Carmen González Gutiérrez on Religion and Urbanity in al-Andalus

Carmen González Gutiérrez, an associated member of the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” will deliver a paper on ‘Archaeology and Heritage of al-Andalus: New Inputs, Approaches and Experiences from Córdoba’ in New Cairo, Egypt.

She describes the contents of her talk in the following way:

Al-Andalus has traditionally been a very appealing field of study for researchers. However, the history of its origins, development and final disappearance has usually been addressed through the information contained in medieval written sources, which is often biased, partial and incomplete. Thus, historiography has been conceiving al-Andalus as a rather exotic reality, and its religious and cultural differences with the rest of the Medieval Europe resulted in the isolation of the Andalusi reality from wider historical and theoretical debates. Fortunately, this panorama is changing thanks to recent and on-going recovery of archaeological remains and sites. This is allowing the incorporation of the Islamic past of the Iberian Peninsula into the wider picture, and clarifying its role in the urban, historical and political global dynamics in the medieval Mediterranean. This lecture aims to introduce new research on al-Andalus focusing specifically on the case of Córdoba, capital under the Umayyads, which has witnessed extensive and relevant archaeological excavations in the last decades

Conference Report on “Urban Heterarchies” by Claudia Heise

Claudia Heise recently published a conference report on our annual conference “Urban Heterarchies: Changing Religious Authority and Social Power in Cities” on the website H-Soz-Kult. From the report:

[The] conference of the DFG-funded Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (FOR 2779), introduced the concept of heterarchy to develop a more complex understanding of various sources of power interacting in a competition for precedence and authority within cities and interurban networks from antiquity to the present. To shed heuristic light on the occurrence of shifts in power structures influencing both the urban societal and religious life, as well as the production of stable and unstable configurations, the organizers invited a multidisciplinary group of international experts to the Protestant Monastery of St. Augustine in Erfurt to a fruitful exchange.

Read the full text here.

Konstantin Akinsha to give paper on “Writing the Fifth Gospel: Interbellum and the beginning of World War II”

The KFG’s fellow Konstantin Akinsha will give a paper at tomorrow’s colloquium series of the Max Weber Centre on his research project. The paper is entitled: “Writing the Fifth Gospel: Interbellum and the beginning of World War II”. It discusses the construction of ecclesiastical buildings on Christian holy places in Mandatory Palestine from 1919 to 1940.

The project is analyzing the notion of the holy places belonging to the sacred geography of the Holy Land. After the establishment of the British Mandate for Palestine, numerous churches and sanctuaries were erected on important biblical sites. Architect Antonio Barluzzi (1884-1960), who created the majority of the new churches developed quite a specific architectural style, which could be defined as the style of emotional illusions. His architecture of experience produced with the help of different tricks and devices does not have comparable examples in the European tradition.

On the eve of World War II, the Catholic authorities dreamed about Italian occupation of Palestine and Rome domination in the Holy Land. Such dreams manifested
themselves in the project of the gigantic Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre, which had
to replace the old church and to change both the cityscape and structure of Jerusalem forever.

Other parts of the larger research project include:

  • The Age of Empires: Cathedrals as a Fortress and the Marker – Drafting the National Borders in the Holy Land
  • Filling the Void – Italian Architecture in Interbellum Palestine  
  • Who Owns the Tomb of Jesus? 1930s Plans of Reconstruction of the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
  • Saints among the Enemies: Architectural Projects of La Custodia di Terra Santa during the First Decades of the State of Israel.

The paper takes place o nthe 21st of January and starts at 10:15 in the Max Weber Centre, on the seventh Floor. All are welcome!

CfP: Religious Guides to Urbanity, Erfurt, 11-12 June 2020

International workshop organized by the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (funded by the German Research Foundation – FOR 2779)

We invite abstracts for a conference on ‘Religious guides to urbanity’. This workshop focuses on the regulation of urban life through orders, ordinances, instructions and other forms of written authoritative communication that are spurred by religious motivations, betray religious concerns, or target religious behaviors and misbehaviors. It takes a broad chronological and cross-cultural view in order to compare urban productions as diverse as anti-idolatrous regulations authored by late antique Christian and Jewish religious specialists, instructions like the Muslim hisba, council orders of early modern European towns (Polizeyordnungen), and other textualized strategies to promote and/or impose a ‘safe urban life’.

