Journey through Religion By dAvid jOhansson McKee 1B

Introduction

Welcome to my travel blog! Here I am going to record my journey to visit the holy sites of five different religions -- Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

Day 1 : Visiting the Vatican City

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square, from the view of the St. Peter's Basilica.

The Architecture in St. Peter's Square was simply gorgeous. All of the pillars and figures on the Basilica, plus the obelisk in the center really gave me chills. I spent about an hour or two walking around the square, admiring the architecture. After observing the overseeing pillars and round geometric architecture, I decided to head over to the Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica

Murals in St. Peter's Basilica, in the Vatican City.

The Vatican City's giant St. Peter's Basilica was very stunning. This structure is possibly the greatest sacred site in Christianity, or Catholicism, to be specific. Consecrated in 1626, the world's largest Basilica of Christianity has a 136 by 42 meter long dome at the top, and it can hold up to 20,000 people in it at once. The walls and ceilings are covered in significant artwork and literature from the late Renaissance era, thus giving the colossal Basilica such significance.

Day 2 : Visiting the Shiva Temple in Prambanan

Prambanan Temples/Architecture

Hindu Temples scattered across Prambanan.

Hindu structure, like the picture above, consists of large, tall, and symmetrical structure. The temples usually consists of basic geometric shapes (squares, circles, etc.). These sets of temples usually have a main temple, called a Shiva Temple. These structures are truly gigantic, I felt like an ant looking up to them. It's quite amazing how simplistic a building can be, like a temple, but yet be so awe-inspiring.

The Shiva Temple in Prambanan

The massive Shiva Temple in Prambanan

As mentioned above, every set of temples have a Shiva Temple, which is a building to worship the Hindu deity named Shiva. There as many as 2,500 temples dedicated to Shiva in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Hindu religion focuses on living life according to the dharma, the teaching of religion of Hindu, and the ten commandments (do no harm, do not lie, etc.). They also believe in reincarnation, and the three debts (debt to God, sages and saints, and ancestors).

Day 3 : Visiting the Sanchi Temple and Stupa

Gupta Period

Gupta Period Temple at Sanchi.

Most Buddhist temples follow the layout of Hindu temples, which consists of square inner space, a sacrificial arena, with a route around the temple, accompanied by lots of pillars. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism's structures are identifiable as either viharas, stupas, or shrines/prayer halls (chaityas). These round-shaped stupas and more rigid-looking pagodas define the Buddhist culture.

The Great Stupa

The Great Stupa in Sanchi

The Great Stupa is the sacred site in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India. This polished sandstone half sphere structure is the oldest structure of Buddhism, and when I visited it I could almost sense the divine, holy presence. It originates in the 3rd century BCE. Buddhists see their religion as a way of life, as they follow their Buddhist path, which can be generalized to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding.

Day 4 : Visiting Kairouan

The Great Mosque of Kairouan

Panorama of the Great Mosque and its pillars surrounding it.

Islamic architecture can be identified as Roman and Byzantine-influenced. General architectural types consist of the Mosque, the Tomb, the Fort, and the Palace. Some Islamic architecture is even used as fountains, public baths, and domestic architecture. These colorful, pillar-full structures emphasize the principality of the Islamic culture. From my experience, the Mosque and its surroundings were quite holy, with its divine pillars and arches.

The Mosque of Uqba (Temple of Kairouan)

The prayer hall in the Mosque of Uqba

The Mosque of Uqba is quite the sacred site for the religion of Islam. As shown in the picture above, there is an abundance of pillars, chandeliers, and rugs, conveying the Islamic culture that is culturally preserved. Islam's religion is based on peace (Islam means submission, which derives from peace) and Muslims practice the five pillars of Islam. These pillars consist of Shahadah, which means reciting the Muslim's virtue of faith, Salat, which is the practice of prayers 5 times a day, Zaakt, which requires paying to charity or tax to benefit the poor/needy, Sawm, which means to fast during Ramadan, and Hajj, which requires every Muslim to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is Islam's holiest city.

Day 5 : Visiting the Santa MarĂ­a la Blanca

Architecture of Judaism in Spain

Outside of the Great Synagogue in Plzen, Czech Republic

The architecture of Synagogues, like the one pictured above, is just simply elegant and beautiful. They usually consist of tall, pointy like structures with a round top and a pole at the top, which might have the Star of David, the symbol of Judaism, mounted on it. All synagogues usually have the Star of David somewhere, whether it be on a pole at the top, or on the front (as pictured above). This synagogue I visited was quite large, and stood out from other buildings surrounding it. The rigid bottom half, and round and elegantly shaped top half really resemble the uniqueness of the religion of Judaism.

The Eldridge Synagogue

Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York, United States

This Synagogue I actually visited while after flying back to America. After my leg of my flight to New York, I had downtime to visit this fantastically beautiful Synagogue. Here I learned the values of Judaism, as well as experience the practices myself. The Jewish often expect very high moral and personal behavior of each other. The religion of Judaism emphasizes justice, kindness, and liberty. The morals and virtues of the religion of Judaism match the uniquely beauty of the Architecture built by the Jewish people.

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