Un-Sacred Spaces? Decoration of Space for Ritual Purposes.


  • Carla Brain (University of Leicester) carla.pompeii@gmail.com
  • Adam Parker (Open University) adam.parker@open.ac.uk

Religious and magical rituals in the Roman world could occur in spaces designed especially for that purpose, such as temples or domestic shrines, but equally they could take place in other areas, such as cemeteries, arable fields, rooms used for other purposes, or processions through the streets. Space could therefore be designed for the activity taking place in it, or activities could take place in areas which also served other purposes; indeed, a juxtaposition between specific spaces and the rituals that took place in them could be relevant for their efficacy. The construction and decoration of these spaces is important, but is not something we should take for granted. Previous scholars have presumed a close relationship between decoration and its spatial context, and thus that the decoration of Roman temples reflected religious and ritual themes. More recent studies, however, such as Moormann’s Divine Interiors (2011), have demonstrated that this is not the case.

This session aims to investigate the extent to which the decoration of space can identify or reflect it as having a religious, ritual or protective purpose. We welcome papers on topics relating to one or more of these themes, especially those which use decoration, space, and material culture to explore the role of lived religion, magic and/or ritual in Roman daily life.

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