As suggested by the notion of ‘urban religion’, which considers the spatially informed dialectic of co-production of urban life and religious communication, the focus of the workshop is twofold: on the one hand, it addresses the regulation of religious life and the ways in which religious texts aim to shape the urban conditions of living, and on the other hand it looks at how urban spaces, actors, and ideals of urbanity generate more or less binding projects of religious normativity.

The workshop takes a source-based approach and seeks to take a close look at individual sources and their interpretation to enable meaningful comparisons across cultures past and present.

Abstracts should be 300 to 500 words in length. The deadline for submitting an abstract is 15 February 2020. We hope that the publication of the papers after the conference will be a cornerstone in the emerging field of urban religion.

Conference room and accommodation will be provided at the Augustinerkloster (Augustinerstraße 10) in the historical centre of Erfurt. Travel expenses will be refunded according to the Thüringer Reisekostengesetz (economy flight, 2nd class train ticket).

Abstracts and any queries can be submitted to:

urbrel-conf@uni-erfurt.de

Conveners: Martin Christ, Emiliano Urciuoli

The Movement of Cemeteries in Early Modern Germany

KFG core group member and junior fellow Martin Christ will present a paper entitled “Moving Religion out of the City? Extra-urban Cemeteries in Germany, 1490 – 1880” at the colloquium series of the Max-Weber-Centre. The paper considers why and how cemeteries were moved from inside the city walls to extramural spaces in the early modern period.

Understood as a space for religious rituals, saturated with religious iconography and meaning and full of biblical symbolism, burial spaces formed a ‘hot spot’ of religion. In the sixteenth century and even more so in the eighteenth century, the movement of cemeteries changed the way a town looked and functioned. European comparisons, for example with the British Isles, show a different kind of reasoning behind the movement of cemeteries in different territories and indicate that religion was only a key factor for the movement of cemeteries, if combined with other features. Arguably, the movement of cemeteries was a key process in the development of cities, as it created more secular spaces and pusheed religion to the margins of towns. By the nineteenth century, almost all towns had seen at least one movement of a main cemetery. But whether this really meant that religion became less important in cities, is not a given.

Caspar David Friedrich, Kügelgens Grab (1821/22) (Picture in public domain)

The paper proposes five themes connected to the wide-spread movement of cemeteries in the early modern period:

1 The movement of cemeteries has to be seen in a longue durée perspective, across centuries. In this way, it is possible, to trace, for example, how hygiene discourses revolving around the plague in the fifteenth century were different from the discourses on public health during the eighteenth century, both of which led to the movement of cemeteries, but in very different contexts. This kind of comparison has so far only been undertaken superficially, with most studies focusing either on the impact of the Reformation on cemeteries, or the later movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The complex interplay between the reasons for the movement of the cemeteries needs further assessment: urban hygiene, the increasing number of people and religious changes such as the Reformation or the move away from mono-confessional burial spaces all influenced the changes in sepulchral culture, but how they interacted with each other has received little scholarly attention.

2. In this way, it will also be possible to assess if there were really ‘waves’ of cemetery movements, as it will be possible to quantify when and how many cemeteries changed their location. By analyzing the movement of cemeteries over a longer period and assessing changes and continuities, discourses on secularization and urban/non-urban dynamics can be placed in a broader context. It might be possible to add some more nuance to the current assessment that eighteenth century cemeteries were less urban, indicating that religion disappeared from the city and leading to some kind of secular and capitalist modernity.

3. Broader comparisons with other European countries are particularly useful in this instance. One of the most fascinating aspects of studying death and sepulchral culture is that every society had to engage with this topic, yielding the opportunity to compare approaches in different regions. As the example of the Reformation illustrates, this can lead to telling results: arguing that the Reformation changed the positioning of the dead is not true everywhere, as the movement of cemeteries in the sixteenth century was much more pronounced in German-speaking areas than it was elsewhere. In a similar way, continuities and similarities across European regions become apparent: the wave of edicts linking Joseph II., Fredrick the Great, Napoleon and Catherine the Great, all of whom ordered the movement of cemeteries, are just one indication of the ways in which a comparative view can broaden our understanding of this topic. Indeed, the reassessment of death goes even further: Kolkatta’s South Park Street Cemetery was one of India’s first garden cemeteries, imposed by the British as a way of alleviating the problems of space in central cemeteries in the town.

