Religious Architecture

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Since the beginning of humankind, there has
always been a fascination with the supernatural. Not the type of supernatural that includes
werewolves, vampires, and ghouls (oh my), but the supernatural that explains why natural
events occur. All throughout the history of civilizations,
it is evident throughout their art, that they are worshipping other worldly entities, especially
throughout their architecture. Much of these societies would build large
structures to pay tribute to the Gods, or a place for people themselves to worship them. Overall, throughout the time of countless
civilizations, it can be seen that religion has played a large role in their architecture. In the Stone Age there were not many religious
architectural marvels, the people of the Stone Age did in a way contribute. Instead of creating huge buildings, these
people instead took structures that were created by nature and made them works of their own. In this case, most of the time, caves were
used to accomplish this. One work of art that represents this idea
is the “Spotted horses and negative hand imprints, wall painting in the cave at Pech-Merle,
France.” In this particular image, whoever created
this work of art, utilized the the shape of the cave to give shape to some of the animals
on the slab. There are several theories for what particular
religious purposes they were used for. One theory is that the Paleolithic people
believed that they were descended from animals, their ancestors. Regardless of what theory is being discussed,
there is an overarching theme that animals, to the people of the Stone Age, were highly
respected. Temples are of great importance to Egyptians. Such monuments gave people during that time
the opportunity to worship the pharaohs in the afterlife. The mortuary temple of Pharaoh Hatshepsut
is located in Deir el-Bahri, Egypt and was built during the 18th dynasty around 1473-1458
BCE. The Pharaoh Hatshepsut is said the be the
first recorded female monarch on record. Hatshepsut’s temple gave her subjects the
opportunity not only to worship her in the afterlife but allowed them to give offerings
to her in the afterlife as well. Because the pyramids were able to stand the
test of time, we can now see the importance of religion to the Egyptians in their culture
As many of us probably know, the Greeks in ancient times were notoriously known for their
worship of multiple Gods. One Greek temple that represents this is the
Temple of Apollo, Didyma. Before this temple was built, the Greeks had
a strict format for building temple design. This temple that replaced the Archaic one
broke all the traditional rules for the Classical Period in Greece and ushered in a new period,
the Hellenistic Period. The only classical aspect of the Temple of
Apollo, Didyma, was that it followed the Classical formula for perfect proportions. Despite the unique features of this temple,
it is certainly one of the most marvelous temples the Greeks ever constructed and shows
the importance of religion to the Greeks. During the reign of emperor Justinian, art
historians considered this period as golden age for Byzantium . The Hagia Sophia, the
Church of Holy Wisdom was an ambitious project for the ruler located Constantinople . The
dome used in Byzantine architecture were influenced by Roman engineering. The placement over a square, however, yielded
some issues with the builders. The solution resided within the use of squinches,
an octangular square. Pendentives resolved the issue as well by
constructing curved triangles with arches that supported the weight of the dome. Islamic architecture is definitely unique. Still, it is very similar to Byzantine architecture
because the Muslims adopted the styles of the Byzantines. The Great Mosque in Kairouan, Tunisia was
built in the 9th century. The arcaded forecourt resembled a Roman forum,
but the minaret, calling muslims to worship, was a unique characteristic of Islamic architecture. Although, Islamic architecture has many resemblances
to other cultures, it is still unique in its own way, and it housed for collective worship
in a congregational setting. Early Medieval Europe brought for a remodeling
of Roman art. Charlemagne’s chapel is the first vaulted
medieval structure north of the Alps. Column and marbles for this structure were
brought from Rome and Ravenna. The interior is filled with gold and silver
with doors of solid brass. The chapel is modeled after San Vitale. The interior of the chapel displays paintings
of holy figures indicated with the halos around their heads. Along with the holy figures the chapel has
a cross on top pointing to the heavens as a symbol of the Christian faith. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a cruciform
structured chapel in Ravenna, Italy. This chapel combines central and longitudinal
plans as well as rich mosaic ensembles. Within the chapel walls are vibrant pictorial
designs and patterns sprawled among the marble walls. Artists achieved the technique of pattern
using stones and variety of colors. Furthermore the Mosaic pieces were in service
for Christian theology. The Romanesque period brought forth larger
structures for religious worship. Saint Sernin resembled many Churches created
before it. This church is an example of a “pilgrimage
church” type of structure. This was because pilgrimages caused an economic
turn for the architecture of the Romanesque period. The interior is composed of a groin-vaulted
tribune that supports the nave’s barrel vault; this is where a speech would be made. For the construction of Saint Sernin in Toulouse,
a timber roof was not utilized. Instead, stone vaults were used to help create
a fireproof structure, and create a majestic setting for the display of relics along with
enhanced acoustics for the music accompanying the Christian liturgy. Notre Dame Cathedral is the first great cathedral
that was constructed with flying buttresses during the Gothic Period also known as opus
modernum. According to Gardner, Notre Dame Cathedral
is a “landmark” in the world of historical architecture. With meticulous design and precise detail
Notre Dame was constructed with towering vaults, glass like walls, and stained-glass windows. Although, the cathedral was created with meticulous
design using new architectural planning the sole purpose of the Cathedral was to be used
a place of worship. It is through the Notre Dame Cathedral that
one can see the important role Christianity played on architecture during the Medieval
Period. The stunning interior of San Vitale was made
to honor a Christian martyr, dedicated by bishop Maximianus in 547. San Vitales exterior illustrates intricate
designs of curves and the use of arches detailed along the walls. Mosaic pieces on San Vitale reveal religious
attributes relating to Christ, not to mention the ambitious use of imperial purple. The designs on the planes were aesthetically
pleasing to a viewer’s eyes with the flow of the details. Furthermore the symbols covering the interior
express the idea of christs redemption in humanity. It is evident through the works of art discussed
that religion has had an immense role on architecture varying among cultures. As seen as far back as the Paleolithic era
to the Gothic era. Religion has influenced architecture beginning
with how it was built and ending with how the interior was designed. Whether it be paintings in caves that symbolize
rituals or grand cathedrals built with meticulous interior and exterior designs symbolizing
the Christian faith, religion will continue to influence modern society and architecture.


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