Architecture and decoration of Christian churches / cathedrals, Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques
A reflection on religious monuments and their tools related to their beliefs and use of prayer. This reflection uses Jewish, Islamic and Christian religions as examples of studies from the Middle Ages.
The welding of the Sacer and Profanus religions is sacred, the Sacer cradle, the intertwined reality of faith and profane. In cathedrals, churches, temples, synagogues and mosques we connect Sacer and Profanus, the home of prayers. Among the diversity of religions and customs, it brings with it a collection of sacred sectors, each with its own art and architectural composition, and its own apparatus for communicating and praising the divine. The sectors are really constructed in such a way that their grooves and tiles contribute to an aesthetic that is pious and symbolic of their beliefs.
The nave, which was the main part of the church, formed the central point of the high altar, which was reserved for the clergy and which extended from the entrance to the choir, which developed from its apse flanked by the lower aisles. This architectural design led to the development of the Gothic Christian abbey, the Romanesque and the basilica of the cathedral. The Saint-Denis abbey church is considered the first known Gothic building in which Christians could worship. During Hagia Sophia was a former Orthodox basilica church and later an imperial mosque. Before becoming a mosque, Hagia Sophia was a church dedicated to the wisdom of God, the logos and the second person of the Holy Trinity. This structure has undergone some changes from the beginning, ranging from the first church to the second and third churches to the mosque and are currently a museum.
Synagogue is a derived Hebrew word meaning house of the assembly. It is a place for gathered prayers and discussions. The five books of Moses are practiced in Judaism, the Torah, and the Jewish Bible. They pray as they face Jerusalem, and the synagogue structure is geared towards it, for it is the final connection between Sacer and profane. Especially synagogues like the Capernaum Synagogue (4th century BC) show three doors. These three entry points can be referenced to earlier liturgical sections of the three destroyed courtyards of the Jerusalem temple. In the religion of Judaism, God is not configurative, and yet this idea is wrong because the district synagogues have shown skill. For example, the Torah niche is located in the Dura-Eurpus Synagogue, a well-preserved Roman garrison between the Roman and Sasan emperors. The division of these designs results in a candelabra of seven branches, the menorah, a continuous Jewish art emblem. Number seven symbolizes perfection and perfection and represents the commandment to keep the seventh day holy, as stated in the Torah. Also on display is the ongoing narrative of a chronological plot against the mural of Moses’ life (239 BC). The display shows two pictures of Moses, one of whom turns his staff towards the Red Sea, while the other Moses carries out the Israelites. The whole idea of a continuous narrative has to do with visual belief, how the relationship between God and mankind can be illustrated. Christians worship in churches, while Jews worship in synagogues as a meeting point between holy and profane and between profane and sacer. The western wall is easy to find inside a synagogue, as it usually has a Torah niche that aligns those in prayer with Jerusalem.
The architecture of the medieval Jewish synagogue varied from place to place and took over the aesthetic architecture of the Christian or Muslim countries in which Jews lived. In contrast to the Christian church, whose cruciform design symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ, the synagogue lacked an architectural design that was a symbolic determinant.
Within the synagogue, certain mandatory architectural elements served liturgical purposes. In the middle of the synagogue was an elevated platform on which the Torah scroll was read, and was also called Bima by Ashkenazi Jews and Tebah by Sephardim.
The architectural meaning of the bima reflected the importance of the Torah within Jewish rituals. The Torah scrolls were kept in the Holy Ark, which means that the Ark was known to the Askenazis as Aron Ha-Kodesh and the Sephardic Jews to Hekhal. The position of the ark is such that those facing it pray towards Jerusalem. Before the sixth century, the ark was stored in an adjoining room and was not visible through a curtain. During the Middle Ages, the Holy Ark was fortified in the middle of the east wall of the synagogue that faced Jerusalem. The scrolls were placed in a standing position so that the community could see them openly from the ark. The ark, richly decorated with lions, was again a symbol for Judah and the tablets of the 10 commandments. As can be seen, the curtain called Parokhet covered the Holy Ark according to Scripture (Ex 40:21). In this way, the Aron Ha-Kodesh symbolizes the Jewish tabernacle that was built when the Israelites wandered in the desert. The east wall should have a semicircular apse, and the entrance door should be across the west wall opposite the apse.
The prehistoric priestly obligation to keep a candle burning forever before the Lord (cf. Lev 24: 4) was also transferred to eternal light that hung from the ark and burned continuously. Eternal candelabra light consisted of silver, brass or gold, depending on the wealth of the community, and symbolized the enlightened spirituality of the Torah. In addition, the synagogue had another desirable feature, that of the window. In order to maintain belief in Daniel 6:11, the place of prayer for the prophets had a window. During the prayers in the synagogue, the parochet is used to cover the Torah ark that contains the Torah scrolls in the synagogue. The parochet is used throughout the year in several synagogues and replaced on holy days.
The rock dome, a shrine on the Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem, is one of the oldest Islamic architectural works, the meaning of which comes from religious traditions that are of great value to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Christians consider the location of the dome to be sacred because of the role the temple played in the life of Jesus Christ.
The mihrab would be used to orientate oneself towards prayers in Mecca. The mihrab appears to have been a newer version of the Torah niche and the apse. Due to the requirement that a person be separated from the profane space immediately around them, the need for a prayer rug was created. Likewise, the Torah scrolls of the medieval Ashkenazi world are read at the bima or an elevated platform that is centrally located. All seats face the Holy Ark (Aron). In addition, the Aron is one of the numerous successors to the Torah niche in which the scrolls are kept.
In summary, it can be said that the art and architecture of medieval Jews, Christians and Muslims was consistently shaped by the requirements and dogmas of their respective religious beliefs. To varying degrees, Christians, Muslims, and Jewish artists and architects inherited the artistic, aesthetic, and architectural heritage that they had received from ancient Roman, Hellenistic, Persian, and other cultures. In addition, direct cultural contacts between Jews, Muslims and Christians manifested themselves in various ways in their respective material cultural productions. Medieval people easily adopted each other’s artistic techniques and adapted them to create their own. It was not uncommon for Muslims and Christian monarchs to have artists from different religious communities work for them. All three communities used religious artistic symbols in both art and architecture for polemical reasons.