International Colloquium
"Built Ritual Space. The Use and Perception of Religious Cult Buildings in Ancient (City/Polis) Sanctuaries" (Excellence Cluster ROOTS)
October 21-23, 2021, CAU Kiel




This interdisciplinary colloquium explores the utilisation of enclosed roofed cult buildings (temples, churches) in ancient societies and their significance in the context of ritual and social practices in urban contexts.

The colloquium invites approaches of four potential veins of inquiry:

I. Concepts of use and worship.
The concepts of use within the inner rooms may be predefined by the spatial configuration of the facilities, their permanently installed equipment, and their accessibility. Structural changes within the buildings are of special interest because they are hints for changing requirements/notions and thus may refer to altered ritual procedures or liturgies.

II. The agency of acting persons.
Forms of utilisation and acquisition of built ritual space by the users beyond ritual use also play a decisive role. This raises the question of the extent to which users (with their own interests and strategies) changed the spaces and helped shape them.

III. The integration of concepts of action into urban space and their role in social urban life.
By focusing on enclosed cult buildings, an urban space comes into view which initially appears to be separated and excluded from the rest of urban life by walls and doors. At the same time, the enormous importance of cultic activities in pre-modern cultures ensures that activities performed inside the buildings had a substantial impact on urban society. Therefore, the interaction between practices in the temple and in the city is integral. Hereby, the focus is the integration through actions and practices: In what way was the use of space integrated into the urban space, e.g., through ritual processes connecting outdoor and indoor space (processions, multi-step rituals, etc.)? What relevance did the practices within the built ritual space have for urban space and urban society, and how were they received or referenced to outside the cult buildings?

IV. ethodological reflections.
The reconstruction and evaluation of actions and practices in pre-modern cultures – thus from a retrospective perspective – involve many methodological problems especially because of the highly fragmented sources in all cases. These methodological problems highlight the fact that the overall topic can only be approached in an interdisciplinary way in order to be able to make full use of the possibilities offered by different approaches and, above all, different sources.

The main focus will be on the Mediterranean area and the neighbouring regions and chronologically ranging from Bronze Age to Late Antiquity. The geographical and chronological framework is intentionally wide to grasp the specific problem of dealing with enclosed cult buildings, usually called temples, in all their diversity.


Flyer Built Ritual Space Colloquium