Paul Manning – Materiality and Cosmology: Old Georgian Churches as Sacred, Sublime, and Secular Objects

Discourses about Georgian churches have since the nineteenth century treated the material quality of ‘ancientness’ associated with existing churches as being among their essential defining properties. This paper first explores how different material qualisigns of churches, including oldness and qualisigns attendant on oldness, allow churches to be interpreted as secular objects, by ordering them with theatres (as expressive of ‘civilization’), the natural landscape (expressive of an aesthetics of the sublime) or other monuments, including texts (expressive of culture). One result of such discourses is that the contemporary Orthodox Church finds it difficult to have ‘new’ churches accepted as being churches at all. These nineteenth-century discourses thus provide a context for the complex and contested reception of old and new Orthodox churches, as well as other religious structures, mountain shrines, having a more ambiguous relation with Orthodoxy.

Manning, P. (2008). Materiality and cosmology: Old Georgian churches as sacred, sublime, and secular objects. Ethnos73(3), 327-360.

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