South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata (See here for copyright details).

4. Methodologically, it might be possible to receive new insights by using tools developed by other disciplines, especially archaeologists. Although increasingly more important, modern archaeology is still not as prominent as classical archaeology. In the case of the movement of cemeteries, it might be possible to identify more clearly what changed not only in the positioning of the cemeteries, when they moved from inside the town, but also aspects such as grave goods or other, similar changes, which might have been connected to urbanity and religion. 

5. Finally, urban deathscapes have to be connected to other ways of commemoration and cannot be detached from other urban aspects. Royal burials and crypts for high-ranking officials, many of which stayed in town centres and were not moved are an indication of this. If we just focus on the cemeteries, we may come to the conclusion that death became less important in the early modern period, but if we look at These sites alongside ducal and royal burials, we see that, at least on this level, death remained omnipresent in urban environments.

As the paper is work in progress, these issues are understood as points of discussion and readers of this blog are also welcome to comment and raise questions through the comment function!

— Martin Christ

Martin Christ is a KFG post-doctoral research fellow working on ducal burials and urban cemeteries in early modern Germany.

Recent Talks by Members of the KFG

Jörg Rüpke, one of the spokespersons of the KFG recently delivered a lecture at the Center for Interdisciplinary Study of the Monotheistic Religions at Doshisha University, Japan. The lecture on “Urban Religion – Religion and the City in Historical Perspective” can be viewed here:

Susanne Rau, the other spokesperson of the KFG, delivered a lecture on “Religion and Urbanity” at the University of Regensburg.

Our fellow Cristiana Facchini gave a talk entitled ‘“Gli dei della città”: Secolarizzazione e urbanizzazione.’ in Torino, Italy, as part of a conference organised by Il Centro Culturale Protestante and il Centro Teologico of Torino. In Erfurt, she works on a project entitled “As a nautilus shell … Religious Diversity and Urbanity. A historical journey”.

Finally, our annual conference “Urban Heterarchies: Changing Religious Authority and Power in Cities” took part from 11-13 December 2019. Members of the KFG, fellows and external speakers contributed to a stimulating discussion on heterarchies, religion, and cities from antiquity to the twentieth century. You can find some highlights on Twitter under #UrbRel2019. A more detailed conference report will be published soon.

Annual Conference: Urban Heterarchies: Changing Religious Authority and Social Power in Cities

The KFG’s annual conference on Urban Heterarchies will take place from 11 to 13 December 2019. It is organised by Emiliano Urciuoli, Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke. To register, pelase contact Valeria Wahl.

According to archaeologist Carole L. Crumley, heterarchies are systems in which the component elements have ‘the potential of being unranked (relative to other elements)’ and/or the potential of being ‘ranked in a number of ways, depending on systemic requirements’. In contrast, explains archaeologist Alison E. Rautman, the concept of a ‘hierarchy’ ‘involves three assumptions regarding the organization of the constituent elements of a system: that a lineal ranking of constituent elements is in fact present; that this ranking is permanent (that is, the system of ranking has temporal stability); and the ranking of elements according to different criteria will result in the same overall ranking (that is, the relationships of elements is pervasive and integral to the system, and not situational)’.

For the issue of the reciprocal formation of religion and urbanity, ‘heterarchies’ open up diverse directions of analysis within cities as well as with regard to interurban networks. In both fields, the conference papers will deal with institutional arrangements as much as media of representation, narratives of legitimation, practices of comparison, strategies of mutual recognition or critique and interference up to the point of violence.

As a result, we will try to develop more complex models of constellations and paths of development that will help us to better understand and explain religious change and changes of urbanity. The conference will bring together leading experts focusing on empirical and theoretical questions and representing multiple disciplines, such as religious studies, Asian studies, history, classics, archaeology, geography, and sociology, in order to bring the heuristically promising concept of heterarchy to bear on the study of the cross-cultural and cross-temporal entanglements of religion and urbanity.

For the programme and further Information, see here.

The KFG’s Summer Activites

As the semester starts again, members of the DFG-funded Kollegforschungsgruppe (KFG) were active during the past months in a range of ways.

