Iconic Religion

How Imaginaries of Religious Encounter Structure Urban Space

Within ongoing processes of religious pluralisation across Europe, materialized religion, in the form of icons in public space, has been becoming increasingly important. Whenever religious icons, such as sacred buildings, signs, and sites, such as clothing, and public events are associated with religious traditions that beholders are unfamiliar with, they comprise or generate imaginaries about how different religions should co-exist. The main question of the project was: How do imaginaries of religious encounters – visually expressed in pictures, sculptures, symbols, graffiti, performances etc. –  structure urban space and vice versa?

Iconic Religion (IcoRel) was funded by the HERA programme (Humanities in the European Research Area). It provided financial support for the IcoRel project as well as for 17 other projects, all of them focusing on cultural encounters.

The interdisciplinary research group focused on religious icons and icons of religious encounter in the metropolises Amsterdam, Berlin and London. In order to consider the complex nature of icons and to analyse how the religious dimension may become dominant over other dimensions of meaning, the team combined spatial, material-aesthetic, visual analysis, and communicative-semiotic approaches with discourse analysis and reception studies alike.

As measures to maximise knowledge exchange and transfer, a website for a broader audience and a photo exhibition was prepared. With different photos and texts from interviews illustrating religious encounters, the exhibition "The Urban Sacred: How Religion Makes and Takes Place in Amsterdam, Berlin and London" was touring to Bochum, Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. It was complemented by a catalogue with additional information on religious diversity in Europe. And the exhibtion is documented in on an online-exhibition website for the project. 


» Homepage of the research project Iconic Religion

» Homepage of the online exhibition The Urban Sacred


09/2013 - 08/2016

Funded by

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Prof. Dr. Susanne Lanwerd

Prof. Dr. Susanne Lanwerd


Photograph of Prof. Dr. Volkhard Krech

Prof. Dr. Volkhard Krech

Project Leader

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 3.12
+49 234 32-22395

Dr. Daan Beekers

Cooperation Partner


Dr. Steph Berns

Cooperation Partner


Prof. Dr. Kim Knott

Further Applicant


Prof. Dr. Birgit Meyer

Further Applicant