Precious stones, living temples: Sacred space in Carolingian churches, 751–877 C.E.

2009 2009

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation is a study of the Carolingian world through the lens of space. In it, I examine how sacred space developed conceptually, architecturally, and liturgically in eighth- and ninth-century Frankish churches. I argue for the emergence, in the Carolingian period, of the belief that the universal and spiritual Church—a community and institution that existed beyond space and time—was made present in physical and temporal church buildings through liturgy, devotion, law, and visual programs. Accordingly, I consider how this connection between community and space affected Carolingian society.

In the dissertation's first part, Conceiving Sacred Space, I analyze legislative, theological, and narrative texts to understand how Franks conceptualized the church as space, building, community, and institution. After providing, in Chapter One, a diachronic and synchronic context for my study of Carolingian spaces, I focus, in Chapter Two, on terminology, arguing that the use of the term ecclesia to describe the physical church reflects an understanding of church space as re-creating the universal Christian community. In Chapter Three, I unravel beliefs about how churches were to be decorated, approached, and used, contending that Franks understood churches as sacred spaces because they brought together the entire Christian community.

The dissertation's second part, Constructing Sacred Space, is an examination of how churches were created physically and ritually, through readings of art, architecture, narrative texts, and liturgical sources. In Chapter Four, I argue that churches' architectural and visual programs strove to recreate visually the universal ecclesia within the churches' walls. In Chapters Five and Six, I consider how the physical and ritual construction of ecclesiae, in addition to creating sacred spaces, formed communities.

Animating Sacred Space, the third and final section, focuses on the use of churches. In Chapter Seven, I analyze lay devotion and use of church space during relic translations, revealing that these liminal rituals challenged normal expectations of churches and resulted in the transgression of spatial and temporal boundaries. Finally, in the conclusion, I consider a single dispute over sanctuary in order to juxtapose variant understandings of sacred spaces and consider the relationship between the Carolingian polity and the ecclesia.

Indexing (details)

Religious history;
Art history;
Medieval history
0320: Religious history
0377: Art history
0581: Medieval history
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Carolingian; France; Germany; Sacred space; Saints
Precious stones, living temples: Sacred space in Carolingian churches, 751–877 C.E.
Polanichka, Dana Marie
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Geary, Patrick J.
University of California, Los Angeles
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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