Call for Papers: ‘Material Religion Through the Sacred Interior’, 76th Annual International Conference, Society of Architectural Historians, 12th-16th April 2023 (Deadline 7th June 2022)

The Society of Architectural Historians is now accepting abstracts for its 76th Annual International Conference in Montréal, Canada, April 12–16, 2023 and virtually September 20–22, 2023. Please submit an abstract no later than 11:59 p.m. CDT on June 7, 2022. SAH encourages submissions from architectural, landscape, and urban historians; museum curators; preservationists; independent scholars; architects; scholars in related fields; and members of SAH chapters, Affiliate Groups and partner organizations. Please be aware that all abstracts must be submitted through the SAH website portal. You can fine more information here:

Material Religion Through the Sacred Interior (Montréal)
Following the Protestant Reformation, clerics and church officials stripped the interior spaces of many western medieval churches of their polychromy, textiles, choir screens, side altars, and sculptures, fundamentally changing the sensorial experience of worship for both clergy and laity. These changes had an impact on how scholars approached medieval church interiors, causing some to overlook the presence of furniture and other portable furnishings. Instead, art and architectural historians have emphasized architectural structure, frescos, and painted altarpieces. Other scholars analyze aspects of the liturgy that engage with select objects, but there is much more to be said about items long since removed.

This session invites papers that investigate how sacred interiors were furnished with items such as—though not limited to—textiles, side altars, altar cloths, and choir screens. How did these material objects influence the experience of the worshipper in this holy space? How have museums’ categorization of furniture as part of the decorative arts impeded the study of these items? Is the term “furniture” the correct or relevant term to use for items such as altars and choir stalls, and can this be clarified by writers? What role did textiles play in creating movable temporary spaces within the larger building? Investigations of these themes in relation to sacred spaces from all eras and places are welcome. Differences in experiences of the sacred interior based upon gender, socio-economic class, and race are encouraged. As art historian and religious studies scholar David Morgan observes in his recent book, “The Thing about Religion,” material objects are the “things…[that] make religions happen.” This session seeks to explore the medieval western church interior (c.500–1500) as a space where material objects have been employed to make religion happen.

Organized by the SAH Historic Interiors Affiliate Group.
Session Chair: Tania Kolarik, University of Wisconsin–Madison


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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