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Religious Buildings Inspiring Awe Across Faiths

Wed, Mar. 08, 2017 Posted: 11:07 PM

From St. Petersburg to Salt Lake City, religious buildings across beliefs and borders bring people together to worship and connect with their communities. While architectural grandeur is hardly a requirement for fulfilling religious practice, many places of worship also serve as marvels of design and engineering.

Spanning timelines, continents, and creeds, here are seven incredible examples of religious architecture.

Dilwara Temple — Mount Abu, India

Five individual temples make up Dilwara Temple as a whole, which serves as the epicenter of jainism and a place of pilgrimage for the religion. Each section of temple represents one of the five jain tirthankaras (saints). It’s believed that 1,500 masons and 1,200 laborers spent 14 years building the temple, which is carved entirely out of white marble.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral — Moscow, Russia

At the very center of Moscow sits St. Basil’s Cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage Site featuring kaleidoscopic domes and colorful spires. The church was built between 1555 and 1561 at the order of Ivan the Terrible. In his book Russian Architecture and the west, Dmitry Shvidkovsky writes “...nothing similar can be found in the entire millennium of Byzantine tradition … a strangeness that astonishes by its unexpectedness.”

As part of the Soviet Union’s state atheism campaigns, the government confiscated the church from the Orthodox community, secularizing the building in 1929. It now serves as a state historical museum.

Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia — Istanbul, Turkey

The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia stand opposite one another in Sultanahmet’s primary square. The Hagia Sophia, a feat of Byzantine architecture, was built as a Greek Orthodox cathedral at the height of Constantine’s reign. As empires rose and fell, the building became a Roman Catholic cathedral and then a Muslim mosque. It is now a museum, where visitors can see uncovered mosaics of Jesus Christ juxtaposed against Islamic artwork. Built much later in 1616, the Blue Mosque features exquisite blue tiles and stained glass and can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time.

LDS Temple and Tabernacle — Salt Lake City, Utah

The Salt Lake City Mormon temple is the most iconic temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an impressive, spired structure carved from granite cut from the nearby mountains. The temple was announced just four days after Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, though construction began in 1853 and took 40 years to complete. Just across from the temple sits the tabernacle, the main performance space for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Designed for its staggering acoustics, the Tabernacle houses one of the world’s largest pipe organs. Frank Lloyd Wright described it as “ of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world.”

Angkor Wat — Siem Reap, Cambodia

Considered the largest religious structure on earth, Angkor Wat is a network of more than 100 temples built from stone in the 1200s. The massive complex was originally dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, but later became a Buddhist temple.

Belz Great Synagogue — Jerusalem, Israel

The Belz Great Synagogue is the largest synagogue in the world, with its main sanctuary built to seat 10,000 worshippers. Dedicated in 2000, the building took 15 years to construct. The ornate, 12-meter-high ark has the capacity to hold 70 Torah scrolls. The synagogue also houses nine massive chandeliers, each 18 feet high and 11 feet wide, made from more than 200,000 pieces of Czech crystal.

Lara Sen