For centuries, the Atlantic Ocean was the center of the commercial world, but the cargo that ships carried were not always tangible commodities. Instead, myriad religious traditions and spiritual beliefs were carried between Atlantic ports by traders and adventurers, only to find new converts in faraway lands. These belief systems developed and often subdivided over time, manifesting in new forms both in the homeland and abroad. Each of these elaborations resulted in new sacred spaces dedicated to worship, prayer and ritual, in both public and private settings.
This course will examine sacred spaces associated with the major religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions that we’ll encounter during our voyage. Specifically, we will study the ways in which sacred environments—built or naturally occurring—reflect the tenets and beliefs of different spiritual perspectives, encompassing the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) as well as multiple indigenous and blended traditions. In addition, the course will investigate what role material culture and rituals play in the creation and maintenance of sacred space.
Field WorkCountry: Turkey
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 29 September
In this field lab, we will visit three sites in Istanbul that demonstrate how sacred space is constructed, and how those spaces change over time in response to power and patronage. We will visit the Pammakaristos Church, originally a Christian site built during the Byzantine era (ca. 15th century) and later repurposed into a mosque (Fethiye Mosque). We will also visit the famous Hagia Sophia, another Byzantine-era church re-appropriated by Muslims, but which now serves as a secular museum rather than a place of active worship. Finally, we will visit the Suleymaniye Mosque, which dates to the Ottoman era (ca. 16th century) and which is a product of the famous Muslim architect Sinan. At each site, we will examine how the ritual environments of previous rulers were—or were not—changed to suit different needs. We’ll also consider the roles of patrons and donors in the creation of sacred spaces. Academic Objectives: 1. Study first hand three sites in Turkey that reflect differing phases of patronage and religious dominance 2. Examine the placement, style and functions of art/ritual objects in the environment 3. Analyze how the ritual environment and its material culture reflect the main tenets of particular beliefs and practices 4. Study how function of a particular site changes over time, and how these changes are reflected in the physical environment