Monday, September 13, 2010

Islamic Mosques & Gothic Christian Cathedrals

Despite their differences, both the Islamic and Christian faiths have offered beauty in their own right, to the world. One such beauty is the architecture of the Islamic Mosques and the Christian Cathedrals.

Central to the Islamic religion is obtaining unity with the one god, Allah, but not through the use of false idols or images. Thus, the Islamic faith developed the science of sacred geometry. Sacred Geometry is meant to capture and remind one of the complexities of Allah, but also, through the symmetry and unity of forms, allow one to become closer to the divine, closer to Allah. The forms invite one to ever expand his or her mind, and transform the ethereal world into something substantial with physical harmony.

These shapes are expressed within and outside the mosque structure. Early mosques had flat tops with arched entrance ways, and were based on a rectangular plan. These mosques, known as Hypostyle Mosques, also featured covered prayer halls which were vertically supported by columns and arches. Later mosques began to feature central domed prayer halls, with many smaller domes surrounding them, as well as circular towers known as minarets. Iwan Mosques featured either two or four iwans, vaulted spaces which open on either end, and an open courtyard used for prayer. Islamic mosques contained a structure known as a mihrab, a recess, mostly in the form of a arched niche, facing the direction toward mecca.

Christian Gothic Cathedrals were built to inspire through the grace and elegance of forms, to make one believe that they were truly standing in the kingdom of their lord Jesus. Many Gothic cathedrals were positioned with an East to West alignment, making the light, passing through the eastern stained glass Rose window (a circular window positioned centrally depicting many different religious icons including the mother Mary, Jesus, or perhaps a dove), essentially lead one form the material world deeper into the "halls of heaven." Before entering the Gothic cathedral, one will notice the towering spires, similar to that of the Islamic minarets but stylistically different, and also many support structures known as flying buttresses, which helped support the heavy weight of the roof. Upon entering, one would pass through the nave, a central aisle, and notice the many pointed arches which also help to support the tall and massive ceilings.

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"Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures, Fall 2002." 2005.http://web.archive.org/web/20060918221451/http:/ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Architecture/4-614Religious-Architecture-and-Islamic-CulturesFall2002/LectureNotes/detail/vocab-islam.htm#islam6 (accessed 9/13/2010).

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