Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Ka’ba
Ka’ba
Ascension Dome from the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica)
Ascension Dome from the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica)

What is the relationship between art, ritual, and belief?

The spaces in which and at which people worship can tell us a great deal about their views toward not just religion, but also art. In comparing the luxurious interior of the Basilica of San Marco with the simple exterior of the Ka’ba, we might begin to consider the role of belief in shaping visual environments of worship. However, we might also think about the impact that visual spectacle can have in the context of faith.

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Questions to Consider

  • At St. Mark’s in Venice, worship takes place inside. At the Ka’ba in Mecca, prayer occurs outside the structure. What role does art play in the adornment of each of these places of devotion and prayer? How does this reflect broader attitudes toward the visual arts within Christianity and Islam respectively?
  • What is the relationship between architectural form and ritual practice at each site? How does each shape the other?
  • Imagine being among the worshippers at both of these sites. Describe the visual impact of your surroundings at each? How would the experiences be different? Do you think the experiences would be similar in any ways? What does this suggest to you about the nature of religious art and architecture more generally?