By elaborating on the rituals that regularly took place on Tenochtitlan’s templo mayor, and considering the consecutive changes of use of the large marble building on the Acropolis hill from Parthenon to Christian church to mosque to “ruin”, this book argues that it is a building’s use that determines its identity, rather than its form.

It further argues that history suggests that the survival of buildings and artworks as physical objects (i.e. the “forms” or “bodies” thereof) is closely related to the survival, or change, of their initial use, depending on circumstance. The potentiality of change of use is directly linked to the rigidity of involved groups’ and society’s symbolic systems. The interpretatio christiana, for example, was applied in certain regions, in certain times: In fourth-century Mid-East the pagan temples were mostly razed to the ground; in Athens and Rome deserted, and later converted to churches. Persistence of form, as conceived by M. Halbwachs and A. Rossi, may depend on persistence of use (ranging from everyday activities in a neighborhood to deliberate use of certain edifices as monuments of bygone events).