EA 7347 Histara

Histoire de l’art, des représentations et de l’administration dans l’Europe moderne et contemporaine

Synagogue, Church, Mosque: similarities, analogies and divergences in origin, function and evolution

École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne) und Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

The first synagogues, churches and mosques, although separated by centuries, go back to the same roots. The Temple of Salomon is known from the description in the Bible, whereas subsequent building during the reign of the grandson of Herodes is described by Flavius Josephus in more detail. After the destruction of the temple and expulsion from Jerusalem, the Jews had to content themselves with synagogues in the form of prayer halls without sacrificial altars. The first Christians adhered to the Old Testament of the Jews, but abandoned their strict practices and followed an ethos of love. The Constantinian churches followed the model of the pagan basilica, but their colonnades were directed inwardly in Christian humility, constructed with spolia and covered by roofs with rafters. They served mainly as memorial buildings, for prayer and funeral rites. Out of these functions various building types developed. In remembrance of the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine was consumed together, but at first there was no fixed altar or celebration of the mass. It was even possible that Bacchanalia took place in the same hall after funerals. The Islamic tradition, which developed in the 7th century, made use of memorial buildings and prayer halls. On the site of the Jewish Temple, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, Byzantine architects erected the Dome of the Rock; and it was there that the Prophet Muhammad departed to heaven. The arrangement of the Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa Mosque evoke the axial disposition of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Constantine the Great. Although the functions of synagogues and mosques did not change in any decisive way in the following centuries, a dynamic evolution of the Christian Church continues to the present day. This development is different in the east and the west, in the south and in the north, and in Catholic and Protestant countries. From the 15th century onward Christian and Islamic architects have been inspired by late antique and Byzantine prototypes, so that churches and mosques, as well as synagogues, are often similar in appearance. The Reformation rejected the Catholic sacrifice of the mass, which went back to the sacrifice in the ancient temples and returned to the meeting hall of the early Christian period, with similar functions as synagogues and mosques. The Calvinistes even renounced the altar. The goal of the proposed international conference is to increase knowledge of the three main religions by comparative analysis, to trace the evolution of their sacred buildings through investigation of their similarities and divergencies in a manner not yet undertaken. The transformation of sacral building by other religions, as in the case of the Mosque of Córdoba or Hagia Sofia, will also be included in our reflexions. Two periods will given special attention: that of the first synagogues to the 10th century, and the 14th and 15th centuries when religious communities and architects reinterpret the original prototypes.


Colloque international : Synagogue, church, mosque: connections and conversions (16-18 Novembre 2017, Istanbul) : Programme


Synagogues, Churches and Mosques: Connections and Interactions SRII, 16-18 November 2017                 

The conference considers interactions, transformations and conversions of religious buildings as a result of diverse interventions and influences over a large span of time. A comparative analysis substantially adds to our understanding of the architectural essence connected to the three Abrahamic religions. With their shared roots in the eastern Mediterranean region, through many centuries interactions have taken place in many parts of Europe, in the Arab world, the Ottoman empire and beyond. The transformation of the architectural structures, the change of ornamentation, bearing new signification and symbolic values, will be considered in detail. The genesis of the projects for synagogues, churches and mosques will be investigated by the roles of architects, patrons and the religious communities, as well as of established conventions and innovative aspirations.

Sabine Frommel

Johan Mårtelius

EA 7347 Histara EPHE 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris