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IMES Lecture Series: Slanted View and Sacred Gaze: Mecca’s views in the Pre-Modern Era


Institute For Middle East Studies

This lecture analyzes varied iconic visions of the Haram (the sacred sanctuary) of Mecca. A gaze at the late medieval and early modern images of Mecca suggests a crucial change and shift in the mode of the depiction of the holy sanctuary. Moreover, the earlier flattened and two-dimensional images of the sanctuary contributed to the hierophany of the sacred and were replaced by perspectival images that evoked veracity and authenticity and fixed the sacred space within its larger geographic setting.Whereas sacred space appears as totally autonomous and linked to the eternal, the profane seems to exist as bound to historical time. This supposition results in assigning terms such as “common,” “habitual,” and “ephemeral to historic times, as opposed to “pure” and “intact” designating the “Holy” as linked to everlasting time.


  • Avinoam Shalem is the Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam at Columbia University. He was the Andrew Mellon Senior Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2006, Guest Scholar at the Getty Research Center in 2009, Guest Professor at the JNU in New Delhi in 2010, and recently the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor at the Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Between 2007-2015, he was the Max-Planck Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.