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Architecture and Decoration of Christian Churches/Cathedrals, Jewish Synagogues, and Islamic Mosques

Architecture and Decoration of Christian Churches/Cathedrals, Jewish Synagogues, and Islamic Mosques

A reflection on religious monuments as well as their implements in connection to their faith and prayer use. This reflection uses Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions as study examples of the medieval time.

Welding Sacer as well as Profanus religion is sacred, the sacer cradle, the intertwined reality of faith, and profanes. It is in cathedrals, churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques that we connect the sacer and profanus, the home of prayers. Among the variety of religions and customs, it brings a gathering of holy sectors, each with its own devoted art and architectural composition, and own apparatus to communicate as well as praise the godly. The sectors are genuinely constructed with their grooves and tiles contributing to an aesthetic but pious, of which are symbolic of their faith.

The nave being the main body of the church provided the central point to the high alter which was reserved for the clergy and extended from entry to the chancel, which was developed out of the apse of which was flanked by the lower side aisles. This architectural design resulted in the development of the Gothic Christian abbey, Romanesque, and cathedral basilica. The Abbey church of Saint- Denis is regarded as the first known Gothic structure in which Christians were able to worship. While the Hagia Sophia a former orthodox basilica church and later became an imperial mosque. Prior to hagia Sophia becoming a mosque, it was a church dedicated to God’s wisdom, the logos, and the second person of the holy trinity. This structure from its inception has seen some changes ranging from being the first church, to second and third church to eventually becoming a mosque, and is at present a museum.

Synagogue is a derivative Hebrew word which means house of gathering. It is a housing for gathered prayer and discussions. The five books of Moses are practiced in Judaism, the Torah, and the Jewish Bible. They pray while facing Jerusalem and the synagogue structure is oriented to this, for it is the final connection between sacer and profanes. Especially synagogues, such as the Capernaum Synagogue (4th century B.C.) three doorways can be seen. These three entry points can be referred to earlier liturgical divisions of the three destroyed courtyards of the Jerusalem temple. In the religion of Judaism, god is nonfigurative, and yet this notion is false because the district synagogues have displayed artistry. For instance, the Dura-Eurpus synagogue, a well-preserved Roman garrison between the Roman as well as the Sasanian imperial, one will find the Torah niche. The division of these designs provides a candelabrum of seven branches, the Menorah, a continuous Jewish art emblem. The number seven symbolizes the perfection and completion and represents the commandment of keeping the seventh day holy as stated in the Torah. Also seen is the continuous narrative, of a chronological storyline against the wall painting of the life of Moses (239 A.D). The display has two images of Moses, one turning his rod towards the direction of the red sea while the other Moses leading the Israelites through.The whole notion of a continuous narration is to do with the visual belief of how to exemplify the relationship between God and humanity. Christians worship in churches, while Jews worship in synagogues, as the meeting point between sacred as well as profane, and between profanes and sacer. Within a synagogue, it is easy to find the western wall as it normally has a torah niche, which orients those in prayer towards Jerusalem.

Architecture of the medieval Jewish synagogue differed from place to place, absorbing the aesthetics architecture of Christians or Muslims countries where Jews resided. Unlike the Christian church, whose cruciform design symbolizes Christ’s crucifixion, the synagogue lacked an architectural design that was a symbolic determinant.

Within the synagogue, certain mandatory architectural elements provided liturgical purposes. Placed in the center of the synagogue was a raised platform on which the Torah scroll was read, and was also called the bimah among the Ashkenazic Jews and among the Sephardim was called the tebah.

The architectonic importance of the bimah reflected the significance of Torah within Jewish rituals. The Torah scrolls were stored in the Holy Ark signifying the Covenant Ark of which was known as the aron ha-kodesh among the Askenazis and hekhal among the Sephardic Jews. The positioning of the ark is such that those facing it pray facing towards Jerusalem. Before the sixth century, the ark was stored in a side room and was out of sight of which was separated by a curtain. During the middle ages, the Holy Ark was fixed at the center of the synagogue’s eastern wall, which faced Jerusalem. The scrolls were aligned in a standing position to have the congregation behold them on open of the ark. In turn, the ark, which was richly decorated with lions, was a symbol of Judah and the tablets of the 10 commandments. As seen, the curtain that was referred to as the parokhet covered the Holy Ark in line with scripture, (Ex. 40:21). In that way, the aron ha-kodesh symbolizes the Jewish tabernacle that was built while the Israelites wandered in the desert. The eastern wall ought to have a semicircular apse, and the entrance door ought to be via the western wall opposite the apse.

The prehistoric priestly obligation of keeping a lit candle to burn eternally before the Lord (cf. Lev. 24:4) was also transferred to eternal light, which hung before the ark and was kept burning continuously. Eternal candelabras light were made of silver, brass, or gold, depending on the communities wealth, and symbolized the enlighten spirituality of the Torah. In addition, the synagogue had another desirable feature, that of the window. In maintaining belief of Daniel 6:11, the prophets prayer place had a window. During prayers in the synagogue, the parochet is used to cover the Torah ark, which has the Torah scrolls inside the synagogue. In several synagogues, the parochet is used throughout the year and is replaced on high holy days.

The dome of the rock, a shrine located on the temple mount within Jerusalem’s old city is considered one of the oldest Islamic architectural works, whose site’s significance originates from religious traditions, of which bear great value for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The Christians view the location of the dome as holy because of the role the temple played Jesus Christ’s life.

To be oriented towards Mecca for prayers one would use the mihrab. The mihrab appears to have been a newer version of the Torah niche and the apse. Due to the requirement that a person be disconnected from the profane space immediately around them the necessity for a pray rug was created. Similarly, the Torah scrolls of the medieval Ashkenazi world are read at the bimah or a raised platform, which is centrally located. All the seats face the Holy Ark (aron). In addition, the aron is one of the numerous successors of the Torah niche, where the scrolls are stored.

In conclusion, it can be said that the art and architecture of the medieval Jews, Christians, and Muslims were consistently shaped by the exigencies and dogmas of their respective religious beliefs. To varying degrees, Christians, Muslims, and Jewish artists and architects adopted the artistic, aesthetic, and architectural legacies they got from ancient Roman, Hellenistic, Persian, and other cultures. Furthermore, direct cultural contacts of Jews, Muslims, and Christians manifested themselves within their respective material cultural productions in various ways. People during the medieval era readily adopted as well as adapted the artistic techniques of each other to create their own. It was not strange for Muslims and Christian monarchs to have artists from different religious communities work for them. All three communities used religious artistic symbols in art as well as architecture for polemical reasons.