittelmeer und in Europa und davon geprägten Stadtkulturen zur Idee von Stadt dazu.

Describing ‘religion’ in European History Needs a New Concept

Religion has played an important role in European history in a number of ways. On the one hand, as a phenomenon it shaped individual regions as religious and cultural areas and often influenced the designation of larger territories (e. g. ‘Catholic Europe’) as well as individual regions or places determined by religious difference….

Narrare la Fine delle Religioni / Narrating the End of Religions

When did Christianity end? Was it with the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the end of the unity of the Church? Was it when rates of church membership fell below fifty percent in some important European cities? Or is Christianity still lingering on – or on a global rise?

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