Have you ever had a spiritual experience with a work of art?

It is common knowledge that artworks can be sources of pleasure, expression, and beauty, but we think that artworks can also be valuable sources of spiritual knowledge and understanding, especially if the works of art are part of a sacred arts festival. We are putting this theory to the test.

We are part of the Templeton Religion Trust grant making strategy called ‘Art Seeking Understanding’, and the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh.

Image of Templeton Religion Trust logo, linking to their website
Image of the University of Edinburgh logo, linking to the Divinity website

Project Overview

Our project is empirically testing whether the experiences of artists, performers, participants, audiences in the context of a sacred arts festival extend their knowledge and understanding of spiritual reality.


We will do this in three primary ways:

  • In-depth interviews with festival practitioners and audience members
  • Surveys of audience experiences at the festival
  • Academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines and artistic media meeting in a monthly symposium to explore the relationship between art and spiritual reality by engaging in theological and philosophical reflection

All three approaches inform one another so that insights we gain from one approach will inform the methods of another, and vice versa. This allows for a more integrated and holistic kind of understanding to emerge from our investigation.

Transcripts of the in-depth interviews with festival participants can can be accessed by reputable researchers upon request. More information about the transcripts can be found here: Froehlich, C.; Jack, A. (Creator) (2023). “Investigating Art and the Sacred at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Interview Transcripts.” Edinburgh DataVault. https://doi.org/10.7488/8e0e7b8d-c7a3-4935-b42a-f043669153b3

Image of 4 gears, representing how the project works, they are: in-depth interviews, audience surveys, critical discussion, leading to the final gear of understanding.

Research will take place within the University of Edinburgh and at the Festival of the Sacred Arts (FSA) in 2021 and 2022. The FSA is held each August during the International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, now well established as the premier arts festival in Europe. The 2021 FSA took place at St Vincent’s Chapel, Stockbridge.

You can find out more about the Festival of Sacred Arts at their website, www.edinburghsacredartsfestival.org

Public Events

Podcast now available

You can now listen to our podcast! It explores the relationship between the arts and spiritual realities. We have a range of guests from academics to artistic practitioners, we hope you enjoy the discussions.

You can get our podcast feed directly, or you can browse the episodes on this page.

The Art and the Sacred podcast

Artistic reflections on the project

Painting and Poetry


Textiles in Nature

Image of orchestra playing from the audience perspective.


Dr Alison Jack

Senior Lecturer in Religion and Literature

A portrait image of Professor Gordon Graham.

Professor Gordon Graham

Director of the Edinburgh Sacred Arts Foundation

Dr Caleb Froehlich

Postdoctoral Research Associate