Temple Adornments Through time


This exhibit explores temple adornments throughout time and how they relate to the worship experience. It covers the historical contexts in which these pieces were created, with examples from the Islamic world, the Byzantines Orthodox Church, Romanesque Christianity, Ancient Greek, and Buddhism. Even though these cultures and religions are very different, they all have some type of artwork within their sacred space that aids them in worshipping and makes the temple more spiritual. This commonality shows that people from all religions crave some type of artwork to enhance their connection to their God or gods. These images serve as a focal point within the sacred space. 

The Meydan Mosque mihrab is the focal point on the Qibla that directs the praying worshipper toward Mecca. This atypical example is built onto the qibla rather than into the wall. Most mihrabs are built into the wall creating a semicircle recession, physical depth. The Meydan Mosque mihrab produces the same effect using its mosaic tile work and columns in varying degrees of relief. This relief gives the perception of depth and gives the viewer a sense that they are looking into a portal or hall, into distance. Distance, to the holy city of Islam?
The altar from Santa Maria of Lluçà (1225-1249) by Master of Lluçà Vic workshops The enter panel shows the Virgin Mary holding an apple representing the original sin in the Garden of Eden indicating the she is the new Eve. The baby Jesus is sitting in her lap to show the path to forgiveness. She is surrounded by for angels with the names of the evangelist, Mathew, Mark Luke and John.
This mosaic is in the central dome of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine. As an icon, the Pantocrator's integration the church allows God's spirit to be a part of the building itself. Christ’s power and divinity is shown by his positioning; he is at the highest peak of the building, looking down at worshippers with a judging, lined face. The four archangels are positioned above him to symbolize their lesser status in comparison to Christ, but they are still held in much higher esteem than the Christians below. The Orthodox Church’s icon tradition helps aide worshippers in becoming closer with God by using symbolic gestures, words, and positioning.
The image I’ve chosen to represent temple adornment of Ancient Greek Culture is of block VI of the east frieze of the Parthenon, depicting Posiden, Apollo and Aphrodite. The limestone and marble temple was built in dedication to Athena, in the Acropolis is Athens, Greece. It was built between 447 and 438, and the relief sculptures that decorated the metopes, pediments and friezes weren’t finished until 432 BCE. The architects were Iktinos and Kallikrates, and the sculpting program was lead by Phidias. The greeks had a very different religion than say Christianity or Islam. Which incidentally both converted the Parthenon to serve their religious purposes later in history, it was a greek orthodox church, a roman catholic church, and later a mosque after the ottomans conquered Greece. Unlike with a church or a mosque, the ancient Greeks didn’t have the kind of religion where you go inside the temple to worship. Instead they would have a sacrificial altar outside the temple, and a statue of the God inside. In the case of the Parthenon, no altar was found, but there was a giant statue of the Goddess Athena inside. The Parthenon also possibly functioned as a treasury. The Parthenon was not just a dedication to Athena, it was also built to glorify Athens. The magnificence of the life breathed into the architecture through extremely subtle irregularities in the seemingly perfect harmonious symmetry exemplifies this. It was a celebration of the greatness of the Athenians, which is evident in the relief sculptures that adorned every available space. The frieze that ran all the way around the temple depicted the Panathenaic procession, a festival procession that took place every four years in Athens. This is the first known case in Greek art of humans being depicted on a temple. The Gods, are spectators at the festival. This is indicative of the very high self importance of the Athenians.
The piece I have chose is from the Buddhist religion. It is the Gateway into the Great Stupa at Sanchi. This temple was built by emperor Ashoka during the Maurya Dynasty and is considered to be the starting point of temple architecture in India. Buddism is the religion in which its followers work during their life to achieve enlightenment. The religion believes the Buddha has surpassed all human limitations during enlightenment. Followers that came to worship at the temple would pass under the carved reliefs of the gateway and could notice the carvings that symbolized the Four Noble truths and other depictions of stories about the Buddha on his journey to enlightenment. His presence was also often depicted by symbols for the four great events in his life. The artist used Elephants as a symbol for the Buddha’s Birth. A tree was used as a symbol for his enlightenment. The wheel symbolizes the four noble truths and the stupa represents his bodily demise.
Credits: All media
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