The Polarization of Religious Values in the Urban Tissue: The Case of the Reuse of Catholic Churches in Italy

FBK-ISR International Seminar 2022

If from a sociological perspective, places of cult can be defined as centers for the aggregation of religious communities, from a semiotic perspective considering the city as a tissue or a text, they also appear as poles conveying religious values and meanings. What happens when these poles undergo an axiological variation? In this intervention, I will tackle this question by focusing on a case study, i.e. the desacralization of Catholic churches and their changing role in the framework of the Italian urban tissue. Firstly, I will shortly analyze the codification of the reuse of churches by canon law and by national and international law. In all the considered legal systems, the axiology leading the regulation of the desacralization and reuse of the churches is based on the preservation of the memory of the sacredness of the place and of its cultural value. Secondly, I will propose a tentative typology of the most recurrent kinds of reuse in the Italian urban context, pointing out the main socio-cultural conflicts they entail. I will conclude by presenting some reflections about the aesthetic, ideological and pathemic issues at stake in the common imagery about desacralized churches, which cease to polarize religious practices and values, but are nevertheless supposed to keep their memory.

Scientific coordination: Massimo Leone, Director FBK-ISR


Cycle of seminars: “De-Polarization in Religion and Ethics


The event will be held in Italian

The presentation will take place online

To connect to the event, registration is required by Thursday 10 March 2022 at 12.00 noon

During the meeting, the webcam and microphone will be disabled to avoid network overloads




Fresco by Schweitzer



  • University of Turin
    Jenny Ponzo is Associate Professor of Semiotics at the University of Turin (Italy). She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC StG research project “NeMoSanctI. New Models of Sanctity in Italy: A Semiotic Analysis of Norms, Causes of Saints, Hagiographies, and Narratives” (, grant agreement n. 757314). She is the Director of the Interdepartmental Research Center on Communication CIRCe, the vice-Director of the School of Humanistic Sciences, and the President of the Master’s Degree Program in Communication and Media Cultures of the University of Turin. She formerly carried out her research at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Faculty of Arts, and at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Germany), Interfaculty Program for the Study of Religion. She is the author of three monographs, the latest of which is entitled “Religious Narratives in Italian Literature after the Second Vatican Council: a Semiotic Analysis” (De Gruyter 2019).


Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 10/03/2022.


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