Without doubt, some of the finest examples there have ever been of architecture have been religious buildings. Be they towering Christian cathedrals or elaborate and intricate mosques, these building have inspired and given comfort to billions of people around the world.
Perhaps the question should be rephrased to say, How does religion impact architecture? The culture and history of certain religions has formed how temples, churches, and mosques have been designed and built. And often it is the main religious building that is the focal point of a place and defines its people.
Types of Religious Buildings
There are many different types of religious building that are all quite different in their look and appearance. Mosques, temples, churches, and synagogues all serve as places of worship. And they are also home for relics, icons, and images sacred to that particular religion. In ancient days religious buildings were not made for communal use, and in some countries the building was home to a deity, and entrance was restricted to only holy people. But few religions are now so prohibitive, and followers of common faiths are encouraged to worship in communal buildings. This has led to large and more expansive religious building being erected in the more modern times.
Of course, there are other types of religious buildings that are not built for common worship under one roof. Elaborate shrines can be found all over the world, and whilst their main purpose is decorative, they are meant to display wonder and awe. Mostly the really important shrines are from antiquity, and it is their association with a particular religion or cult that is the most important thing.
The Architecture of Death
There are examples of funerary art that are also displayed across the world. This architecture may simply be symbolic and is functional in the respect that it houses a tomb of a revered person of some sort. Funerary architecture is expressed by cultures that believe in the afterlife, and they want to perpetuate the temporal importance of the being.
Modern tombs are not quite as elaborate as ancient ones, perhaps the expense overshadows the belief!
Modern Religious Buildings
Ever since the 1900’s, most religious architecture has lost its individuality, both because the importance of the religious traditions has waned and because common architecture designs have crossed over from one religion to another. But as it has always done, religious architecture has embraced modern building techniques and meets new demands of how the building can be used. Architecture like anything else, has embraced superior solutions and implemented them.
In conclusion, architecture does have a significant impact on religious buildings as it does on any other sort of building. Today the primary focus is not to amaze but to be functional and fit for purpose, and if possible be beautiful at the same time. No doubt if there had never been any religions whatsoever, then the architecture that exists in the world would be very different indeed. But we will never know that for certain.