For the architects this development will doubtless bring new and fertile activities. During communist times, a great deal of symbolic and formal knowledge about sacred Christian architecture was lost. Mainly for this reason the faculty of architecture (Konrad Kucza-Kuczinski) at the 'Warsaw University of Technology' has organised conferences since 1993 under the title 'ARCHISACRA'. In 1995 the conference was held for the first time on an international scale, entitled 'A sign in a contemporary sacral space'. In the introductory presentation (Kuca-Kuczinski) the general and comparative standpoint between religions was programmatically emphasised.
This could all be excused, particularly if one remembers that the main objectives of schools of architecture are graphic and architectural design and not necessarily science, although many architects today talk of architectural theory to give their often irrational designs a scientific touch. However there were some further points which shed some rather questionable light on this event.
Consequently, the whole spectrum of Eliades symbolism was vividly cited. Golgotha was considered to be the centre of the world, the holy mountain on which the catholic church was supposed to stand. The importance of orientation of the sacred in space was emphasised, particularly orientation towards the east and the rising sun. The axis mundi was cited and of course the celestial symbolism of the tent and the dome. However, what was reported scientifically readable and with some objective distance in the case of Eliade gained emotional momentums within the focus on concrete churches, even became (presumably also under the influence of present Roman constellations) directly confessive, often close to religious zeal. A sweet elderly nun for instance trembled in reading her paper and tried to convince the audience of her belief in the Eucharistic transformation of bread and wine into flesh and blood of Christ and its implications for the design of altars (Walicka). There was great applause at the end of her lecture. Next, a priest reported on the history of the holy cross, respectively on its significance as a symbol of Christ's victory (the horizontal element of the cross being a symbolic embracement of mankind; Salij). Such religious zeal - which was characterised in other presentations - is unusual at an architectural school and in the auditoriums of a University of Technology in a modern metropolis! One author initially presented a painting of Christ with a burning heart and discussed how he used this as inspiration for his church-design (Kosinski). Another architect spoke about the construction of a cross made of natural logs (Buszko). Also statues of The Virgin Mary and of the good herdsman were considered as "urban elements". In this context Eliade's concept of revelation (hierophany) was interpreted in a purely confessional sense as "manifestation between man and God" (Trzeciak). The same author also suggested that we should return to "God's order of things."
The main problem of the conference was that a real discussion of important terms such as 'architecture', 'sacred space' and' sacred sign', was avoided by relying on historistic projections instead. The neutral idea of the sign in the special context of 'semantic characterisation of sacred places' demands a much wider horizon. Otherwise one risks scholastically distorting one's materials and particularly the concept of the sacred sign. The toposemantic continuities of the Judaeo-Christian cultures with ancient Near Eastern cultural domains are very important - particularly their relations with well known signs and symbols of Egyptian and Mesopotamian ancient cultures.
Rather horrifying were these derivations of the 'primordial' based on the Bible in a purely medieval sense. They go far beyond some important modern insights. The Middle Ages had limited written historical sources. The Jewish Old Testament was the oldest text known during those times. Deriving sources merely from historical texts was legitimate: there were no other sources! Jerusalem was considered the oldest city, the Hebrew language was the first language and in written form was the first script. But today this type of reasoning represents an anachronism of many hundred years which can be excused when used by the scientifically uneducated. To anyone who knows about Near Eastern archaeology and its achievements or other domains of modern humanities such reasoning is simply unbelievable - even more so when it is presented on the level of a modern university. Terms like 'sign' and 'symbol' discussed merely in such superficial ways, become dangerously regressive if they are interpreted in this narrow-minded and purely historistic and medievalistic sense.
Compared to this level of research as demonstrated by many conferences and publications, the ARCHISACRA conference in Warsaw presented a level of discussion which might have been possible 25 years ago in a small group related to the planning of a local church, but today? No more! Certainly not at an international conference on architecture!
Thus, despite all the critical objections towards what was presented, there was evidently a strong aspect of informative isolation. In this context the conference indicated that such backwarded types of 'architectural theories' - given a politically and geographically isolated vacuum of information - might easily manoeuvre themselves into nationalistic mainstreams.