The Place of Hell: Topographies, Structures, Genealogies

Event Date: 
31 May 2012 to 01 Jun 2012

An International conference held at King’s College London and The Warburg  
Institute on May 31 and June 1, 2013.

Call for Papers

A belief in Hell has been a staple of Christian thought from the earliest  
period of this religion.  The depiction of Hell and its denizens – the  
devil, demons and the punished sinners – has an equally long history going  
back to at least the sixth century. From the eleventh century onwards, images  
of Hell proliferate and become more detailed in their presentation of the  
damned and their torments – in parallel to such texts as the popular  
Apocalypse of the Virgin. Artists come up with different solutions in  
picturing the various torments inflicted upon the sinners as well as the  
places where these torments take place. In the art of the late Byzantine  
period and the late medieval west, the various figures of the damned are  
presented with inscriptions detailing the crimes and sins for which they are  
being punished. In western Europe, literary texts add detail to the vision of  
Hell as well, starting with the 11th-century Vision of Tondal and culminating  
in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The images as well as the texts that we assume  
they are illustrating offer a rich field for research. Questions of  
iconography as well as the exploration of social meanings attached to these  
powerful representations present themselves. The exploration of developments  
within the body of texts on and depictions of Hell can be particularly  

The aim of this conference is to explore the place Hell occupied within  
society and art as well as the way Hell was envisaged as a physical place.  
The conference is organized as part of the Leverhulme Trust International  
Network project Damned in Hell in the Frescoes of Venetian-dominated Crete  
(13th-17th centuries).* The island of Crete was governed by the Venetians  
from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries. During this period, the  
interplay of the religion and culture of the colonizers (Roman Catholic and  
Italian) and the majority of the population (Byzantine and Greek Orthodox)  
created tangible tensions. We are therefore particularly interested in  
material from the historical era covered by the project, approaches that  
involve comparisons between east  and west, and presentations with a  
particular focus on Crete. Did depictions of Hell on the island’s churches  
follow theological debates and trends? Was their primary function the  
edification of the Orthodox congregations, or are other readings possible?

Topics for papers may include, but are not limited to:
Texts about Hell and punishments for sinners in the Greek Orthodox world  
and/or the Latin west(13th-17th centuries)
Images of Hell, with particular emphasis on its layout and topography as  
well as the layout of its pictorial representation
Comparative papers on the interaction between Orthodox and Catholic  
notions and representations of Hell in the late medieval and early modern  
eastern Mediterranean
The origins – both textual and pictorial – of  perceptions and  
representations of the Afterlife and Hell in particular within the Christian  
The use of Hell and punishment for sinners within contexts of social  
control (especially in rural communities) and afterlife management strategies

Papers by early career scholars soon after the completion of their PhD are  
particularly welcome.

Papers are restricted to 25 mins. Please send a short abstract and a brief cv  
to: and by June  
30 2012.

Accepted speakers will be offered free accommodation and either a full refund  
of or substantial assistance towards their travel costs.

* The Leverhulme International Network Project Damned in Hell in the Frescoes  
of Venetian-dominated Crete (13th-17th centuries) is managed by Dr Angeliki  
Lymberopoulou (The Open University, UK) and Prof. Vassiliki Tsamakda  
(University of Mainz).