Talk abstract details

Astronomical orientations of sacred architecture during the medieval period in Slovenia
Saša Čaval


This paper summarises the most pertinent results of recent research on the astronomical orientation of churches during the Romanesque period (11th-13th centuries) in Slovenia. Over the span of three centuries, the elementary network of Christian parishes, established during the period of the Christianisation within the region (6th-9th centuries), was widely extended and subdivided. The economic prosperity and socio-cultural significance of this religion in the Romanesque period is clearly evidenced in the large number of new churches, for both parochial and succursal function. The majority of them were located on sites with previous pagan significance. These ‘special places’ included hilltops, sites close to sources of water, etc.; the underlying driver for these locations being a visible control of the surrounding environment. Employing a multidisciplinary methodology reliant on standard measurements with a theodolite as well as astronomical reference, orientations were measured and calculated for some 190 churches across the whole country. These data were then used to determine their possible astronomical referents, principally the corresponding sunrise and sunset dates. A review of previous research, using a variety of hypothetical standpoints from similar studies in other countries, provides strong support for the results of this study. The research has clarified several aspects of medieval astronomical knowledge and its use in the design of ecclesiastical architecture, particularly the importance of certain calendrical dates, targeted by the churches’ alignments.