Holy Places of Antiquity

New edited volume opens up an interdisciplinary view of sacred sites of antiquity

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A new volume of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, edited by Old Testament scholar Prof. Dr. Reinhard Achenbach and published with Zaphon-Verlag, addresses sacred places of antiquity. Under the title “Heilige Orte der Antike” (Holy places of antiquity), the publication brings together contributions from the lecture series of the same name to which the research association had invited in the winter semester 2013/14. “Holy places are places that are separate from everyday life and have a sacral meaning. Since the earliest times, they have existed in the history of mankind in all regions and cultures of the world,” explains Prof. Achenbach. “They are associated with special symbolic acts of a ritual nature and thus also serve to constitute a common and individual identity.”

In archaeological, ancient historical, religious and theological approaches, the volume shows that sacral sites that had existed for centuries or even millennia were perceived as sacred places, just as places that were only used for a short period of time and all but arising from an individual need. Thus, well-known “holy places” such as Jerusalem, Byzantium or Medina are found in the volume, but so are places that mainly expert scholars are familiar with, such as Nippur, Abydos or the Dülük Baba Tepesi. “The contributions describe in various ways the transformation processes that were involved in the formation of sacred places, their often centuries-long use, their decline and their reuse,” says Prof. Achenbach. Their impact often extends to the present day: “We are interested in sacred places, the immediate religious use of which has lasted in some cases and ceased in others, but which nevertheless, as human heritage, have an important identity-forming function for the historical culture of memory and remembrance.” (sca/vvm)

Reference: Achenbach, Reinhard (ed. in collaboration with Nikola Moustakis): Heilige Orte der Antike. Gesammelte Studien im Anschluss an eine Ringvorlesung des Exzellenzclusters „Religion und Politik in den Kulturen der Vormoderne und der Moderne“ an der Universität Münster im Wintersemester 2013/2014, Münster: Zaphon 2018.