Indiana University

E103:  Sacred Places


Spring Semester 2005                                                        Dr. Deborah M. Deliyannis

Place:  Fine Arts 102                                                         Office:  Fine Arts 130

Time:  MW 10:10-11:00 am + discussion section                  email:

Section #3102                                                                   Office Hours:  Tu  10:30-12


AI:  Timothy Methric




In most parts of the world, religious activity is linked to specific places which have ritual, mythical, or historical significance.  These "sacred spaces" become the focus of ritual activity, pilgrimage, and symbolism, and are usually endowed with buildings and art that celebrate the sanctity of the place, create a sense of awe, and accommodate the activities and people who travel to visit them.  This course offers an introduction to a representative sample of significant sacred sites and shrines throughout the world.  These holy places will be examined in terms of the festivals and religions with which they are associated:  Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Mesoamerican religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shinto.  We will look at why the selected sites became holy to certain peoples or civilizations, how the sites and structures convey a sense of transcendence and awe, how the structures were planned to accommodate assembled groups of persons and the attendant festivals and rituals, the nature of the processions of the faithful to them, the symbolic meaning of these sites, and whether their functions and significance have survived to the present day unaltered or in a reconfigured form.



Course requirements


The following are the requirements for this course:


Attendance/participation in section                  15%

5 short papers (5% each)                                25%

Midterm exam                                               15%

Project                                                         20%

Final exam                                                    25%



In the discussion classes students are expected not only to learn but also to teach and contribute.  You should do the assigned readings before the section meeting for that week, as they will form the basis of discussion.  Attendance will be taken at section, and grades will be based on the percentage of classes you attend, and also the extent to which you participate.  If there are problems with people doing the readings, pop quizzes may be given, whose grades will become part of the participation grade.  If you are sick or have another sort of emergency that prevents your being in lecture or section, please let the AI know so that you will not be penalized.


Each week a short (500-1000 words, which equals 1-2 page, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1" margins) paper has been assigned.  You must write five of these.  You may choose whichever five fit best with your schedule or inclinations.  Your essay should have an introduction, and should contain specific references to the sites and/or readings under consideration.  Essays should be free from spelling and grammatical errors.  Essays are due in the section meeting, and you must attend section for your essay to be accepted.  Late essays will not be accepted.


The midterm and final exams will consist of identifications and short answer questions.  Half of the final exam will cover the second half of the class (i.e. not comprehensive), while the other half will consist of essays covering material from the entire semester.


Instructions for the project can be found at the end of the syllabus.  It will be due in section on April 21.





This class covers both the history of world religions and the history of world architecture.  Given the relatively limited amount of time available to cover all of this material, the following book has been assigned to give you background information about the religions we will be discussing; the book may be purchased in the Fine Arts Bookstore:


Theodore M. Ludwig, The Sacred Paths:  Understanding the Religions of the World, 3rd edition (Prentice Hall, 2001).


Readings from this book are identified on the syllabus as "Sacred Paths"; you are expected to have completed these readings before the first lecture for the week they are assigned; reference may be made in lecture to concepts contained in these readings, and it will be assumed that you can understand them.


Almost all of the other readings on the syllabus are found on the web; the syllabus is found at:




Please let the instructor know if there are problems with any of the links.






Jan. 10-12 Introduction


                  Sacred Paths:  3-23



Jan. 17-19       Mesopotamia:  Ur

            NOTE:  NO CLASS Jan. 17


                  Sacred Paths:  311-314

                  Hymn to Nanna (note that in the on-line text, words in red are names of gods, words in green are places, and words in yellow are unknown).

            Essay:  What aspects of ritual that would have taken place at the temple ('house') can be determined from the Hymn to Nanna?



Jan. 24-26       Egypt:  Karnak


                  Sacred Paths:  308-310

                  The daily offering ritual at Karnak

            Essay:  What features of the layout of the complex at Karnak are important for the daily rituals carried out there according to the text?



Jan. 31-Feb. 2 The Jews: The Temple of Jerusalem


                  Sacred Paths:  330-40, 350-351

                  The Bible (any translation; the revised standard translation can be found online):  read 1 Chronicles 23:25-32 and 2 Chronicles 3-7

            Essay:  From the accounts in the bible, how is the temple in Jerusalem similar to other temples such as those of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians?  How is it different? 



Feb. 7-9           Greece:  Delphi


                  Sacred Paths:  314-316

                  Pausanias, Description of Greece, selections

            Essay:  How do the layout and monuments of the sacred precinct at Delphi, as described by Pausanias, reflect Greek beliefs about the Gods and divine things generally?



