Religious architecture has always played an important part in the development of architecture. At the same time, religious architecture mirrors religious views of people and the major beliefs of the society. Religious buildings and architectural structures performed an important function in the life of the society because they were places where people could worship their deities and share their common values and beliefs. Often, religious buildings and structures were places, where people could find the psychological assistance from the part of priests or other believers. In addition, religious architecture contributed to the promotion of religious beliefs because its main purpose was to impress the public and to serve as a bridge between the real world and the divine world, between believers and deities. In this regard, the development of religious architecture mirrors the transformation of religious views of people and, at the same time, the evolution of religious architecture allows to trace the evolution of religious views of people in the course of centuries, from the Stone Age to the Gothic Era.
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The development of religious architecture dates back to the Stone Age, when people have just started to develop early architectural forms. In fact, the Stone Age was the time, when religious views of people were uncertain, they develop animism, totemic religious views and other religious and beliefs, which were grounded on their perception of the surrounding nature and their inability to comprehend adequately natural phenomena and to condition their environment to their needs. As a result, the early religious views of people of the Stone Age involved the worshiping of the power of nature, including the worshiping of son, wind, rain, and other natural phenomena. At the same time, the religious architecture developed respectively to these beliefs of people. In actuality, only a few manifestations of religious architecture of the Stone Age have survived till present days. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the Stonehenge as one of the most impressing architectural works of the Stone Age. In fact, specialists () keep debating concerning the purpose of the Stonehenge. In this regard, the religious function of the Stonehenge is just one of the versions what the Stonehenge was actually built for. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Stonehenge was constructed accurately and respectively to astronomic observations of ancient architects. The use of natural materials in the construction of the Stonehenge reveal the respect of people to the power of nature but the construction of the Stonehenge impresses even the contemporary public, whereas in the Neolithic time, the public was even more impressed by such a magnificent architectural work. At the same time, the impact of the Stonehenge on the public reveals the significance of religious architecture and religion for people of the Stone Age.
In the ancient world, religious architecture kept progressing, especially in centers of ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome. The common feature of the ancient religious architecture was the construction of temples dedicated to many gods. In fact, there were attempts to introduce monotheism and to develop temples dedicated to one god only but all those attempts failed. It was only in the late Roman period, monotheistic religion and religious architecture had started to emerge but they still competed with the dominating polytheistic views and traditional religious architecture. The domination of polytheism contributed to the construction of temples dedicated to different gods. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Roman Pantheon, as well as numerous temples dedicated to different gods not only in Rome but also in ancient Greece, Egypt and other cultural centers of the ancient world.
The situation has started to change consistent in the Middle Ages. As the matter of fact, the Medieval religious architecture was the architecture dominated by monotheistic views, at least in Europe and Islamic countries of Asia and Africa. In the Middle Ages, religious architecture gave in to the dominated monotheism and temples and churches constructed in the Middle Ages were oriented on the worshiping of one god only. At the same time, it is still possible to trace the common purpose of the religious architecture of the ancient world and the Medieval era. The main purpose of the religious architecture was to attract the public, to impress the public, and what was even more important, to make people attending temples and worshiping the god. In such a way, temples still played the role of cultural and scientific centers, although the latter was quite paradoxical from the contemporary point of view. The religious architecture was characterized by the wide use of arcs and dooms in religious buildings, especially churches as well as mosques. The difference in style was determined by local peculiarities but the main point of construction of religious buildings was to provide believers with the possibility to assemble together and worship their god.
The Gothic architecture was the new step in the development of the religious architecture and the Gothic religious architecture was mainly the characteristic of European or, to put it more precisely, western European religious architecture. The Gothic architecture was traditionally associated with cathedrals, such as the Notre Dame de Paris. These cathedrals were monumental works with large arch windows, high ceiling and sharp roofs, ribbed vaults, and flying buttress. In fact, the Gothic religious architecture was really impressing and it was different from the Roman style, which used to be popular in the Middle Ages. In actuality, the Gothic religious architecture impressed the imagination of the public. At the same time, these religious buildings often included elements, such as statues of some fancied animals, which frightened, in a way, the public. In such a way, the Gothic religious architecture attempted to combine the classical medieval architecture with new trends and traditions of ancient architecture.
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Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the development of the religious architecture contributed to the consistent changes in the use of forms and styles of religious buildings and constructions. The religious architecture changed respectively to the change of the religion and religious of people and mirrored these changes. The religious architecture grew more and more complicated from the Stone Age, with its simplicity of forms and styles, to the Gothic religious architecture, with its extremely complicated forms and styles. Obviously, the development of the religious architecture aimed at the promotion of religion but, in addition, the religious architecture played an important cultural part because it stimulated the respect of people to religion because many religious buildings were true works of art.
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