Sites of Re-Enchantment: Sacred Space and Nature in Early 20th Century Europe
(2022) Religions, 13 (2), art. no. 110
This essay analyses the relationship between healing, nature, and the sacred in the construction of “sacred space” or heterotopies at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe. Two examples of these spaces are provided: the Kurorte in Bad Reichenhall, Germany, and the back-to-nature site Monte Verità in Ascona, Switzerland. The focus is on sacred space, alternative lifestyles, and the natural environment through the use of “light and air” cabins and community organization, as described by the founders of the colony at Monte Verità. The healing garden and the Gradierhaus—a special type of building designed for breathing salted air—in Bad Reichenhall are explored through the lens of “air cure” and “climate cures”, which became popular in Central Europe at the end of the 19th century. Such buildings and healing sites were designed for the express purpose of healing through disconnection from the chaos of the modern industrial world in order to reconnect with nature and the elements. Drawing on Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, a striking affinity between buildings and the natural environment at these sites is revealed, resulting in a “special” or “sacred” location that is somehow both “in” and “out” of everyday life, capable of ostensibly producing forms of healing in the visitors and inhabitants. © 2022 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
Alternative healing; Climatic cures; Heterotopia; Modernity; Monte Verità; Nature; Sacred space