15 of the Oldest Religious Buildings in the World
In our yearning for meaning, our enduring quest for connection, we humans often turn to architecture for our release, placing into the buildings around us all our emotional turmoil, hopes, dreams, and beliefs. A temple or a skyscraper can be seen as a reflection of our innermost desires, a monument to our capacity for connection, and our vast imaginations have allowed us to construct works of architecture so complex and awe-inspiring that they serve as art as much, or more, as they serve a functional purpose.
The power of the human imagination is incredible. The great philosopher and historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote, in his book Sapiens, “There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination.” The power of human imagination allows us to spend entire generations dedicated to projects that serve some unified purpose, spending our energies and attention in acts of dedication that are glorious and outstanding.
Of all our building efforts, it is perhaps through our various religious feelings that some of the grandest and most gorgeous have come into being. Architectural works that have stood the test of centuries and will stand the test of many more, works that remind all who look upon them (regardless of religion) that our capacity for the construction of grace and beauty at least matches our capacity for dissonance or destruction.
Cathedral, churches, monasteries, temples: what’s the difference?
- Churches are places of worship in the Christian religion, with the earliest types of church being “house churches,” which were simple gathering spaces in homes.
- Cathedrals are a type of church that contains the “cathedra”, which is Latin for “seat”, of a Christian bishop.
- Monasteries are private religious communities designed to provide a spiritual living environment for those who live there. Not Christian in origin, many belief systems incorporate monastic traditions.
- Temple is a generic term for a building reserved for spiritual rituals. It may be superseded by a term preferred by a specific religion, such as “church” or “mosque”.