Asuman Lätzer-Lasar was a visiting fellow at UC Irvine, California, and guest of Andromache Karanika, who is an expert on gender and performance in ancient Greek literature. Topics of discussion included the role and agency of Greek women in religious networks, for example in Homer. Emiliano Urciuoli was a visiting research scholar at the University of Turin. As part of the stay, he gave a presentation on his 2018 book Servire due padroni: Una genealogia dell’uomo politico cristiano (50–313 e.v.).

Members of the KFG have also been active in organising workshops and conferences as well as participating in events themselves. Emiliano Urciuoli organised an international conference on Christian origins (see here for the programme), while Martin Christ gave papers at the annual meeting of the German History Society in London and at a workshop on “Rethinking Objects: New Directions for Pre-modern Materiality Studies”, held at Newcastle University. Jörg Rüpke presented papers in London, Greece and Japan. Our fellow Pralay Kanungo was a panel chair and discussant in ICAS 11 (International Convention of Asian Scholars) held in Leiden in July. He also presented a paper on “the Rise of Hindu Nationalism in Odisha: An Analysis of the 2019 Parliament Elections” in Paris in June. Elisa Iori delivered a paper “Indo-Greeks in Swat. The political program of Menander and his successors” in Bologna in September. Susanne Rau gave a keynote address and helped to lead a study week in Trento on “Migration and the European City. Social and Cultural Perspectives from Early Modernity to the Present”.

We were pleased to promote the work of the KFG during these events and to talk to colleagues and the public about overlap with their interests and work. As ever, if you want to know more about aspects of our work or would like to talk about potential collaborations, please feel free to get in touch. Furthering these connections, we were also happy to welcome our new fellows: Qudsiya Contractor, Kristine Iara, David Garbin, Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko and Marian Burchardt.

Susanne Rau, Jörg Rüpke and Emiliano Urciuoli continued organising the KFG’s annual conference on “Urban Heterarchies: Changing Religious Authority and Social Power in Cities”. This international and interdisciplinary conference takes place in Erfurt from 11 to 13 December 2019. If you are interested in attending or for further information, please contact Emiliano. Our fellow Rana Behal has co-organised the XIIIth International Conference on Labour History, held at the V.V Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDA, India from 12 to 14 March 2020. Members of the KFG are also in the process of organising two sessions for the annual conference for the European Assocaition for Urban History, held in Antwerp from 2 to 5 September 2020. The call for papers for this conference has been extended, so you can still submit an application. Sara Keller is in the early stages of organising a workshop on “Accessing Water in the South Asian City”, which is provisionally scheduled for 20-21 May 2021.

Our activities for public engagement and outreach have also continued. On November 8, the KFG will take part in the “Long Night of Scholarship” (“Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften”) where we will present aspects of our work to the public. Additionally, Sara Keller and others have been busy planning the next version of the KFG’s “City Walks”, an initiative that discusses Religion and Urbanity in Erfurt. For reports on the first two versions, see the blog entries. And for some reflections on “Erfurt-ness” linked to the walks, see here.

Work on the KFG’s main publication, a Handbook of Religion and Urbanity, continues and members have published aspects of their research as well. Martin Christ, for example, has published a chapter on “Conflict and Coexistence: The Case of Early Modern Upper Lusatia” in the volume Rethinking Europe: War and Peace in the Early Modern German Lands (ed. by Gerhild Scholz Williams, Sigrun Haude, Christian Schneider).

Members of the KFG have also used the summer period for research trips, archival visits and fieldwork. Asuman Lätzer-Lasar visited Rome in order to meet the main excavators of the Mater Magna temple and surrounding area (Patrizio Pensabene and Fulvio Coletti), as well as the excavator of the Basilica Hilariana (Carlo Pavolini). Martin Christ undertook research in London’s Metropolitan Archives and the National Archives in Kew. Susanne Rau continued her ongoing research on Lyon, which she wrote about in a recent post, and Simone Wagner visited archives for her doctoral dissertation, leading to some interesting (and entertaining) reflections. Elisa Iori travelled to the Swat District, Pakistan, for archaeological work. She will report on her experiences and work in the next blog post…

Religion and Urbanity at the EASR annual conference 2019 (part two of two)

After our first report on our project’s panels at the 17th annual conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions in the Estonian University town of Tartu, this blod post discusses the second series of panels organised by members of our research centre “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”.

