International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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124 Topographies of piety: Maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (1)
Convenor(s) Veronica della Dora (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Rehav (Buni) Rubin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Chair(s) Veronica della Dora (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Friday 10 July 2015, Timeslot 1 (09:15 - 11:00)
Room Royal School of Mines, Room G.06 - DO NOT USE 2020
Session abstract The proposed session will discuss different aspects of the role of sacred places and landscapes as geographical elements in the religious experience. The papers will explore different ways in which sacred sites and their surroundings were experienced and represented in different Christian traditions from late antiquity to the early nineteenth century and how they contributed to articulate both personal piety and collective geographical imaginations. Geographically the papers will exhibit case-studies around the Mediterranean basin and beyond it, from Ireland and Spain in the West to the Balkans, Cyprus, Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Syria in the East. The papers will focus on different periods and cultural contexts, with particular emphasis on the Byzantine and post-Byzantine, which have been largely overlooked by Anglophone historical geographers. The papers will employ a variety of approaches, including iconographic and textual analysis, as well as phenomenology, and they will span historical geography, history, art history, archaeology and architecture. This wide scope will provide a fertile ground for an interdisciplinary discussion on the spatial dimensions of Christian pilgrimage and devotional practices, with a particular attention to materialities, mobilities, performance, and representation.
Linked Sessions Topographies of piety: maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
Movement as sacred mimesis at Abu Mena and Qal'at Sim'an, fifth century
Heather Hunter-Crawley (University of Bristol, UK)
In the archaeological remains of ancient pilgrimage sites we have evidence for the motion and movement of pilgrim bodies. This paper will apply a self-designed New Materialist methodology of ‘common sensory archaeology’ to the remains of two of the most famous, and archaeologically productive, pilgrimage sites of Late Antiquity: Abu Mena, in Egypt, and Qal’at Sim’an, in Syria. It will do so in order to explore the embodied movement of pilgrims through these sites, and to investigate what experiences the sites offered pilgrims, and how architecture and landscape combined to construct and enforce the meanings of the cults to which pilgrims adhered, through an embodied mimicry of saintly actions. It will show how pilgrims arriving to pay homage to Symeon the Stylite were led in a gently ascending spiral to admire the column atop which the saint had stood and suffered for decades; and it will show how devotees of Menas the Christian martyr were led through closer and smaller spaces, toward a ‘claustrophobic’ intimacy with the saint’s relics. It will demonstrate that the motions of historical pilgrims are not only accessible to us, but essential considerations in our understanding of the form and function of ancient pilgrimage.
Peregrinatio, sanctity and place in the early Celtic Church: St Admonán’s writings on St Columba and the Holy Land in the seventh century
Richard Scriven (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland)
Using the writings of St Admonán, the abbot of Iona in the Inner Hebrides isles, Scotland (679–704AD), I consider how the early Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland developed distinct conceptions of the sanctity of person and place, which contributed to the emergence of Christian pilgrimage within these islands during the early medieval period. This paper is based on comparative analysis of his Vita Columbae (the Life of St Columba), which outlines the virtues and deeds of the saintly founder of the monastery on Iona, and De Locis Sanctis (On Holy Places), an account of travels to the Holy Land based on the testimony of Arculf, a Frankish bishop. It also builds on discussions of the Celtic idea of peregrinatio, the role of hagiography in the creation of spiritual landscapes and debates on the nature of sacred locations within Christianity. Through these texts, I explore how clerics from Britain and Ireland understood their spiritual and geographical place within the world, and how the figure of the saint was central to the sanctification of locations at the edge of the earth.
Piety and politics: a twelfth-century Byzantine pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Shai Eshel (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem)
The paper focuses on a twelfth-century Byzantine text, known as John Phocas' Brief Description of the Holy Places. The text is a pilgrim's diary concerning a journey to Syria and Palestine. Lately Phocas' authorship has been questioned by Charis Messis, who attributed the text to an imperial family member by the name of John Doukas, who participated in a diplomatic mission to Palestine in 1177. The paper analyzes the text's description of six main sites: Antioch, Nazareth, Jerusalem, the Judean desert monasteries and Bethlehem. Throughout this pilgrimage diary, the religious interests and political agenda of the author are revealed, as well as his attitude towards the Latin control of the holy sites. The author wishes to describe Palestine as a land of vivid Orthodox spiritual life, where hagiographies come to life and the holiness of both sites and saints is still present and active. He ignores the Crusaders' domination of the land, and praises the role of emperor Manuel Comnenus as the true benefactor and protector of the holy sites and of the Orthodox population.
Mapping Popular Piety on the holy island of Cyprus
Ioanna Christoforaki (Academy of Athens, Greece)
In his Recital concerning the Sweet Land of Cyprus, the fifteenth-century chronicler, Leontios Machairas, refers to his native Cyprus as “the holy island”. Indeed, no fewer than two hundred and thirty-nine saints have been attributed to Cyprus. The island boasts a significant number of bishops, monastic saints and martyrs, without counting the numerous imported relics venerated in its churches and monasteries, which also indicate local cult. Some of these saints were actually born on the island, whereas others were ‘imported’, even posthumously. The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between saints, both native and adopted, and village society in medieval Cyprus. The result will hopefully shed light on the religious belief system of ordinary people, usually overlooked in scholarship. In doing so, I intend to move away from urban centers and instead examine the palpable remains of popular piety in the countryside: the village church and its title saint. My ultimate goal is to map local or regional patterns of veneration and thus trace the sacred geography of a medieval society.