Call for Papers: Light in the Religions of the Book: A Multidisciplinary Approach

University of BalamandConference – Light in the Religions of the Book: A Multidisciplinary Approach

At the University of Balamand (Lebanon)
December 13-15, 2013

International conference organized by the University of Balamand, the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée and the Institut français du Proche-Orient.

Working languages: French, English, Arabic.

If light is a valuable tool for the development of buildings, it also meets the requirements of practical and functional needs. Beyond its purely aesthetic role, it is indeed a way to delineate the space and to organize its occupation by defining spatialities and temporalities adapted to the functions of the building.


In order to assess the significance of spatial and temporal dimensions of light, a cross-reading of architectural, archaeological, textual and iconographic sources might be particularly fruitful. The theme of light which, somewhat complex, constitutes a privileged entry point not only to the study of man’s relationship to space and the sacred, but also to the development – within or between monotheisms – of influences, exchanges, ruptures, continuities and legacies.

The goal of the conference is to explore the theme of light in the East and in the West, during the Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, in a trans-disciplinary perspective and within five thematic panels :


Luminous spatialities

In buildings, space can be punctuated by the design of luminous geographical patterns: the play of shadow and light, the nature of light penetration, or specific aesthetic treatments of light (such as stained glass or perforated lanterns), are different ways to highlight particular areas or parts of them. In a religious building for example, spaces dedicated to devotion can bathe in a twilight conducive to meditation, whereas spaces dedicated to profane activities are often subject to strong lighting, designed to ensure visual comfort for the occupants.

Luminous temporalities

As the occupation of space is closely related to the management of lighting, whether natural or artificial, produced light must adapt to the activities taking place in the building. And as these activities periodically change, light can also vary over time, both in quantity and in quality. Some events, such as town festivals or princely events for example, lead to the creation of a special luminous atmosphere and can occasionally become a source of a proliferation of lights which was well described by a number of visitors.

Symbolism of light

This panel will be devoted to a study of the theological and symbolic aspects of light. This basic literary theme is particularly present in Judaism, in Christianity and Islam, in the holy scriptures themselves as well as in religious, liturgical and poetical writings. These three religions thrive on a founding opposition between light and darkness – God creating a world of light and Revelations helping men out of the darkness of impiety. As a matter of fact, light, as a symbol of knowledge and perspicacity, is closely associated with the divine, of which it might be either the sign or the instrument. Artificial light, as well as natural light, can thus become meaningful and bear a meaning which escapes the uninitiated.

Icons, frescoes and mosaics

The light emitted or entering the building is a key element in the setting of parietal designs, whether icons, frescoes or mosaics. Their development, their location and, possibly, their iconography should take the lighting factor into consideration.


Sources, experimental archeology and technology

The last panel will be dedicated to the techniques in use for the study of light as an archaeological fact. Traditional sources (architectural, archaeological, iconographic and textual) are reinforced nowadays by experimental archeology and by new technologies such as 3D modeling or photometry. These tools allow us to replicate the conditions of artificial lighting and to render different lighting atmospheres.

Proposals should be sent before June 30, 2013 at the following address: [email protected], in the form of a summary which should not exceed 300 words. The appliant will specify in which of the five panels his paper is supposed to take place.

Accommodation for participants will be supported for the duration of the conference (the nights of December 12, 13 and 14), the closure being scheduled for December 15 at 12:30.


Click here to download the Call for Papers in French, English and Arabic