March 1, 2010
JEWISH, EARLY CHRISTIAN, BYZANTINE AND ISLAMIC ART
Every religion has its own approach to art and architecture. An assessment between different traditions can offer an illuminating insight into the varying religious outlooks and theologies. Architecture, as well as art, is influenced by a number of forces in society, in the environment, in the psychology of the people who produce it, and in different institutions. It is an expression of inner feelings and beliefs and so naturally is influenced by religion in many societies. Religious architecture is created to experience the sacred, to provide a place into which spiritual energies flow and reflect a sense of the divine. Some religions speak of art directly or have tenets which influence what can and cannot be depicted in art. The scriptures of these religions are the theological basis and shape the way people in express themselves, and this includes how they express themselves through art and architecture. The architecture in Judaism, Christianity, Byzantine, and Islam has important similarities and differences that are a result of the teachings of these faiths. In the first centuries C.E., Jewish communities could be found in every corner of the Roman Empire. The archaeological remnants and literary attestations of more than 150 synagogues throughout the empire make clear that Jews were integral to the urban landscape of late antiquity, well beyond the borders of Roman Palestine. Asia Minor, in particular, was one of the most prosperous, Jewish communities (Stokstad, 164) The third-century synagogue in the Roman garrison town of Dura-Europos, Syria, like the Christian meeting house and the shrine devoted to the Persian god Mithras that stood just yards away, was adorned with sumptuous painting. The Wall of Torah Niche had splendid murals with narrative scenes from the Bible covered the synagogue's walls; painted tiles of zodiacal...