EXC 2060 A3-6 - Religious Buildings Change their Identity: Iberia 711–1609

In Progress
Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
  • Description

    In the course of Iberia’s political history religious buildings frequently changed hands. Most often these buildings were not destroyed, but, rather, appropriated. These acts transported conquerors and conquered, majority and minority of different religious background from a zone of political conflict into one of cultural confrontation. Such appropriations most commonly followed conquests, acts of religious persecution, expulsions of either the Jewish or the Muslim minority, and as a by-product of forced baptism among large groups of population. While the appropriation of religious buildings occurred under a variety of circumstances, modern art historians and archeologists so far attended primarily to the material aspects and the physical changes these buildings underwent. The cluster project is dedicated to synagogues that passed into the hands of Christian organizations. The focus will, however, not be put on physical change, but, rather, on the cultural aspects of these appropriations. For several decades now, the historical discourse on religious minorities in Iberia is governed by the so-called “Convivencia” controversy. Recent scholarship addresses the tensions, conflicts and modes of co-existence of the divers religious groups in attempts to contextualize them in the political, theological, social, and cultural developments of the period. Whether pregnant with tension or not, these groups were entangled with each other to varying degrees. Thus, the appropriation of religious buildings is a visible marker of the extent of such processes. While expulsions and the following appropriation of buildings were often a clear symptom of disentanglement, several of these structures changed hands already prior to the expulsions of the minorities in the late fifteenth (the Jews) or the early seventeenth century (the Muslims), while the different groups were still intensely entangled.
  • Persons

  • Dissertations

    Franziska Kleybolte


    Doctoral Thesis

    "Thrown to the Ground." The Chrisitan Appropriation, Destruction and Conversion of Synagogues in Iberia between the 14th and 16th Centuries


    The overarching research interest that underlies my dissertation project is the conversion of sacred space of one religious community by another, for example in the case of conquest or persecution. In my doctoral thesis, I particularly concentrate on the conquest, conversion, and destruction of Jewish sacred space by Christians on the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. Numerous examples of this are known to this day, whereby in about fifty percent of the cases known today a sacral conversion of the Jewish space took place; synagogues were converted here into chapels, churches, cathedrals, monasteries and buildings belonging to places of worship, or the synagogue was demolished in favour of a new sacral building. The project is concerned with the interests at a political, economic, and religious level that motivated these conversions and asks to what extent the investigation of these interests can be understood as a reflection of the Jewish-Christian relationship on the aforementioned levels at the time. To this end, in my work I look at Christian-Jewish life and relations before, during and after the conversions at the respective places of action and examine the individual steps of the conversion as well as their reception. A significant increase in the number of synagogue conversions on the Iberian Peninsula can be observed at the end of the fourtheenth and beginning of the fifteenth century: In 1391-92 there were pogroms of Jews in the Kingdom of Castile-León and Aragon, which resulted in many synagogue conversions, and the same happened during and after the Disputation of Tortosa 1413-14 in about the same regions. These conversions shall serve as examples for my research; starting point are churches (that were former synagogues) in Sevilla and Toledo. A look at earlier and later synagogue conversions as well as at the conversion of mosques, for which there are just as many examples on the Iberian Peninsula, should also enable me to think about the general phenomenon of conquest, destruction and conversion of the sacred space of 'the Others', as can be found again and again across epochs, religions and regions.