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Religion and Architecture: Christian Church, Buddhist, Islamic Mosques

Religious architecture is mainly concerned with design and building of houses of reverence or holy deliberate places such as stupas, mosques, churches and temples. Many cultures sacrificed a lot of their resources and effort in establishing places of worship. In fact, these places are among the most remarkable and durable buildings that have ever been built by mankind.

The era of church building began with Constantine the Great. After Christianity was recognized in the state, and allowed to own property, it embarked on erecting houses of worship across the Roman Empire. Following the Empire becoming formally Christian, there was construction of Basilicas. Basilica referred to a huge and vital church that was given particular ceremonial rites by the pope. This means that even today, the term basilica has two meanings: architectural and ecclesiastical. Early church designers did not borrow their designs from Roman temples. This was because Roman temples were designed for mass gathering. From inside, they did not provide for large spaces where people could meet for worship. However, Christian basilicas borrowed their architectural design from the ancient Roman basilicas which were used for marketing, meetings and as court of laws. The st Paul outside the wall basilica contained two porticos: the inner and outer porticos. The inner portico was a covered hall that belonged to the church. It was also referred as provnao. The covered portico that precedes the frontage is an increment of the past Neo-classicist that took place during the rebuilding of the basilica. There is presence of mosaics which date back in the 5th century. These mosaics contain the catastrophe of John, with the bust of Christ in the center surrounded by the twenty four elders of the church.

The main alter in the church is placed on the apse. This is a semicircular indentation sheltered with semi-circular vault or semi-dome. In church architecture, apse is used to refer to a semi-circular or many-sided termination of the chief construction at the liturgical east end where alter is located. In cases where an apse is raised with steps, it is referred to as a tribune. During the reign of Constantine, apse was placed at the west end of the basilica. It was one of the most decorated parts of the church with its walls covered with marbles and the vault decorated with mosaic that reflected a personification of the godhead.

Nave in Catholic Church refers to the unsanctified part of the church building where people gather for the service. It is the area where priest go down to deliver his homily. The nave could also be used for other purposes other than religious. It acted as a hall where worshippers could meet and hold their meetings. Transept on the other hand refers to the portion of the building in the church that stretches northwards and southwards from the nave forming a cruciate plan. Some times they consist of a middle portion that is wide as the nave. In some cases, transepts were made to resemble chapels. To the west of transepts in st Paul outside the wall basilica is the religious residence. The residence consists of double columns of varied shapes. Some columns contain decorations with golden and colored mosaics. The basilica contains the tombstone of st Paul which is under the alter and contains some inscriptions that says Paul was an apostle and martyr. The inscribed section of the tomb contains two squared holes and one round. Due to the roman culture of pouring perfumes to the dead, the round hole is connected to the tombstone with a pipe.

Stupa is the most recent Buddhist religious tombstone. The first Stupa was erected by emperor Ashoka who later converted to Christianity. It was made up of mud or clay and was aimed at covering the hypothetical remnants of the Buddha. After the demise of Buddha, his remains were cremated and ashes distributed among eight stupas where it was buried. After this incident, the importance of stupas changed from merely being used as burial places to being places of worship. Their appearances also changed significantly. The oldest and most significant stupa among the Buddhist is the great stupa at sanchi. The hemispherical shape of the great stupa at Sanchi stands for the world egg. It is erected on a square rock and watchfully associated with the four cardinals points of the compass. This is a return of the imagery of the dome where heaven is supported by earth and earth being covered by heaven.

The parasols are arranged each above the other representing the heavenly hierarchy. The celestial imagery is completed by a ritual path going round the monument. Surrounding the great stupa of Sanchi is a railing that contains four gateways with each gate facing the direction of the four cardinals. Buddha has been represented in this stupa in form of non-living symbols. Some of the symbols include wheels, footprints and bare throne. The square base resembles earth, semi-circular dome stands for water, conical spire fire, the semi-circular moon and the higher lotus umbrella air while the dissolving point and the sun stands for space. The umbrella represents the three jewels of the Buddha: Buddha himself, eight full paths and the monks. Buddhists, just as Hindus regards Mt.Mera as sacred since they believe that it is the center of the universe. They assert that its slopes are dotted with glittering gemstone and covered with trees that contain scrumptious fruits. They use various objects of worship to represent the spirituality of the mountain. In Buddhism, Mandala represents the setting of Buddha land. They are usually used in helping Buddhists as they meditate.

Islam is a religion that was founded by Prophet Muhammad. It uses Quran as its holy book which they believe contains actual words from their God. The term Islam has various meanings which includes peace. Other meanings include submission or absolute commitment of a person to God. A person who practices this religion is referred as Muslim which means one who surrenders himself or herself to God. Muhammad was a radical prophet. This led to him being faced with a lot of hostility from people of Mecca. He and his followers were mistreated leading to them migrating to Medina. The mosques were built using arches. Horseshoe arch were based on hemispherical arch with their lower ends round the circles till they start converging. Islamic architecture was greatly used for decoration rather than strengthening the structures. The Islamic mosque of Cordoba is one of the most exciting mosques. It is decorated by alternating bricks and stones in arches. These alternations resulted in the creation of red and white striped patterns. The mosque contains numerous surface inscriptions, mosaic and paintings used in reservation of God’s word. Muslims attribute light to signify unity. As a result, the mosque contains stalactites that are used to trap and diffuse light in the mosque.

Reference list

General Buddhist Symbols, 2009. Brief History Of Symbolism In Buddhism.

History Of The Christian Church, 2009. Religion and Art.

The Principal Duties of Islam, 2002. The Five Pillars Of Islam.


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