The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History

The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History

The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History

The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History is a private research institute attached to the Foundation for Åbo Akademi University. The aim of the Institute is to promote research in religious and cultural history. It was established in 1959 as a result of a large donation made by Olly and Uno Donner. The stated aim of the donation is “[…] to encourage scholarly research in religious and cultural history […]”. In order to fulfil this aim, the Donner Institute maintains a special scientific library, supports research in the field of the Institute by awarding scholarships, and organizes conferences and seminars.

The Donner Library is the largest special library on Comparative Religion in the Nordic countries. The Institute is administered by a board and its work is led by the Director. Following the will of the donators Uno and Olly Donner, the institute aims at furthering research in the fields of religion and culture on “strictly scientific grounds,” mainly focusing on mysticism and esotericism, but also including contemporary aspects of religion and philosophy, science, art and literature. The Donner Institute strives to implement these guidelines given by the donators, while simultaneously adapting the research strategies to current topics and topics of interest within the field of religious studies.

The research is carried out in close cooperation with the subjects of comparative religion at Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku as well as the Finnish Society for the Study of Religion (SUS). The research activities include e.g.:


Since 1962, the Donner Institute has regularly arranged Nordic symposia within the field of religious studies. A year before the first conference, a professorship in comparative religion had been created at Åbo Akademi University on the basis of funds donated by the Donner Institute. Until 1978, the symposia were arranged biannually and, after that, every third year. Since 2007, the symposia have been arranged yearly. The conference papers presented at the symposia are published in the series Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis. Further information about the symposia is given by conference secretary Björn Dahla,

On May 12th 2016 we arrange the symposium Art Approaching Science and Religion on Sibelius museum in collaboration with the art laboratory AmosLAB.


The Donner Institute brings out two publications: the book series Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis and the e-journal Approaching Religion, which are both online publications.

Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis consists of papers held at our symposia. The website is located at

Papers presented at our round table gatherings are published in the open access e-journal Approaching Religion on its own website at


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