When Pilgrimage Meets Digital Religion and Virtual Sacred Architecture
This paper explores an innovative concept of gaining a spiritual experience in a virtual sacred space. This idea is manifested through the transformation of the real physical house of worship into a virtual sacred space with an emphasis on the “holy” ambiance represented by the holy light. Thus, the aim is to compare empirically the spiritual experience of a sacred space (i.e. church) between a real building that can be encountered during a pilgrimage, and an analog virtual one. The main element to test was the variation of light intensity in the sacred buildings. The question is: can a virtual environment evoke a spiritual experience similar to a real environment? Two case studies were conducted: one in two Italian churches (Assisi and Orvieto), and one experiment using a virtual representation of a church in Lyon, France. The results of the two tests show that no matter the context, real or virtual people are still able to perceive the light in the sacred space. In addition, this study demonstrates that the light has an effect on the spiritual experience both in the real and the virtual churches. Therefore, in both the real and the virtual cases, light changes were perceived, and light has an effect on the emotions that evoke the spiritual experience.