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Rome and the Sacred

Rome and the Sacred brings together members of all parts of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion with an interest in the long history of the sacred: that is, in holy sites, persons, and objects, as well as encounters with the holy in the form of prophecies, oracles, and visions.

Our research interests centre on aspects of “Roman” religion, from ancient Roman civic religion via early and medieval Christianity to modern Roman Catholicism. Members are interested in both the deep continuities between pagan and Christian Rome – St Augustine’s famous Two Cities – as well as the ruptures and conflicts between them.

Our cluster is organised around four – interconnected and interlocking – strands:

Encounters with the sacred as sites of knowledge-making and community-building

  • what role do such encounters play in the construction of orthodoxies and heterodoxies?
  • how do communities authenticate holy persons (saints)?
  • what makes texts divinely inspired or apocryphal?
  • how can cults and sanctuaries foster and shape religious communities?
  • how does the sacred traverse the official versus popular religion divide?

Embodying the sacred

  • how are sites ‘sanctified’?
  • what role do material objects, such as votive objects, play in connecting humans to the sacred?
  • how do people perceive and approach holy persons, and even holy dead bodies (relics)?
  • what role do temporalities, such as festivals, play?

Demarcating the sacred from the profane

  • how can the sacred sanctify the profane?
  • to what (politically) subversive uses can the sacred be put?

(Classical) reception

  • how are cults revived and reshaped over time?
  • how does Catholicism’s ‘Roman’ heritage complicate its conceptions of the sacred?

Meet the team

Lead researcher

Academic staff

Postgraduate students

Next steps


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