The session consisted of two panels organized by Emiliano Urciuoli and Cristiana Facchini and both of them treated the theme “Urban Religion and Religious Change. Intellectualization of Religion and Ritual Invention”. It asked ow and how far religious intellectualization and ritual invention are made possible by the engagement of religious communication “with the conditions of specific urban environments at particular moments in the environmental, political, and social histories of cities” (Orsi)?

Emiliano Urciuoli’s paper “Christian intellectuals in a heterarchical world: Religious changes in the ancient Mediterranean city fabric” discussed the relationship between three aspects connected to the state of early Christ religion in 2nd century Rome as urban religion. Fristly, the phenomenon that religious scholar Heidi Wendt has called the rise of “the freelance religious experts” in the Roman empire, referring to the Mediterranean-wide emergence of “self-authorized purveyor[s] of religious teachings and practices who drew upon such abilities in pursuit of various social benefits and often more transparent forms of profit” (Wendt 2016). Secondly, the reliance of these professionals on a specific kind of capital that the urban concentration of recognized assets was able to grant them in order to win and stabilized a religious clientele: high literacy, networks of literary exchange, and various textually oriented interpretive practices” (Stowers 2011). Lastly, the capacity of the urban space to function as a “heterarchical system” (Crumley 1995), where power can be ranked in a number of ways, shared, or checked. The more densely urban and heterogeneous is the context, the more heterarchical is the system of power distribution, that is, the more various the types of power and the ways of gaining authority over people, the more diverse the manners of ranking, un-ranking or re-ranking those powers, and the more extended the chances to get access to them. Trans-urban networks can be mobilized when power is locally counterpoised. As Allen Brent pointed out (Brent 2010), the events following the outburst of the “Novatianist crisis” in Rome (251 CE) – that is, in the midst of a highly fractionated theological metropolitan reality – show that spiritual leaders lacking of sufficient influence over the local population might try to gain international support via oversea sponsors. This was only made possible by the intellectualization of religious communication via the urban production and inter-urban circulation of doctrinally laden texts.

Harry O. Maier (Vancouver School of Theology), a fellow of the research group, presented on “Ritual and Urban Networking with Ignatius of Antioch“. The paper considered ritual as a means of the creation of networks of urban religion in second century Asia Minor. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch, written by the prisoner and martyr bishop journeying to Rome during the first half of the second century, express the desires of a religious leader to create and control city networks of affiliated assemblies of Jesus believers. Ignatius ritualizes his journey to Rome as a sacred urban procession and further ritualizes the audiences of his letters as participating with him in his journey toward an anticipated martyrdom. He uses ritual to create competition for urban space, which – with the help of modern urban studies — is best understood within the specular densely populated settings of the eastern Mediterranean urban face-block neighborhood. Ignatius is concerned that meetings only happen under the supervision or knowledge of particular elected officials of the Christ assemblies he endorses. By portraying these urban locations as places where correctly conceived ritual unfolds, Ignatius adds an orthodox valence to cityspaces that they arguably did not possess outside of his letters. Thus the urban and the written conspire to form a spatial and imagined network of urban spaces, complete with ritualized urban space-time configurations. As a point of comparison, the paper examined associations and their creations of networks and modalities of space and time to consider ways in which other groups were using ritual to engage in analogous neighbourhood practices and urban networking, thereby creating cityspaces of their own. By placing Ignatius within the context of such associations the paper argued that we are enabled to recognize emergent Christianity as an urban religion and to consider how belief and city were in a dynamic relation with one another in the creation of group definition, cooperation, competition, and rivalry.

Saint Ignatius of Antiouch, subject of Harry O. Maier’s paper (see here for details).

