When the fabric of religion is altered, or a new religion begins to grow, the social, cultural, and political consequences are often significant. Ori Z. Soltes, professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University, examines some of the key transitional moments in the religious history of the West such as the rise of Christianity, the Muslim golden age, the crises of the papacy, and the onset of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, concluding with a look at the diaspora of Jews and Judaism. Explore the triumphs and the layered traumas that have marked the nearly two millennia from the era of Roman paganism to the secularized shaping of modernity.
9:30–11 a.m. The Rise and Crises of Early Christianity
What challenges contributed to waning of the Roman religions and the rise to prominence of Christianity—and what traumas accompanied its triumph? Soltes surveys the issues of church versus state and heresy and schisms from the post-Judaean split with Judaism to the Council of Nicaea (325) to the schism of 1054 and the Canossa crisis of the late 11th century.
11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. The Rise of Islam and the Muslim Golden Age
Within the rise and fall of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, and the arrival of the Seljuk Turks, medieval Islam offered a flourishing intellectual life and was crucial in preserving Greek culture and knowledge that had been virtually lost in Europe—but was perceived as a threat by Europeans. The Muslim and Christian worlds experienced exhilarating victories and debilitating struggles within themselves and with each other. Religion and politics interweave, from the first revelations to Muhammad (610) to the era of the Crusades (1095–1291).
12:30–1:30 p.m. Lunch (Participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. The Papacy: Struggles and Consequences
The West articulates its political and spiritual crises in violence and in art. Events and their consequences play out from what came to be known as the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy in Avignon (1309–6) and the Great Western Schism that followed it to the emergence of Protestantism through Luther and others, and the Catholic response. Reformation begets Counter-Reformation, and Renaissance, mannerist, and Baroque imagery evolve within an age of religious wars.
3–4:15 p.m. A Changing World for Jews?
From the problematic expulsions and the evolving Inquisition in Spain, Portugal, and their colonial extensions to the age of revolutions and emancipation, where did the Jews find themselves dispersed across vast Christian and Muslim worlds?
Soltes also discusses how this wide sweep of history leads into our own era of religious complications and secularist thought.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
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Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)