della Dora V, 2011, "Anti-landscapes: caves and apophasis in the Christian East" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(5) 761 – 779
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Anti-landscapes: caves and apophasis in the Christian East
Veronica della Dora
Received 25 February 2010; in revised form 24 September 2010; published online 18 August 2011
Abstract. Caves occupy a special place in the Christian East. According to the Byzantine traditions, caves are the spaces where biblical paradoxical wonders took place, beyond human vision and understanding (from the birth of Christ from a virgin to his resurrection and the revelation to Saint John on Patmos). In the 4th century biblical caves were officially put on the map of empire by Constantine as sites physically marking the inexplicable dogmas of the newly sanctioned creed. As such they came to constitute primary pilgrimage destinations. But a number of other caves were being populated by increasing numbers of hermits who found in them privileged physical settings for ascetic struggle—for ‘emptying’ themselves of passions and earthly cares in order to be filled by divine grace. Defined by ‘lack of' matter, light, and comfort, ascetic caves were ‘anti-landscapes’, powerful metaphorical spaces charged with scriptural narratives linked to the apophatic doctrine’s via negativa, the encounter with God beyond image, language, and understanding. Finally, caves were also those of the human soul: profundities that took ascetics an entire life to penetrate. This paper explores the physical and imaginative complexities of these anti-landscapes, in which sight is overruled by other senses and conceptual thinking by precognition.
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