Arkadiy Avdokhin (Higher School or Economics (Moscow) delivered a paper on Inventing Prayer, Enforcing Orthodoxy: Athanasios of Alexandria’s Project of Bible-Based Devotion. The paper approached a set of Athanasios of Alexandria’s writings about prayer and hymn-singing as a project of inventing ritual orthopraxy in fourth-century urban and rural Christian communities, as well as in individual Devotion. The paper discussed Athanasios’ Festal Letters, epostolographic output (primarily the Letter to Markellinos), and the Life of Antony from the perspective of the bishop‘s concerns about the contemporaneous diversity of devotional and liturgical practices of praying and hymn-singing and his attempt to bring a unifying change. It argued that Athanasios had a coherent vision of the ideal Christian prayer and hymnody. For Athanasios, ‘orthodox’ Christians—lay and ascetics, educated devotees and common believers alike—should derive their practices of devotion and liturgy from the Bible—the Psalter and the Biblical odes—rather than other sources. Athanasios‘ programme of devotional and liturgical orthopraxy centred around the Biblical ideal is part of his broader project of bringing unity to the division-riddled church of Egypt. The bishop conceived of the Scripturally-cued shared patterns of praying and hymn-singing as one of the means to unify scattered Christian communities. Although not as self-consciously formulated as e.g. his polemic against the ‘Arians’ or Meletians, Athanasios pastoral programme of a uniform Biblical devotion surfaces across his writings with consistency. A further Suggestion was that Athanasios’ project of promoting standardized, Bible-based ritual practices of prayer and hymn-singing was an individually conceived regulatory programme that wasenforced through episcopal frameworks of power. This project was targeted against the diversity of modes of prayer and hymn-singing practiced across a variety of doctrinally, ecclesially, and socially different communities. The paper also explored the impact of the divide between urban (Alexandria-based) and rural (chōra-based) networks of parishes and ascetical communities in both promoting and subverting communication of episcopal regulations regarding prayer and liturgy.

The second panel began with Cristiana Facchini, from the University of Bologna and a fellow in Erfurt, and her paper “Utopias and urban imagination in the early modern period”. The paper argued that utopian literature has been generally placed against the backdrop of different Christian undercurrents, and consequently it has been treated as a genre that both speaks about politics and religion. Rooted in ancient Greek thought, this genre became particularly relevant in the early modern period, as one of the consequences of the discovery of new continents. Fuelled by disappointment or sarcasm about political and religious warfare and strife, the idea of utopia unleashed European imagination about ideally planned communities which were parallel to the concrete founding of new urban environments. The paper explored a set of interrelated questions, both from a theoretical and a historical perspective. On the one hand, it investigated what kind of religious environment utopian thought was likely to imagine, especially against the backdrop of increasing religious strife. On the other one, it analysed how utopian thought might have influenced urban projects that were enhanced in new environments, either as idealized utopian polities or new urban projects, mostly visible in some American areas. Finally, some theoretical reflections were formulated in reference to the striking relevance ‘utopian imagination’ played in urban thought, up to the point where it overlapped with dystopian delusion.

Finally, Martin Christ, a post-doctoral fellow of the Project, considered “Rituals of Death in Early Modern German Cities”. The paper considered the ways in which rituals connected to dying and death were invented, performed and perceived by a range of actors living and working in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The paper concentrated on important German towns and cities in the early modern period to assess how rituals of death changed in this tumultuous period of European history. The religious, political and cultural changes of the early modern period had a profound impact on the ways in which men and women died and were commemorated and remembered. The paper took these big changes as a starting point and explored what processes like the Reformation and Catholic/Counter Reformation, changing discourses around medicine and hygiene or the European expansions in the New World did to rituals of death. It conceived of dying and death as a process with many actors and spaces, all of which have to be considered. They included private spaces, like the bedchamber, but also churches or graveyards which shaped the look of a town. The paper illustrated how rituals of death were in a reciprocal relationship with urban spaces, affected by these spaces and influencing them in turn. In this way, the paper asked about the specific ways in which urbanity influenced dying, death and commemoration in a range of German cities and argued that understanding how someone died is a crucial aspect of early modernity.

