Name: history of architecture allow us to ask

Cristiene Morcos

Aaron Cayer

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7, 2017

Religious Architecture

Architecture has existed since the recognition of
civilization, it wouldn’t be what it is today if we weren’t inspired by the past.
Architecture is not only building a structure, it’s more than that.
Architecture is a process of both carefully designing and carefully building a
structure. Architecture is the art and practice of design which starts by
studying the site and exploring the options of treating the site, choosing the
position and location of the site, and finally studying the environment and how
the structure would fit and shine in it. The process of designing the actual
structure follows specific programs that make the structure convenient and
efficient, while staying compliant to the codes and requirements of the city or
the county. Once compliant, we can finally begin to build the structure. One of
the main reasons we build is for the future, but to do so, we need to look at
the past. Carl Sagan puts it best, “You have to know the past to understand the
present”. We study history since it brought us to the present, where we create
things for the future. For that, we must study history to be better prepared to
build the future. History of architecture not only helps us understand the
architect’s way of thinking, it also helps us understand architecture and how
the builder designed their structures. Studying the history of architecture
also helps us understand the history of the cultures who built these amazing
structures as well as the thought process and interests they held at the time
the structures were being built. It helps us understand the path that humanity
from the ancient man and ancient environment until today. Studying the history
of architecture allow us to ask ourselves why, how, and where these sites and
structures were created. Most importantly, by studying the history of
architecture, we get a clear understanding of how beliefs and religions play
the greatest role in ancient and medieval architecture, clearly visible in and
on the ancient Egyptian Pyramids, St. Peter’s Basilica and Byzantine
Architecture, and the Hagia Sophia. 

The Egyptian Pyramids are a very clear example of
how beliefs and religion played the greatest role in ancient architecture.
Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife, which is, after the person dies,
their Ka (soul) remains, but needs the body to come back in the afterlife. This
process was only possible through mummification. Ancient Egyptians built the
pyramids to keep the pharaoh’s body and their belongings stored and safe for
use in the afterlife. These structures were built as tombs and each of the
pyramids were surrounded by temple complexes and smaller pyramids for the
pharaohs wives. These complexes were staffed by priests and priestesses to
ensure the pharaoh was taken care of in the afterlife, as the Egyptians would
likely have visited to ask for blessing or to pay their respects. They knew and
understood the importance of building the pharaoh’s final resting place so that
its sides faced directly north, south, east, and west, much like a compass,
with the entrance facing the Nile River. Having a river in the middle of the
country clearly had an influence on the Egyptian people as it was clear they
respected nature. They would watch the lilies grow from the mud to become a
beautiful flower, which invented their belief in the concept of creation. That
is why the Egyptian people chose the shape of their structures to be in the
shape of pyramids as it represented the idea of new life emerging from a mound
of earth to be bathed in the light and warmth of the sun.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, an Italian Renaissance
church in Vatican City, is another clear example of how religion is the
greatest factor in ancient architecture. It was built according to tradition,
above the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  Since St Peter’s burial under the site of the
Basilica, it has been tradition to bury the Popes within the basilica in the
same fashion. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly beneath the high
altar of the Basilica. St Peter’s Basilica, like most cathedrals and great
churches, has a cruciform ground plan. In churches of Western European
tradition, the plan is usually longitudinal, in the form of a Latin cross.
This is created by a long nave crossed by a transept. The roof
is in the shape of a dome which symbolizes heaven and the womb of God. The
building itself was designed to be in a square cruciform with shallow
projecting arms, which symbolizes the shape of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. The
Basilica also displays decorative Christian art, including stained glass
and religious icons from the Bible. The front of the structure displays
1st-century apostles to Rome, Saints Peter and Paul. All of
these factors are clearly influenced and built on religious beliefs and foundations
of Christianity. “St Peter’s Basilica is so influential, it brought about the
building of a great number of churches that imitate elements of St Peter’s to a
greater or lesser degree, including St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, St. Josaphat’s Basilica in Milwaukee, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pittsburgh and Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, which replicates many aspects of St
Peter’s on a smaller scale. Post-Modernism has
seen free adaptations of St Peter’s in the Basilica
of Our Lady of Liche?, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.”
Religion clearly had a great impact on 19th and 20th
century architecture and continues to do so today.

The final structure that truly shows that religion
played the greatest role in ancient architecture is the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia
Sophia’s design is of Byzantine architectural influence that evolved from
Roman architecture. The style appeared from Near East influences and the Greek
cross plan for church design was adopted from the Roman designs. Using brick
instead of stone, mosaics replaced carved decorations and complex domes were
developed. The Hagia Sophia, a Greek Orthodox Church basilica, was converted
into a mosque in 1453, and is now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey and falls under
the Byzantine architecture style. It contains two floors centered on a giant
nave that has a great dome ceiling that symbolizes heaven, along with smaller
domes, towering above. This design was one of the great breakthroughs in the
history of Western architecture occurred when Justinian’s architects invented a
hard yet efficient system providing for a smooth transition from a square plan
of the church to a circular dome (or domes) by means of squinches or
pendentives, which enable its transition into the square shape of its piers
below. These pendentives distribute the weight of the dome to the wall under
it. The architects who designed the Hagia Sophia were primarily mathematicians,
who made use of new architectural concepts in order to build exactly what the
emperor wanted when constructing the design. These designs, much like St Peters
Basilica, were heavily influenced by Christianity and religious beliefs, and
become more evident when viewing the beautiful mosaics all around its

There are many factors that influenced ancient
architecture and many factors that influence present day design, but religion
and beliefs were and will always be the greatest. Structures are built for many
reasons and purposes, with most of the designs being structured on a belief. Whether
the building was designed to be high enough to reach the sky (God), or strong
enough to stand the test of time (the afterlife), the driving factor always
leads back to religious purposes and foundations.