1-10 of 10 Results

  • Keywords: architecture x
Clear all


Guatemalan Churches: The Maya Legacy in Organic Façades  

Carol Damian

Located in the center of Maya civilization and tradition, Guatemala features some of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites, with extensive pre-Hispanic remains. The Maya of pre-Contact times believed in a pantheistic religion with many gods, and despite violent Spanish subjugation beginning in 1524, many of those traditions still survive. Coerced conversion had mixed results, as the Maya in certain territories often did not replace or abolish their beliefs in favor of Christianity, but rather added this new faith as another layer. This allowed Mayans to participate in their own rituals while maintaining Christian identity, blending religious cultures in a syncretic situation that saw art, music, festivals, and other events as unique and genuine dialogue. Today, contemporary Mayans in Guatemala maintain their linguistic dialects, along with traditional clothing and ceremonies of ancient rituals. The tenacity of the Maya people in upholding their longstanding customs and beliefs is reflected in the architectural embellishments that adorn Guatemala’s many churches. From small parishes to cities, a profusion of organic details is evident on the façades of even newly built Catholic churches. These flourishes exhibit relationships to Mayan glyphs and produce a unique visual vocabulary based on the ancient beliefs that connected man’s relation to nature as inherent to daily life. Disguised within these Christian landmarks, the adornments uncover the Guatemalan people’s enduring commitment to Mayan beliefs, despite waves of forced evangelization throughout their territories.


Portuguese Monarchs and Their Royal Convents and Monasteries, Early Renaissance-Manueline  

Pedro Flor

Following the pattern in vogue during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the religious architecture policy followed by the Portuguese kings was based on the construction of buildings. This approach unsurprisingly sought to respond to the growth of religious orders in the kingdom and simultaneously served as a mirror of magnificence and royal power. In order to make the construction sites of such buildings more successful, working procedures such as the direction of general work, how the tasks were divided, and how workers were paid needed an in-depth but careful adjustment. The royal patronage around the Mendicants (mainly Dominicans and Franciscans) throughout the 15th century appeared to be dominant. At the end of the century, during the reign of King Manuel I, the tendency was to favor and support instead the Hieronymites, a contemplative and intellectual religious order, responsible for spreading the Devotio Moderna and a reformist spirit centered on Erasmus. The Monastery of Batalha, the Monastery of Jesus of Setubal, and the Monastery of Jerónimos are three representative sides of an architectural strategy where power and spirituality mix in the interior and exterior of buildings that fortunately still remain.


Fazlur Rahman Khan: Structural Engineer  

Mahjoub Elnimeiri

Dr. Fazlur Khan was one of the world’s top structural engineers of the 20th century. Fazlur was a preeminent, innovative, award-winning structural engineer who, among his many achievements, was noted for elevating the role of the engineer to a partnership with the architect. He was responsible for the structural design of many landmark buildings such as the John Hancock Center and the Sears (Willis), both in Chicago, and the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Born and raised in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), his Muslim upbringing had a lasting impact in shaping his gracious, humble, and generous personality. Fazlur died in 1982 at the age of 53.


Overview of Architecture and Religion Since 1500  

Thomas Barrie

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.


Overview of Religious Art and Architecture: Native American  

Karla Cavarra Britton

The rich intertwining of art, architecture, and religion in Native North American worldviews represents an expansive field of exploration that cumulatively addresses patterns of generational continuity, a sense of place, and the continued vitality of ceremonial and oral traditions for the more than 600 recognized tribes of North America. To engage in an overview of such a broad topic, which necessarily includes ethnographic, religious, anthropological and other perspectives, requires a selective rather than comprehensive choice of material evidence. Moreover, the topic challenges perceived understandings of art and religion, such as the familiar separation between the sacred and the profane in representations of religious life. The subject of religious art and architecture in Native North America also immediately calls attention to the ways in which this field of exploration has often been overlooked in the standard canonical histories of religion and the arts. It is rare that in-depth scholarly writing outside of Native studies addresses the implications of religious building and art on tribal lands, especially since many Native building forms are more metaphorical in their manifestation of the spiritual, often blurring the distinction between landscape and building. Furthermore, the contemporary vitality of North American Native art—and one might add its religious expression—is also evidence of an extraordinary cultural resilience among Native peoples. Until recently, it was popularly assumed that Native culture was destined to disappear, yet a resurgence of both interest in and production of Native art has helped to revitalize the tradition from within. A variety of factors have contributed to this revitalization, among them greater economic stability, population recovery, and an increased interest from non-Native peoples in Indigenous artistic production. This interest has recognized that the visual arts as well as spatial concepts (understood in terms of both buildings and the landscape) have long been carriers of cultural value and meaning within Native American cultures. These material expressions remain among the most powerful articulations of contemporary understandings of identity and the continuity of patterns of belief, and as such have much to reveal and teach a wide and curious audience.


