Chiara Del Core 1 jul 2021 Articles 0 comments

Islamic architecture finds its deepest roots in the Byzantine one which has profoundly influenced it. The emblematic architectural elements of this aspect are represented by domes, round arches and vaults. The original layout of the mosques included a building with a rectangular or square plan that housed the hall intended for prayer and an external courtyard bordered by a wall. Subsequently, these buildings dedicated to Islamic worship were enriched with new components, such as the central dome and the minaret, a characteristic tower with the function of calling the faithful to worship. It can have a circular, square or octagonal plan and be equipped with a balcony. As for the domes, over time these components grew in size to form the entire roof of the building. Today, their purpose is no longer just to cover but to amplify the imam's voice in the course of prayer.

Despite these changes, some elements appear to be constant in the construction of mosques, first of all the orientation towards Mecca. In fact, in order to address this position during prayer, the back wall, called the gibla wall, is positioned perpendicular to Mecca and houses the niche and the raised pulpit for the Himam. The side entrances divided by gender and the service areas intended for body ablution are also located in a transverse position with respect to the sacred goal. The main entrance, in a central position with respect to the building, is equipped with a rack for shoes since they must be removed by the faithful before they enter the sacred place. As for the interior furnishings, mosques have no benches and seats and this is because prayer is practiced bent down towards Mecca. To this end, in the interiors you will find numerous carpets, the textures and colors of which reflect the Islamic tradition.

The interiors of two mosques: the richly decorated domes form the roof and the carpets are spread over the entire floor to facilitate prayer for the faithful
Photo dx: Moschea di Diyarbakır-Turkey

Since the current mosques are considered community and aggregation centers, the sacred building is part of a complex in which there is often a library, a meeting room, the Himam apartment and offices.


The formal characteristics of the synagogues strictly depend on the religious current they represent: the orthodox and the progressive. If in the first case the interior spaces are intended only and exclusively
to the male sex, as women are excluded from worship, in the progressive case the prayer area is designed for both sexes, who in any case must be separated and have no possibility of communication.

The building must always be positioned along the east-west axis with the faithful facing east and must ensure complete accessibility. Inside there is a space for prayer and a meeting place; the hall of worship includes a section for the rabbi which is located in a higher position than the area hosting the faithful. In this area are located the tribune, called bimah, equipped with a pulpit, a lectern for the preacher and two seats for the rabbi and the cantor, the candelabrum or menorah and the sacred cabinet with the scrolls of the law, also called aron. If the sacred building boasts considerable dimensions, inside the seats for the faithful consist of tiers aimed at ensuring a good view of the cult. The seats are equipped with a lectern and are positioned in front of the grandstand.

Great Choral Synagogue of San Pietro Burgo - interior

An important aspect of the design of the synagogues is the lighting and heating of the interiors as the ritual often lasts beyond sunset. In fact, in order to ensure optimal thermal and visual comfort, it will be good to provide adequate lamps and air conditioning systems. Often, the synagogue is part of a community complex full of services such as libraries, cultural archives, schools and spaces
meeting place. As in the aforementioned cases, therefore, it is a symbol of the collective life of a specific community.

To view the drawings of the famous Cymbalista Synagogue by Mario Botta click here
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