Ancient Religious Reflections:
Sacred Places Past and Present

Department of Classics
Monmouth College



Sacred Places Past and Present focuses on a number of important religious sites in the ancient Mediterranean and in the modern world. In this course we will compare and contrast these holy place and consider what makes them sacred. You will be challenged to compare these sacred places to your own sense of the spatial sacredness. We will examine the geography of the place, its history, its religious rituals, etc. The course will approach these sacred places from a variety of materials including texts, painting, sculpture and archaeology. Some of the topics to be discussed include:

the sense of the sacred in human life
the divine and the sacred

the relationship between space and sacredness
the relationship between sacred space and ritual

the characteristics of a sacred place
the individual and sacred space
society and sacred space

the relationship between culture and sacred space
sacred texts and sacred spaces

The basic premise of this course is that a sense of sacred space is an important aspect of what it means to be human. The places sacred to a culture illustrate the values and attitudes upon which that society is  based. Some of the sacred places this course could examine include: the Acropolis in Athens, the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the Vatican in Rome, and the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. Participants in this course will be challenged to compare one or more of these sacred places with places they consider to be sacred in their own lives.

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at

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