Buddhist Art and Architecture in Tibet  

Erberto Lo Bue

Tibetan Buddhists view images primarily as religious supports and secondarily as works of art. Buddhist images are aimed at improving one’s karma by earning merit in view of future existences, at removing obstacles, and at creating wellbeing. Their commissioning may be occasioned by various circumstances, including illness and death, besides the need for a specific religious practice. Since they are primarily expressions of faith, their age has a limited importance and their originality hardly any: a religious image is valued less for its rarity and aesthetic value than for its apotropaic virtues and for its particular connection with a holy place or master. Hence the application of Western post-Medieval aesthetic criteria to the appreciation of Tibetan art ought to be complemented by an appreciation of the specific religious meaning of an image, the interpretation of its particular symbolism, and the aim of its client within the specific cultural and historical context in which it was produced. This article is preceded by a historical introduction sketching the development of Buddhist art and architecture in Tibet from the 7th to the present century, mentioning the role played by foreign artists, mostly Newars from the Nepal Valley, and dwelling on particularly significant monuments, such as the monastery of Sàmye (8th century) and the Great Stupa of Gyantsé (15th century), representing the two highest moments in the history of Tibetan religious art and architecture, the Pòtala being basically a fortified palace. The first section, on Tibetan Buddhist art, deals with iconography and iconometry as well as materials and techniques, contrasting the prevalent approach to the subject by collectors, and even art historians, with that of Buddhist masters and devotees, pointing out the importance of the consecration of images, without which the latter remain worthless from a religious point of view. The second section, on Tibetan Buddhist architecture, deals with the construction of religious buildings, their materials, their religious functions and their symbolism. Although stupas are referred to throughout the article, they are dealt especially in this section. Sanskrit terms, whether in phonetic transcription or in transliteration, prevail in the first section because the relevant terminology is largely the Tibetan translation of Indian Buddhist terms, Tibetan terms in phonetic transcription and transliteration prevail in the second section, except in the part dealing with the stupa.


Kabbalah in Art and Architecture  

Batsheva Goldman-Ida

Kabbalah (literally “the receiving” [of tradition]) is an early form of Jewish mysticism. Key concepts include the ten sefirot (heavenly spheres), the Hebrew alphabet, Shiur Qomah (dimensions of the divine body), the archangel Metatron, and the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of the Godhead). The main books of the Kabbalah, written in early antiquity, include Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), an early and major source, thought to be from the 3rd century ce, whose commentaries constitute most subsequent Kabbalistic literature and Sefer ha’Bahir (Book of Enlightenment), first published in the early 12th century. Both works discuss the ten sefirot and the Hebrew letters. Other works are the Hekhalot (Palace) literature, which includes the ritual praxis of “descending to the Chariot” and hymns recited in a celestial Temple, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the book of Enoch, and sections of the Dead Sea scrolls. In the Mishnah Hagigah (220 ce), two variants of Kabbalah are mentioned: the study of Creation and the study of the Heavenly Chariot. These two categories are linked to biblical prooftexts: the study of creation to the first chapter of Genesis, and the study of the Heavenly Chariot to the first chapter of the book of Prophet Ezekiel. Of the Kabbalistic treatises and texts written in the medieval period, the most important ones are the book of the Zohar (Splendor) by Moses de Leon (c. 1240–1305) and possibly other authors, and the writings of Abraham Abulafia (1240–c. 1291) and that of his student Joseph Gikatilla. The book of the Zohar is distinguished by a reliance on the ten sefirot, although couched in esoteric references, while the many books by Abulafia present linguistic mysticism with permutations of divine names. The former emphasis on the sefirot is also known from the ‘Iyyun (Study) Group in Provence, and Azriel of Gerona (1160–1238), whereas in works by the Hasidei Ashkenaz (German Pietists), led by Judah the Pious (1150–1217) and Eleazar of Worms (c. 1176–1238), numerology and angelology are basic tools.