Feb. 14-16       The Roman Empire I:  Bath


                  J. Rives, "Religion in the Roman empire" (on e-reserves)

                   Texts from lead curse tablets found at Bath

            Essay:  Here the sacred place is a natural phenomenon (the hot spring).  What is the point of the lead curse tablets?  How do they function in the context of the sacred complex at Bath?



Feb. 21-23       The Roman Empire II:  Dura Europos


                  Apuleius, Apologia, Personal Piety in Rome

            Essay:  What makes a mystery religion mysterious?  How would the religious structures in a town like Dura Europos operate for a Roman like Apuleius?



Feb. 28-Mar. 2 Mesoamerica:  Chichen Itza

            Project topic due in section this week; you MUST discuss this with the AI.


                  Fr. Diego de Landa, selections from Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan

            Essay:  This text is a negative reaction to "pagan" religious practices by a Christian.  What features of Mayan sacred place and ritual does de Landa focus on?  How do they relate to the layout of Chichen Itza


Mar. 7       Midterm exam

Mar. 9       North American Native American religion

            Essay:  none assigned this week



Spring Break



Mar. 21-23      Christianity: Santiago de Compostela


                  Sacred Paths:  376-394, 401-414

                  Read selections from the Codex Calixtinus on e-reserves

            Essay:  The Pilgrim's Guide in the Codex Calixtinus has a sacred place as its goal?  How does the journey contribute to the sacred experience of Santiago?



Mar. 28-30      Islam:  Mecca

            Architectural form:  mosque


                  Sacred Paths:  428-446, 464-468

                  Selections from Ibn Battuta's Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354

                  How to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah

            Essay:  The Mecca pilgrimage is also a journey, both to Mecca and once one is there.  How does the layout of Mecca and its surroundings facilitate this journey as described in the texts?



Apr. 4-6           Hinduism:  Varanasi


                  Sacred Paths: 64-83, 89-105

                  Narad Purana ch. 5,  and ch. 15

                  Ganga Chalisa ("Hymn to Ganga")

            Essay:  Based on these texts, what do people do at/in the River Ganges (Ganga)?  What benefits do they receive?  How is Varanasi set up to accommodate these practices?



Apr. 11-13       Buddhism: Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya


                  Sacred Paths:  116-130, 133-149

                  Acts and Rewards of Devotion to the Buddha

            Essay:  How does a temple (stupa) play a role in an individual's religious life? 



Apr. 18-20       Japan: Shrine of Ise

            Written project due in section on Friday


                  Sacred Paths:  260-283, 289-91

                  "The Enshrinement of Amaterasu"

            Essay:  How does the periodic renewal of the shrines at Ise differ from what we have seen, architecturally, and most other sacred places?


Apr. 25-27       Contested places:  Jerusalem and Ayodhya


                  To be announced

            Essay: How have historical circumstances created layers of sacredness at these particular places?  Have we seen this elsewhere this semester?  Compare and contrast the use of history by the various sides in these disputes.




Final exam:  Friday, May 6, 12:30-2:30, Fine Arts 102 (the regular classroom)


E103:  Sacred Places

Project:  due in section on April 21


Assignment:  visit a sacred place.  This might be a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or any other religious center; it can be the one you attend, or you may visit something new and different; it need not be in Bloomington.  Please check first to find out whether you will be able to visit, and please respect the wishes of the regarding times and days.   If you need help selecting a place, please ask the instructors.


***By March 3, you MUST confirm with your AI what your topic will be.***


You may certainly visit your sacred space along with other people from the class, and you should feel free to discuss parts of the assignment while you are at the site.  However, when you sit down to work on your drawing and paper, it should be all your own work.  If you seem to have copied someone else's drawing or paper, or if you have copied material from a publication or website, you may be accused of plagiarism, which would have serious consequences, including your failing the course.  DO YOUR OWN WORK!


For the project, you should do the following:


Draw a ground-plan of the complete complex (i.e. not just the worship room, but all buildings connected with the center), labelling all spaces.  You do not have to draw a plan exactly to scale, but you should aim for an approximate accuracy.  One thing to do might be to look in the building for a fire emergency diagram; these usually contain plans of the buildings.


On your ground-plan, identify the focus or foci of sacrality.


Write a 4-6 page paper on this sacred place.  Include the following information (you don't have to do it in this order necessarily):


            What religion is represented by this place?

            What are the different parts of the complex?

            What functions is the complex designed for?  How important, in terms of amount of space, architectural and artistic decoration, etc., are each of these functions?

            Where is the focus of sacrality?  How is it identified, in terms of decoration, architecture, etc.?  What makes it sacred?  What activities are carried out in and/or around it?

            What geographical or landscape features have been taken into account in the construction, orientation, or decoration of the sacred place?