• 6 June 2018


  • The Pax Hall, The St. Joseph Seminary

Cooperation Partner:

  • University of Saint Joseph


  • 18:30 to 20:45


  • Free


  • English


  • Macao Foundation (澳門基金會)



Prof. Thomas Coomans

Thomas Coomans is a Belgian architectural historian, professor at the University of Leuven, department of Architecture and staff member of the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC). His teaching includes architectural history, building archaeology, theory and history of conservation. His fields of research include medieval religious architecture, monastic architecture, reception of medieval architecture in the nineteenth century, conservation and adaptive reuse of churches, architectural exchanges between Europe and East Asia, and church architectural heritage in China. He has published 15 books and about 100 articles and book chapters in international publications.

Thomas Coomans is also associate researcher at the Canada research chair on urban heritage (UQAM), and has been research fellow at Leiden University, adjunct assistant professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (School of Architecture), and visiting professor at Peking University (School of Archaeology and Museology; and The Peking University Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences). He is a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, ICOMOS scientific committee on Shared Built Heritage.

Major publications of Prof. Thomas Coomans:

Th. Coomans, “The ‘Sino-Christian Style’: A Major Tool for Architectural Indigenisation”, in Zheng Yangwen (ed.), Sinicising Christianity (Studies in Christian Mission 49), Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2017, p. 195-232.

高曼士 [Th. Coomans] & 徐怡涛 [XU Yitao], 舶来与本土——1926年法国传教士所撰中国北方教堂营造之研究 / Building Churches in Northern China. A 1926 Handbook in Context, Beijing: 知识产权出版社 [Intellectual Property Rights Publishing House], 2016, 449 p.

Th. Coomans, “Sinicising Christian Architecture in Hong Kong: Father Gresnigt, Catholic Indigenisation, and the South China Regional Seminary, 1927-31”, Journal of the Royal Asian Society Hong Kong Branch, 56, 2016, p. 133-160.

Th. Coomans,“Indigenizing Catholic Architecture in China: From Western-Gothic to Sino-Christian Design, 1900-1940”, in: Cindy Yik-yi Chu (ed.), Catholicism in China, 1900-Present. The Development of the Chinese Church, New York: Palgrave and Macmillan, 2014, p. 125-144.

Th. Coomans,“China Papers: The architecture archives of the building company Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (1907-59)”, ABE Journal. European architecture beyond Europe, 5, 2014, n° 689.


The policy of indigenization launched by pope Benedict XV in 1919 and implemented from 1922 in Republican China by archbishop Costantini attached priority to architecture because buildings are identity bearers in the public space. This lecture examines the paradigm shift of Catholic churches in China, from Western traditional models to Chinese-looking buildings, including modern structures in reinforced concrete. It shows the crucial role of father Adelbert Gresnigt, a Benedictine monk-artist active in China from 1927 to 1931, in defining the “Sino-Christian style” that had to express both Catholic Chineseness and Chinese modernity and be different from what the Protestant did. It also reveals the style debate between the pros and cons of Western styles as well as the rhetoric of (French) conservative missionaries who argued against Chinese style by referring to the preference of the Chinese Catholics for Gothic.