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date: 23 March 2023

Overview of Architecture and Religion Since 1500locked

Overview of Architecture and Religion Since 1500locked

  • Thomas BarrieThomas BarrieDepartment of Architecture, North Carolina State University


The architecture of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam during the historically significant period of the 16th through 20th centuries reveals many similarities and differences. Particularly important are the architectural languages each employed to materialize, facilitate, and communicate their religion, and how they changed over time. Additionally, the ontological and symbolic roles of architecture and the key theoretical approaches to the subject are relevant contexts. These include typological taxonomies of organizations, path sequences, and historical, conceptual, or symbolic characteristics. Lastly, seven primary roles of religious architecture—historical, authoritative, commemorative, theocentric, cosmological, prestige, and community places–can effectively situate and contextualize particular examples.

During the pivotal 16th century, popes remade St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican and transformed Rome into the ecclesiastical and political center of Christianity; Jews built substantial synagogues that reflected their status during the Golden Age of Jews in Poland; and the Ottoman Empire built some of its most significant mosque complexes that expressed the hegemony of the theocratic state. Subsequent periods of the architecture of the Abrahamic religions illustrate particular themes, and explicate the variety of roles, and relative importance, of the architecture at particular periods. Modernism, in particular, produced significant changes in the architecture, where complexity, ambiguity, inventiveness, and oscillations between tradition and innovation reflected the impacts of new technologies, liturgical reforms, and global architectural cultures. Throughout, the capacity of architecture to materialize and communicate ontological, historical, religious, and sociopolitical content and accommodate communal rituals cannot be overstated.


  • Religion and Art

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