M.J. Kaljouw

PhD candidate Practical Theology
Community / Care

Iconic city churches

"Church [buildings] offer recognition, guidance, identity and connect us as a society," said Minister of Culture Ingrid van Engelshoven. In other words, some church buildings have a symbolic function for society: they are carriers of emotion and meaning. One of the phrases I hear most often in my research is: "When I see the church steeple, I know I'm home."

Why is this the case, when at the same time many church buildings have to close their doors? What does this say about the social role of religion? And what does this mean for the church communities associated with these buildings?

At the PThU I am doing a PhD research into 18 iconic city churches. Each of these churches dominates the view of the city, is a national monument and is also used by a church community. I want to know how church communities deal with this public role of the church building, and also what tensions this can cause. This concerns tensions surrounding multifunctional use (rental), heritage policy, financial burden and also dynamics within the church community itself. The research touches on debates about religion and heritage, ecclesial practices, church in the public domain and public theology.

I am conducting this research within the research group Practical Theology at the PThU. However, I have a background in continental philosophy of religion and graduated on the role of religion in Paul Ricoeur's political philosophy.

In addition to (but not apart from) my academic work, I am:

  • founder of the Vondst foundation, a cultural platform in the Deventer Lebuinuskerk
  • co-founder of Petrichor, underground publisher in Deventer


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