The Study of Visual Culture in South and Southeast Asian Buddhism  

Nicolas Revire

The overwhelming focus on textual or dharma studies in Buddhism, to the relative neglect of artistic production, has led to a bias in understanding the close and intricate relationships between Buddhist art (usually comprising sculptures, mural paintings, architectural facades and ornamental elements, illuminated paintings, cloth banners, and drawings in manuscripts), rituals, and the written word. The constant dialogue between material, visual, and ritual cultures should be approached in tandem. Visual culture is a significant part of Buddhism and must be treated as part of the same social, historical, and geographical contexts as texts and practices. Buddhist visual culture, including art media, graphic aids, and physical objects or monuments associated with Buddhist practices, does not merely serve to illustrate sacred texts, legends, and doctrines. In addition, the textual tradition does not always have to explain or justify the presence—or absence—of a material object such as a Buddha icon or a Buddhist painting. While visual culture studies have become increasingly important in various academic fields over the years, a critical and complete overview of the precise relationship between art, ritual, and text in the study of south and southeast Asian Buddhism has yet to be written.


Faith and Devotion: Reading the Ceramic Architectural Programs of the Baroque  

Rosário Salema Carvalho

In Portugal, the use of azulejos (glazed ceramic tiles) in architecture has a long history, extending uninterruptedly from the late 15th century to the present 21st century. For more than five centuries, the azulejo reinvented itself periodically to meet the demands of different historical periods, and one of its most expressive transformations took place in the Baroque period (1675–1750). Baroque azulejos stand out not only for the almost exclusive use of blue and white painting, but above all for the exploration of narrative programs, which were displayed in vast ceramic walls. These decorations covered the interiors of different buildings, but mostly churches. The use of azulejos, dominating the interiors or in connection with other arts, was instrumental in creating a unique spatial form, which echoed Baroque spirituality by appealing directly to the senses and exploring the brightness and color of the tiled surfaces within majestic and lusciously decorated settings. But the azulejo was also a medium for religious painting and, as such, a vehicle for the doctrine and values of the Counter-Reformation, which were dominant at the time. Therefore, these ceramic architectural programs resort both to devotional and visual discourses. On the one hand, azulejo compositions relate to central aspects of Christian faith and liturgy, and particularly to the religious discourse and practice of the Baroque period. On the other hand, their visual features add new layers of meaning, mostly related to the organization of azulejos within a church’s architecture, the frames and inspirational sources, as well as issues linked with the creation and running of azulejo workshops.


Secularization and Sacred Space  

David Bains

Secularization, or the decline in the authority of religious institutions, became a pronounced feature of Western culture in the 20th century, especially in its latter half. Secularization has affected the history of Western sacred space in four ways: (a) It has helped to shape the concept of “sacred space” so that it designates a space that helps generate a personal religious experience independent of religious rituals and teachings. (b) It has caused many houses of worship to use architectural forms not previously associated with religion in order to link their religious communities to the respected realms of business, science, and entertainment. And it has motivated religious communities to craft spaces that encourage worshipers to recognize God at work in the secular world and to demonstrate to others the continued relevance of religion. (c) Many former houses of worship have been destroyed or converted to other uses. Sometimes this occurred not because of declining membership but in order to relocate to a more favorable building or location. Nonetheless, these changes have created a more secular cityscape. Other times destruction and conversion have been the product of state-sponsored regimes of secularization or a decline in the number of clergy or church supporters. The reuse of these former houses of worship often results in the association of religious symbols with commercial or personal endeavors. It also raises challenges for maintaining public space in dense urban environments and for preserving artistic and cultural heritage. Given the increasing closure of churches, in 2018 the Pontifical Council of Culture issued guidelines to guide Roman Catholics in determining best uses for buildings no longer needed for worship. (d) Spaces which are not linked to religious communities, especially museums and monuments, came to be frequently designed in ways similar to historic sacred spaces. For this reason and others, they are esteemed by many people as places to encounter the sacred in a secularized world.