Collectively, the anels showed that many features of past and present religions were the outcome of specific effects and uses of city-space and their social and cognitive bases rather than as inherent characteristics of a specific ‘religion’. Many religious phenomena, and especially major religious changes, can be better understood by viewing them in spatial terms, that is, as a result of a dialectic of “co-production” (Day) of city-space and urban life, on the one side, and religious representations and practices, on the other. Therefore, change is not conceptualized by presupposing religion and the city as two static entities, but rather implying a “continual process in which the urban and the religious reciprocally interact, mutually interlace, producing, defining, and transforming each other” (Lanz). Designating a process in which religion and the urban are involved, ‘urban religion’ is the formula that defines the state of a religion which is shaped by the interaction with the urban spatial environment and which can periodically crystallize into major changes whose assessment and naming is a responsibility of the scholar. Focusing on changing urban environments against the backdrop of long-term periodizations such as the Roman empire, the rise of Islam, and the European age of explorations (with the Reformation and the development of colonial empires), this panels reflected on forms of connectivity (cooperative or/and conflictual) and targeted religious dynamism through the lenses of religious intellectualization and ritual invention. These are two kinds of religious changes that appear recurrently in the cross-culturally entangled, world-wide history of religion and urbanism.

CfP for EAUH Antwerp: “Religious Guides to Urbanity” and “Religion, Mobility and Co-spatiality in Cities”

We are pleased that the DFG-funded KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” has received two sessions at the European Association for Urban History conference 2020. The conference takes place in Antwerp from 2 to 5 September 2020. We invite applications for papers to be presented at the two sessions.

The first one, organised by Martin Christ, Emiliano Urciuoli and Charlotte Elisheva  Fonrobert, concerns the topic “Religious Guides to Urbanity”. The session focuses on the regulation of urban life of both migrants and long-term residents through orders, council decrees, ordinances, guild statutes, instructions and other forms of written authoritative communication that are spurred by religious motivations, betray religious concerns, or target religious behaviors and misbehaviors. It asks how such regulations sought to fix urban behaviour in cities which were constantly changing and how the movements within the cities influenced the instructions in turn. It takes a broad chronological and cross-cultural view in order to compare urban productions as diverse as anti-idolatrous regulations authored by late antique Christian and Jewish religious specialists, sets of rules like the Muslim hisba, church ordinances of early modern European towns (Kirchenordnungen), and several other textualized strategies to promote or impose a ‘safe urban life’. As suggested by the notion of urban religion, which considers the spatially informed dialectic of co-production of urban life and religious communication, the focus of the panel is twofold: on the one hand, it addresses the regulation of religious life and the ways in which religious texts aim to shape the urban conditions of living and, on the other hand, it looks at how urban spaces, actors, and ideals of urbanity generate more or less binding projects of religious normativity. The panel takes a source-based approach and seeks to take a close look at individual sources and their interpretation to enable meaningful comparisons across cultures past and presents as well as a diverse range of regions. 

The second session, led by Susanne Rau, Jörg Rüpke and Michel Lussault, concentrates on “Religion, Mobility and Co-spatiality in Cities“. It proposes that urban space is characterized by multiple overlapping spaces, created by the imaginations and use of space and complicated by the movement of different people and groups. Religion offers an interesting lens into this phenomenon, as it is as much a technique to mark out space by ritual usages, ephemeral or lasting sacralisations of space, as it is a cultural technique to imagine and perform the transgression of concrete space with a view to divine addressees etc. Thus, its use of space is very different from other uses of spaces. Hence, it is conflicting or has the potential of being instrumentalised for different purposes. The organisers particularly welcome case studies European, Mediterranean and Asian cities of all epochs on double or parallel uses and interpretation of space, especially when they are caused by religious groups. Theoretical papers are welcome, as are considerations on simultanea or shared use of temples by different groups, appropriations of urban space by religious migrants, processions, sacred places in present metropolises and architectural space and sacred metaphors.

We look forward to receiving proposals for both these sessions through the official EAUH website.

The call closes on 04 October.

Religious Places in Motion

On 18 July 2019, the second edition of our city walk on “Religion and Urbanity” in Erfurt took place. (For a short repot on our first walk, see here). The warm and sunny morning prompted us to stay in the shade of Erfurt’s churches and wander in the shadows of religious authorities, premises and groups.

The theme of this new walk was “Transformation of Religious Spaces”. Our aim was to look at a selection of religious spaces and their non-linear history. Historical disruptions, spatial competition, social and religious conflicts, natural and man-made catastrophes, but also growth and beautification, evolution of religious and social practices, reappropriation, reuse and rehabilitation: These were some of the reasons for transformation affecting religious spaces in urban context. The theme highlighted the complexity of multi-layered trajectories for most of the religious spaces. Even seemingly well-established constructs were and are in motion.

