The Göttingen Spring School

Sculpture by Günter Grass honouring the Göttingen Sieben.

This past March I took part in the Göttingen Spring School—a week-long workshop that investigated the material dimensions of ancient religion. Organized by Peter Gemeinhardt, Irene Salvo (who I’ve also mentioned here), Karin Gottschalk, and Levke Bittlinger, the workshop took place at the Georg August Universität Göttingen and featured workshops and lectures from some of the top scholars in the field.

With acceptance only by formal application, I was thrilled to be one of the twenty-two MA and PhD students chosen to attend. The organizers did a good job of getting a diverse group; disciplines included Judaism, Greco-Roman religion, medieval Christianity, and Islam. Despite this large spread, every topic presented something new to learn. Whether the workshop was about different types of Islamic inscriptions (Ilkka Lindstedt) or the siting of a Bavarian hillside church (Thomas Meier), the speakers challenged us to drop our assumptions about archaeology and epigraphy and see religious objects in a new light (Nicole Belayche, Werner Eck).

Eftychia Stavrianopoulou lecturing in the Paulinerkirche.

In addition to days filled with workshops, our evenings were occupied by key-note lectures which took place around the old city of Göttingen. Our first key-note, by Eftychia Stavrianopoulou, was held in the breath-taking Paulinerkirche, a spacious church which houses the university’s old texts. We also visited the campus’ Alte Mensa for Jürgen Zangenberg’s lecture on ancient Jerusalem as a Transcultural Place. Needless to say, the old city of Göttingen is, like many European cities, absolutely gorgeous.

View from the top of the Wilhelmshöhe.

Although we spent long days (and nights) occupied with the tasks at hand, the organizers managed to squeeze in some time to visit the campus’ collection of cast antiquities as well as a trip to see some original Greek and Roman marbles at the Collection of Antiques at the Wilhelmshöhe Palace in Kassel. With a bit of extra time to spare, I took the opportunity to climb up the Wilhelmshöhe (the largest European hillside park!) and see the statue of Hercules which watches over the city.

The Göttingen spring school was a great opportunity to learn more about epigraphy and material culture as well as meet other junior scholars in the field—it’s not often an ancient historian (of religion!) who focuses on inscriptions is surrounded by others who do what they do. I am grateful that I was able to be a part of such a fun and thought-provoking week. I hope that the organizers plan to keep going with this initiative so that others can also have the opportunity to experience the Göttingen Spring School!

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