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The Spiritual City: Theology, Spirituality, and the Urban

ISBN: 978-1-118-83051-2
240 pages
June 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
The Spiritual City: Theology, Spirituality, and the Urban (1118830512) cover image


A Spiritual City provides a broad examination of the meaning and importance of cities from a Christian perspective.

  • Contains thought-provoking theological and spiritual reflections on city-making by a leading scholar
  • Unites contemporary thinking about urban space and built environments with the latest in urban theology
  • Addresses the long-standing anti-urban bias of Christianity and its emphasis on inwardness and pilgrimage
  • Presents an important religious perspective on the potential of cities to create a strong human community and sense of sacred space
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

Part One The City in Christian Thought 23

1 Augustine’s Two Cities 25

2 Monasticism and Utopian Visions 43

3 The City as Sacred 63

4 The City and the Reformations 81

5 Michel de Certeau: Everyday Practices and the City 99

Part Two Theological Reflection and the City 115

6 Place and the Sacred 117

7 The Art of Community 137

8 Reconciliation and Hospitality 157

9 Urban Virtues 179

Epilogue: A Spiritual Vision of the Human City 201

Select Reading 211

Index 221

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Author Information

Philip Sheldrake is Senior Research Fellow at Westcott House in the Cambridge Theological Federation and Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality, Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio Texas. He has taught and written extensively in the field of Christian spirituality, on the nature of space and place in religion, and on spirituality more generally. He is involved internationally in interreligious dialogue. His dozen books include Spirituality: A Brief History, Second Edition (Wiley Blackwell, 2013), Explorations in Spirituality: History, Theology and Social Practice (2010), Spirituality and History, Second Edition (1998) and, as editor, New SCM/Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (2005). He is a Past President of the international Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

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“This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of cities — and that ought to be pretty much everyone, given that well over half the world’s population now lives in cites, up from 29 per cent in 1950. In any event, Revelation makes it clear that if we don’t live in one now, we shall, God willing.”  (Church Times, 27 March 2015)

“A quite exceptionally original and timely book, which combines deep knowledge of the Christian tradition with sensitivity to the issues of urban life today, and offers fresh insight into what the sacramental community of Christian faith brings to our current anxieties about social cohesion, justice and inclusion.” Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge

"This is an extraordinarily thoughtful book.  In carefully tracing the history of Christian thought on the city, Philip Sheldrake shows how a sense of the sacred can replenish the urban aesthetic and lives led today largely in environments that push belonging, community and fulfilment to the very edge of togetherness.  A compelling and beautifully written book." Ash Amin, University of Cambridge

"More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, and the balance between town and country changes day by day. Christian understandings of the city have often been negative, but Sheldrake shows that there is a rich tradition of thinking about the city throughout Christian history. This tradition can contribute to the moral and spiritual vision which is essential if cities are to continue to be humanising and hopeful places, spaces of reconciliation rather than alienation. In dialogue with geographers, philosophers as well as social theorists Sheldrake sets out a rich and complex vision of how Christian thinking can contribute to a world wide debate." Tim Gorringe, University of Exeter

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