The first Christians worshipped in synagogues and private homes. Today Christians worship in churches built in different styles and shapes and this is dependent on the different religious denominations. The decoration and styles may differ but the common concept is that of the cross. The church is considered as a sacred space to the Christian community. Early Christians used buildings in the style of the Roman court. In Western Europe, the church was made up of rectangular Romanesque styles until later when there was the protestant reformation and most of the interiors were destroyed to increase lighting. In these days, the churches are made of a variety of architectural designs. Specific styles of how the churches were designed were depended on Christian traditions. The early Christians had their worship in private houses, which had at least one big room to accommodate the growing numbers. As the numbers grew, a congregation would buy a house with joint ownership but register it in one person’s name referred to as ‘custodian’. The locations of the houses were kept confidential to avoid being persecuted (Tunnel, 2004).
The features included the different shapes of the churches and this was associated with rituals such as in burying the dead, Christians dug caves for this purpose. In Rome, when Emperor Constantine came into power and Christians were no longer in Peril, large stone churches were built. The main rituals in these churches were teaching. Christians had continued with the practice of reading and explaining scripture. This led to the features of the church to be adjusted including raising a platform – a pulpit – so that people can hear the speaker in a better way. The pulpit also had a wooden table used to hold the bread and wine for Eucharist. A perfect example is the building of the Basilicas by the Roman Church and Eastern Orthodox Church.
Muslims come together for prayer and community in mosques. They too visit the shrines to seek blessings. The Grand Mosque in Mecca, which holds the Kaaba, is considered the most sacred place in the world. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have led the construction of the first mosque in the in Medina in 622. This provided Muslims with an avenue to converge for prayer and for community. The ancient designs of mosques likened that modeled by Muhammad’s in both the design and the functioning. The mosques are used to host prayers and other public activities. It is a place that Muslims socialize and help in the distribution of aid (Dumper, 2002).
The Muslims have special status mosques at Medina, Mecca and Jerusalem. This is because there are ‘hadith’ that advances that if you visit the Mecca mosque, Muhammad will intercede for you in the judgment day. The al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is believed to be in the location site of Muhammad’s famous night journey. The Grand Mosque in Mecca hosts the ‘kaaba’ a shrine near its centre. For Muslims it is the most sacred place in the world. There is also have the black stone of Mecca, which is approximately twelve inches in diameter (Dumper, 2002). It is believed that the black stone was given to Adam and Eve after being expelled from paradise; and was placed in Kaaba by Abraham and Ishmael. It is regarded as God’s symbol of covenant between Abraham, Ishmael and Muslim pilgrimage.
The sacred place is believed to be part of God’s creation among Jews. The Temple Mount is highly regarded for being the site in which the first and second Jewish temples are located. This is essential part of the Jewish belief as they expect the temple will be rebuilt a third time when the messiah comes. In Judaism, the sacred place is viewed as a central place, a meeting point of heaven, earth and hell. The Jews believe that the western wall, a remaining wall from the second Jewish temple has greater holiness as compared to anywhere in the world. They too believe that a sacred space is unique because of presence of God. For instance, The Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount is firmly believed to be the location that Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac at God’s command. The Jewish faith has three mandatory prayers, which are offered in the temples. These are the Jewish devotional services-Shacharit (morning), Mincha (afternoon), and Maariv (evening). The ritual done here is observing the three prayers without fail (Tunnel, 2004).
Dumper, Michael. The politics of sacred space: the old city of Jerusalem in the Middle East conflict. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002. Print.
Tunnel, Debbie. Sacred Spaces: Princeton Parties, Gatherings and Celebrations. Chicago: Recipeas 4 U Llc, 2004. Print.