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2016: Staging the Sacred

The Colloquium will take place from Sunday, 26 June, to Thursday, 30 June 2016.

The course is open to doctoral candidates as well as junior and senior scholars who wish to address the topic with short papers (20 minutes) and through mutual conversation. As usual, the course has an interdisciplinary orientation. We hope for lively participation from the disciplines of art and architectural history, but also from scholars of history, literature, theatre, sociology, and other relevant fields. Papers may be presented in German, French, Italian or English; at least a passive knowledge of German is a requirement for participation.

Conditions: The Foundation assumes the hotel costs for course participants, as well as several group dinners and the excursion. Travel costs cannot be reimbursed.

Please send applications with brief abstracts and CVs by e-mail to:

The CFP deadline is 4 December 2015.

Concept / Organization: Anja Buschow Oechslin, Axel C. Gampp, Stefan Kummer, Werner Oechslin, Tristan Weddigen



Jacob Müller’s account of 1591 apostrophized everything as “church ornament” that comprehensively extended from the building of the “external material church” right down to the chalice purificator and incense thurible. Safekeeping and care was to be recommended for everything that serves worship as the Regensburg vicar emphasized in his foreword to the reader. The “ornament and splendor of the churches” also belong to the Divine Office and to the rites, even when these strain the budget. Therefore a “careful manager” should be appointed “until one has Minally assembled various and sufficient furnishings.”

Jacob Müller and his book aimed at the most restricted range of utensils assigned to Christian worship, those that serve the missal sacrifice at the altar, which, in turn, stands at the center of the church and chapels. Each individual act is thereby deliberate, and each movement finds its cultic staging. This was consolidated after the Council of Trent, where it was discussed in a fundamental manner and newly positioned at the foundations of worship.

In its final session, XXV, the Council of Trent also took up the “invocatio” and “veneratio” of the remains of the saints and of sacred images into the list of duties for bishops, thereby recalling the cult of early Christians. It is apparent that this was to encourage a culture of memory in its full breadth and historic depth. In the old tradition, according to Cicero’s Epitheta of history, the “nuntia vetustatis” played just as important a role as the “vita memoriae” and above all the “lux veritatis.” But it now dealt even more precisely with direct contemplation and the presence of the sacred artifact, of the “relics” in the most specific sense that are indispensable for worship, whose presence is extended into the performing arts, commentated, and glorified. According to this measure all the implements and the altars themselves are in the broadest sense “custodians” of sanctiMied objects and part of the display of everything holy. And all of this stands at the center of worship and rites, oriented to the eternally recurrent rhythm of the church year and its feasts.

At that time Robert Bellarmin coined the phrase “utiles imagines.” This followed the ancient Aristotelian insight “nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu”; the more distant the divine mystery, the more it requires transmission by means of images. From this resulted the need for “Christian art,” the top priority of which was to serve precisely this purpose of transmitting deeper mysteries through images in alignment with the narrative of salvation. The critical visitor to Einsiedeln, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger, translated the corresponding impression into a recommendation: “Whoever cannot attain God in his soul, he seeks him in images, and he does not go astray.” “To draw him down into his sphere,” insists the view, which still enters a contract with sensory perception. And F. W. J. Schelling summarized this (Catholic) tradition of handling worship and image in his account “On the historical construction of Christianity” (1803), formulating, “This symbolic view is the church as a living work of art.”

All this offers the framework in which our analyses of “Staging the Sacred,” whether in image, festival, ritual, or in and by means of architecture, can find a common locus and be compared.