2021 Institute of Classical Studies Byzantine Virtual Colloquium

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2021 Institute of Classical Studies Byzantine Virtual Colloquium "Sacred Mobilities in Byzantium and Beyond: People, Objects and Relics". All religious belief implicates space; all religious practice makes geography. In the broad sense, the term ‘sacred’ indicates something ‘different’, ‘set apart’, ‘other’, as well as something invested with special meaning. Yet, where do the boundaries of the sacred lie? Is sacred space an ontological given, or is it a social construction? Is it a portion of territory or the product of a set of embodied practices? Is it permanent or ephemeral?

Over the past two decades, the construction, experience and use of sacred space have generated increasing scholarly interest in the humanities, including Byzantine studies—from Alexei Lidov’s pioneering studies in hierotopy (2006) to more recent interdisciplinary initiatives (e.g., Mapping the Sacred in Byzantium at Newcastle University). Far from being understood as a fixed given entity, in these recent studies sacred space has intersected with issues of embodiment and performance, with environmental perceptions, attitudes and practice, with social mobility and identity, with the relations of private and public space, and with geopolitics and territorial imaginations. At the same time, the so-called ‘Mobility Turn’ (Sheller and Urry 2006) has extended from the domain of the social sciences to the humanities, prompting among historians, archaeologists and art historians new questions, approaches and understandings of issues of transport, movement and circulation of people, objects and ideas. Our Colloquium aims at setting these two strands—sacred space and mobility—in conversation with each other, in order to gain further insight into Byzantine and post-Byzantine spiritual culture.

In addition to conventional sacred spaces such as churches, shrines and religiously significant topographical features (such as holy mountains or caves, for example), holy people, sacred objects and relics were frequently used to create or sanctify other public or private profane spaces in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine world, and remain key to Orthodox worship. The mobility of certain sacra linked sacred sites with potentially new sacred destinations; it created new trajectories; it helped articulate and sustain the extra-ordinary within the ordinary. Sacred mobilities thus upset the dichotomy of the sacred and the profane as mutually exclusive. Examples of such mobilities include, but are not limited to travelling icons, processions, pilgrimages, the translation of relics, the reproduction of holy images and architecture.

Eleven speakers from Britain, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Russia and the USA reflected on different types of sacred mobilities, including the use of sanctifying materialities, the duration of the transformation of sacred space, and the creation of ‘infrasecular geographies’ in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine world.

Co-organised by the Institute of Classical Studies, The Hellenic Institute and the Centre for the Geohumanities at Royal Holloway the Colloquium was attended by over seventy-five guests.
Period1 Jun 20212 Jun 2021
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Sacred Mobilities
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Byzantium
  • Byzantine Empire
  • Pos-Byzantine studies
  • Sacred Space
  • Relics
  • Sacred objects
  • Saints
  • Martyrs
  • Hierotopy
  • Hierotopia
  • Geohumanities
  • Human geography
  • infrasecular geographies
  • Byzantine spirituality
  • Icons
  • Orthodox Church
  • Orthodox Christianity