Call 1: Sacralisation of the landscape: alteration, destruction and resistance

In so far as the history of Europe can also be described as the process of Christianisation, it coincides with the transformation of attitudes towards all aspects of daily life as well as the urban and natural landscape in which life took shape. Aspects that were considered indifferent to Christianity at first soon became topics of discussion and of faith when Christianity started to grow in the Ancient world. Some of these topics seem superficial such as the question of what kind of cloths a Christian should wear. Other topics had an impact on social life such as the question whether a Christian could attend a ‘pagan’ celebration of names giving. Not only practices were scrutinized, shunned and violated when considered pagan. Also places that were at first a part of common public life were later condemned, avoided and destroyed as ‘pagan’ such as for example theatre halls and arena’s.

When Christianity spread out over the European continent it was continuously confronted with practical questions about what could be considered indifferent to Christianity, what belonged to the domain of the religious and what should be condemned as ‘pagan’. The landscape was no exception. Temples were converted into churches, ancient burial mounds and menhirs could be conquered by placing crosses on top of them. Auspicious trees could be knocked down, or they got Christianised by fixing a statue of a saint to it. As such the landscape became sacralised, even if it meant that places became haunted by ancient ‘paganism’ when before they were neutral.  During the Counter Reformation even places that were part of Christian practices needed ‘purification’ of its pagan residues.

In this session, we want to investigate the way in which religions transform the experience of the landscape. We also want to confront the Christian impact on the landscape and on its rival traditions with the way in which other cultures deal with landscape and how the landscape is used in multiple ways by different groups. Relevant questions are: In what ways do these approaches differ? Do they trigger as much violence as is the case in the history of Christianity? Or are there other mechanisms of inclusion and cohabitation? How does that translate into a different attitude towards the landscape?