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Sacred Architecture in a Secular Age: Anamnesis of Durham Cathedral
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Art History.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Durham Cathedral has won more than one poll as Britain's best-loved building. Taking as my starting point the assumption that the people voting for it may not all self-identify as regular church-goers, I explore what the meaning of an historically, architecturally and spiritually charged space such as Durham Cathedral could be for a contemporary, secular visitor.

Apart from being a site of worship, a popular tourist destination - and Britain's best-loved building - Durham Cathedral is also, together with the adjacent castle, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addressing the overarching questions of what the meaning, role and perceptions of Christian sacred architecture can be in an approaching post-Christian age, it is necessary to consider its potential transvaluation into cultural heritage, the resulting preservation principles and tactics applied to it, and the effect of these on the visitor experience.

The conclusion of the thesis is that existential beings need existential buildings, so churches and other sacred spaces can continue to have relevance and exert their emotional and experiential influence over people even after belief in the particular cult practiced in them has ceased. The experience of a particular building as sacred depends partly on qualities inherent in the architecture itself, partly in the narrative suggested by the organisation administering the space, and partly on the willingness and ability (the "atmospheric intelligence") of the visitor to experience the building as sacred. This ability differs across time and space, and from person to person, but it is always a possibility, and hence, sacred architecture is always potentially pertinent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 158 p.
Keyword [en]
sacred architecture, existential architecture, sacred space, churches, cultural heritage, heritage-ification, Romanesque, Norman, Durham Cathedral, phenomenology of space, sacred-architectural occasion, anamnesis, ekphrasis
National Category
Art History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-242271OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-242271DiVA: diva2:782929
Available from: 2015-02-05 Created: 2015-01-22 Last updated: 2015-02-05Bibliographically approved

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