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Research Centre for Religious Studies Research Centres Centre for Religion and Heritage Research


Baptism, Jordan River
Baptism, Jordan River

The Centre of Religion and Heritage studies the present impact of the religious past in Dutch, European and global culture. It concentrates on the following projects:

Heritages of European Islam

Coordination: Dr. Mónica Colominas

As our society becomes increasingly fascinated with our cultural and religious heritage, we also become more curious about the historical influences that have formed our current day identity. One important factor is the influence of Islam on European heritage. The presence of Islam in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal, has left a mark on the history of both Muslims and Christians. This influence can be seen in buildings and other objects, but also in art, music and language.

This research cluster focuses on this cultural heritage that is the result of intimate dynamics of reuse, loan and appropriation, and of interreligious entanglement, the study of which undoubtedly will help us reflect on the place of Islam in European society today.

The Religious Past in Present Society

Coordination: Prof.dr. Todd H. Weir

The Centre will stimulate critical reflection on the use of religious heritage as a category in contemporary local, national and international politics and public debate. It will bring philosophical and theoretical discussions of the post-secular to bear on the field of cultural and religious heritage and develop opportunities for engagement in normative discussion about what constitutes responsible religious heritage discourse and practice.


  • The Legacy of Europe’s Culture Wars
  • Heritage and Interreligious Dialogue (Partners: the Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken, Museum Catharijneconvent
Appropriation: Processes, Strategies, and Tactics

Coordination: Dr. Mathilde van Dijk

The Centre will promote the study of the appropriation of religious ideas, practices, sites, and objects in the past and present. Including within its scope a broad range tangible and intangible religious heritage from the past and present, the Centre will analyse patterns of religious heritage appropriation across media, region, religion, and time.


  • The appropriation of the Church Fathers in the Devotio Moderna
  • The construction of Dutch identity
  • Medievalism and pop culture
Religion and material culture

Coordination: Dr. Andrew J. M. Irving

Building on the Centre’s strong history of research into Christian art and architecture, particularly in the high and late Middle Ages and early modern periods, this cluster aims to broaden the Centre’s scope to include material culture from a wide range of religions and cultural contexts. It approaches religious material culture not merely as “props” for a religious way of life, or as illustrative concretizations of beliefs, but as subjects worth study in themselves, and as part of tangled webs of relationships other things, places, and the human makers and users who are both enabled and constrained by them.


  • Kerken en beeld: A database of c.60000 images of c.3000 churches in the Netherlands.
Rituals and Liturgies: Histories, Theories, Practices

Coordination: Dr. Andrew J. M. Irving

Increasingly, scholars from across disciplines are becoming sensitive to the ways in which research into past ritual practices  can illumine our understanding of past and present religious cultures. Not only are many of the buildings, sites, books, and objects preserved as religious heritage best understood in their ritual contexts, but the rituals themselves enable and promote a certain appropriation and transmission of the past by their participants. This research cluster aims to bring into conversation historians, anthropologists, liturgists, archaeologists, art and architectural historians, manuscript scholars, musicologists, and performance specialists to revisit old assumptions about ritual practices, and to broach new questions about the development and use of the divers texts, objects, and sites of ritual performance.


  • Mass Media: Design Changes in Mass Books in the Long Twelfth Century
Art and Religious Heritage

Coordination: Dr. Lieke Wijnia (Postdoctoral fellow )

Not only has art come to be understood as an alternative to institutional religion, it is also a domain through which contemporary society processes the heritage of past religious experience and culture. This research cluster investigates the presence of religious heritage in modern and contemporary art.


  • Comparative research on the dynamics between art, religion and heritage in European museum and church sites.
  • Annual meetings of the international network Visionary Artists, Visionary Objects (1800 - now) , co-convened with the University of Manchester
  • The implications of artistic practices in relation to inter-religious conflict and dialogue.


  • Prof. Aaron Rosen, Rocky Mountain College, Billings (MT)
  • Dr. Naomi Billingsley, Manchester University
Last modified:03 January 2022 10.54 a.m.
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