In sanctuaries, the boundaries between the profane and the sacred are marked by doors on different levels, either physical or symbolic: gateways in a precinct, the outer doors of a temple or church, the inner doors of a cella or holy of holies. Pagans and Christians have recorded their perceptions of these liminal spaces in literature, giving us a glimpse of their emotions and ideas. What did someone entering a pagan or Christian sanctuary see, hear, smell, feel? Who was excluded at the door, who was admitted? What symbolic meaning did a door have? What continuities and changes can be identified in Late Antiquity?
The conference aims to elucidate the transition from the worldly to the divine by focusing on the door of the sanctuary during Late Antiquity, a key period of transition in which, with the spread of Christianity, cultural paradigms were redefined. With pagans and Christians living side by side there were many religious debates. During this period, description of churches developed into a specific genre. An early example in the Greek East is Eusebius’ description (in his Ecclesiastical History X.4.37ss.) of the church of Tyre built by the bishop Paulinus (ca. 316-317). The door plays a decisive role in this description. A similar example in the Latin West is the description of the doors of the basilica of Felix by Paulinus of Nola, in Letter 32 and Carmina 27 and 28.
The theme of the conference, the experience of the sanctuary door as a place of transition, will be addressed by an interdisciplinary and dynamic approach. This will embrace literary and material sources from the 3rd to the 8th centuries CE, from different regions of the Mediterranean world and from different linguistic, religious and cultural contexts. It will deal with sensory perceptions (light, music, smell, touch) and intellectual perceptions (symbolic meanings). A further dimension to this theme may be added by comparative studies from other religions, i.e. papers on the door of the sanctuary in Judaism and Islam.
It is intended that participants of the conference (some 10-15 persons) will come from different disciplines: specialists in Greek and Latin, archaeology, art history and history of religion. Each participant should aim to deliver a transdisciplinary paper on the door of the sanctuary in pagan or Christian Late Antiquity, in the Greek East or in the Latin West. He/she should depart from his/her own field of expertise, relate material, sociological, ritual and symbolic aspects to each other and explore different kinds of experiences as fully as possible. During the conference, participants will work together as an interdisciplinary team. Each participant will present his/her paper in plenary sessions and act as a referee to the paper of another participant from another discipline. The results of the conference – an introduction and a selection of representative papers – will be published in a thematic volume.
Although we shall be able to reimburse some of the participants’ costs, at present we are unable to say to what extent. We would therefore be grateful if you could also apply for financial support from your own institution.
Members from faculties, independent researchers and graduate students (PhD) are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 500 words together with a brief biography and a list of publications to Emilie M. van Opstall (firstname.lastname@example.org), with as an email title ‘The Door of the Sanctuary’. Closing date: October 15th 2014. Notification of acceptance will be sent by November 15th, 2014.