The Hanseplatz in Erfurt ((c) Sara Keller)
The Hanseplatz in Erfurt (© Sara Keller)

Our walk started at the Hanseplatz (or place of the Hanseatic League), a large and green open space, suitable for a nice stroll and also containing a playground. However, this pleasant square had a more sinister function, as it served as a place for executions up until the eighteenth century. Executions were strictly regulated and performed by religious agents. In death, religion and law interacted in fascinating ways. Public executions were well attended public events with a religious framework, including the presence of clerics, reading of religious texts, reference to the destiny of the souls of the to-be-executed persons. All this justified the sentence and strengthened religious authority. The executioner was respected for the performance of his duty and sometimes had medical knowledge. But his trade was also considered as dishonourable. Remains of more than 40 executed persons were found during excavations for underground parking, where past notions of hell are now buried alongside the dead.

We then walked to the Barfüsserruine, remains of a church which are preserved as a ruin and now serve as a memorial to the bombing of the Second World War and the destruction it brought. A scared space was initially built there in the thirteenth century as the monastery church of the recently founded Franciscan Order. Its history is significant for the religious property and competition for influence of monasteries and confessions in the dense pre-modern urban canvas from the medieval period until the post-Reformation time. After the 1944 bombing that heavily damaged the church nave, the remains were secured, the ruin now serving as a performance space for cultural events. The church is still subject of discussions about a potential reconstruction of the roof and about the meaningfulness of evidence of bombing as a reminder of war.

The Barfüsserruine in Erfurt ((c) Sara Keller).
The Barfüsserruine in Erfurt (© Sara Keller).

Our walk continued to the Predigerkirche, a monument built as the monastic church of the Dominican monastery in the thirteenth century. Dominicans introduced a solution to the social and spiritual needs of the increasing city population, thus justifying the importance of having monastic premises within the city wall. In the course of the Reformation, Protestant sermons were held in the church, which is significant for the designation of religious places and parishes as Protestant or Catholic. This shift, as well as issues of property ownership and disputes between monasteries, are representative of the constant territorial competition of religious institutions. The Predigerkirche is also remembered as the church of the mystic Meister Eckhart who was prior of the monastery in the early fourteenth century.

From the Predigerkirche, we went to the Magdalenenkapelle, a thirteenth century chapel with a history connected strongly to death and burials. Initially, it was a cemetery chapel for poor people and foreigners. It was then used as a burial space for the Sankt Martin Hospice in the Fischmarkt. The chapel was eventually profaned and afterwards used as a theatre. The monument returned to its original funerary function in 2014 as it was rehabilitated as a columbarium, answering the increasing need of urn space. The Erfurt artist Evelyn Körber designed fifteen columns made from limestone from Solnhofen and containing urn spaces, which can be customised. The long waiting list for the urns of the Magdalenenkapelle indicates the trend towards cremation and the great demand for successful projects like the Magdalenenkapelle’s columbarium.

Our final station was on the Petersberg, where we had a glimpse of the Peterskirche, unfortunately closed at the moment and wrapped in a large restauration canvas. The church’s history is shaped by clerical and profane military functions. The church, dedicated to St. Peter und St Paul, was a roman basilica built in 1060 as the church of the Benedictine monastery. It was constructed on the top of a hill that presents evidence of pre-medieval settlements. The city of Erfurt developed on the foot of the hill in the early medieval period, while the monastery area was chosen for its dominant and strategic position. In the seventeenth century, a fort was built on the Petersberg and it was occupied in the 19th century by Napoleonic troops, then the Prussian army. In this context, the church was profaned, it lost its spires and was used to store military equipment. For the 2021 Bundesgartenschau, a national gardening exhibition, the church is being renovated, while colourful parterres will be added to the surrounding area.

Much more could be said and discussed about the turbulent history of religious places in Erfurt, so that during our talk we had to cut short some of our discussions. The visit of the old synagogue, initially planned as part of the walk, also had to be dropped because of time constraints. But this has led us to schedule a third city walk soon – a new edition, will contain fewer statiosn to leave enough time for discussions and be more interactive.

— Sara Keller

Sara is a post-doctoral researcher in the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations”. She specialises in medieval Indian history, especially water works in western India.