Portugal. 4th International Conference Architectures of the Soul


For centuries, religious built heritage has played an essential role in shaping social, economic, environmental and cultural values. Across major or minor religious traditions, this expressed a particular way of understanding the life, the human condition, the world, opening it to the mistery, in search of the ultimate meaning of the life. Caves, eremitical settlements, chapels, monasteries, convents, churches and cathedrals have dialogued with their surroundings, be them mountainous or solitary places, fertile valleys, peripheral or urban centres. The search for the Sacred, for the absolute otherness, which is present or can be experienced in specific places, led also to the development of pilgrimages, and their associated itineraries. Nowadays, the memory of these places tends to be erased. The secularisation of many convents, churches or monasteries, as well as the abandonment or low usage of others, led to the loss of material values. On the other hand, a significant part of this heritage and its understanding as a unity (for example, in the case of monasteries, the relationship between the spaces of prayer, the daily life and the enclosure), or its connection to a particular natural and social landscape, is gone. These specific buildings and landscapes need to be rethought at the light of the contemporary challenges.

The conference is structured around two main topics, in order to understand the historical and current values of these places and how they can shape the future, through a renewed knowledge and new ways of turning them culturally meaningful:

1. History of religious experience; 2. Future of Religious Heritage.

The conference aims to establish the platform for a multidisciplinary approach on the subject, gathering and crossing history, architecture, landscape architecture, cultural heritage, art history, computing science, among others.

The three-day conference will be hosted by the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, in the municipality of Batalha (Portugal). This is a former Dominican monastery,  on the initiative of the Avis dinasty at the end of the 14th century. The complex is recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, exactly 40 years ago. The conference will be an opportunity to experience this impressive place, sharing knowledge, thinking and debating around our common historical heritage.

Call for presentations – Submission (March 31, 2023)