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« Architectural Metaphors as  Agents for Devotion in Cross-Confessional Debates: a Comparative Study in Early Modern Europe »

December 12, 2011
Study Day of GEMCA
Université catholique de Louvain


The seventeenth century saw an important growth of religious literature. Whether controversial or not, devotional or liturgical, spiritual or historical in nature, all these sources contained historical, anagogical, tropological and metaphorical referents which had a tremendous impact on the contemporary visual culture. A well-known example is the generalized use of twisted columns with reference to Solomon’s Temple, as seen in Bernini’s Baldachino in St. Peter’s Rome but also in many paintings, engravings or emblems of the same period.

This body of material is deeply marked by the confessional struggles dividing Europe in the seventeenth century, though very homogeneous in its frame of reference. Moreover, in many devotional and meditative texts across confessions, architecture plays an essential role by means of references to biblical or Christian historical models. These models include the Temple of Solomon, the Ark of Covenant, pre-figurations of Jerusalem, and the buildings of Early Christianity.
This study-day wants to reflect on how references to Biblical or Christian places of worship as well as the metaphors they carry, convey spiritual and theological knowledge in word, image and stone. Special attention will be paid to the impact of the early modern religious struggles on the role assigned to architecture in this process of communication. In other words, the seminar will address the theme of metaphorical representations of religious architecture as agents for the circulation of theological and devotional ideas within a cross-confessional context and their relationship to contemporary church architecture.

Questions which should be addressed are: how is religious architecture described or represented in texts and illustrations, across the confessional stances? What are common or particular references to biblical and Christian metaphors and how are they used within the cross-confessional context? What is the function and meaning of the historical and metaphorical referents of the Christian traditions? How is church-architecture used as a spiritual project or theological project by means of these referents?

Speakers will include

Prof. Caroline van Eck (Leiden)

Prof. Maarten Delbeke (Gent / Leiden)

Prof. Agnès Guiderdoni-Bruslé (UCL)

Drs. Annelyse Lemmens (UCL)

Drs. Grégory Ems (UCL)

Dr. Anne-Françoise Morel (UCL / Gent)

This study-day is the out-come of a postdoctoral research project, housed at the UCL, Group for Early Modern Cultural Analysis and funded by the GEMCA and the Foundation Francqui.

A detailed program, including practicalities will be announced soon.

Please contact Anne-Françoise Morel for further information.

Salle du Conseil PSP
Collège Michotte
Place Cardinal Mercier, 10

Université catholique de Louvain

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