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Infertility and Sacred Space: From Antiquity to the Early Modern

July 15, 2013 - July 16, 2013

Registration online via the link at the top right hand side of this page
Conference fee:
£50 (full); £25 (student); £35 Conference dinner (optional, limited places)
Monday 8 July 2013


Rebecca Flemming (Classics / Jesus College)
Lauren Kassell
(HPS / Pembroke College)
Peter Jones
(King’s College)
Fay Glinister


Concerns about fertility and children have been (and still are) common reasons for visiting, and more generally engaging with, the sacred spaces—sanctuaries and shrines, groves and grottoes—of many religions and cultures. The narratives, objects, and rituals associated with places of particular access to the divine across a wide chronological and geographical range testify to this insistent human need: stories of miraculous births, assorted reproductive ex-votos, and prayers for the sterile are, for instance, all prominent parts of this landscape. But, thus far, this phenomenon has not received the focused attention it deserves.

Relations between human reproduction, divinity and sacred space are therefore at the centre of this interdisciplinary conference. We hope to have thematic panels which cover the following issues:

  • Gender and Reproduction: are requests for divine assistance made by women or men, or both? To female deities and saints or not?
  • Fertility and Healing: do healing sanctuaries and saints specialise in fertility? Or is reproduction joined with other concerns?
  • Reproductive objects: do concerns about fertility have particular affinities with particular kinds of artefacts or materials?
  • Narrative reproduction: is there anything distinctive about stories of miraculous births in miracle collections?

There will also be sessions that address questions of continuity and change, similarity and difference, across time and space; and we warmly invite proposals for papers on all these topics and more, from as wide a range of perspectives as possible.



This conference is organised under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust strategic award in the history of medicine on Generation to Reproduction (University of Cambridge); and with the support of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge.


Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance:


July 15, 2013
July 16, 2013
Event Categories:


CRASSH, Alison Richard Building (University of Cambridge, UK)
7 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DT United Kingdom
44 1223 766886
View Venue Website