Safe Spaces or Dire Straits: Catholic Church Buildings as Tenuous Refuge in Early Modern Atlantic Frontier Zones


Karin Vélez (Macalester College)




Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Westend) and Zoom Meeting

Refugee experience has been encoded in fascinating ways in Christian history. For instance, in the glittering miracle of the Holy House of Loreto, Mary’s house shifted overseas from Nazareth to Italy in the 1290s. But in practice, did Christianity’s “holy houses” function as safe spaces for Christians (and non-Christians) in flight? Here, European medieval concepts of sanctuary are brought into conversation with collapsing churches, man-eating jaguars, floods, epidemics and other traumatic realities confronted by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic frontier communities. As refugee crises and natural catastrophes continue to shake the world in 2023, these early modern case studies show the range of ways in which our predecessors have mobilized physical space and religious precedent to cumulatively process violence and disaster.

This presentation was part of the POLY Lecture Series on “Space and Religion II”, held in the winter term of 2023 and 2024. Click here for more information.

Book this Event


Further Events