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Caitlin Cahill

Our churches, mosques,
synagogues, temples
and religious meeting houses
are importan
gathering places
because they
preserve culture
and spiritual traditions.

People come together in these sacred places to build a community and to reach across the generations. They are places where people make connections with one another and with life and the world as a whole. Spiritual buildings stand out because of their unique architecture. They are very different from the buildings we live and work in. Spiritual buildings express the traditions and cultures of the people who create, change and use their space.

Churches, for example, often have
tall spires and steeples that reach towards the heavens. Stained glass windows create beautiful light inside. These windows often tell stories from the Bible in picture form. The cross is a central part of Christian architecture. The ground plan of many churches is in the shape of the cross. Some churches may be highly decorated. Others may be entirely plain or only have a single cross inside. Almost all create an atmosphere that helps prayer and contemplation.

Mosques are free of ornament and decoration. Though plain, the buildings are always beautiful in their architecture. They reflect Allah’s command in the Koran not to worship any image or icon. Many mosques have a dome. Most have a minaret. This is a tall, slim tower which stands near to the main building. The call to prayers is made five times a day from a platform near the top of the minaret. Every mosque in the world faces towards Mecca, the most holy city of the Islamic world and the city towards which all Muslims face when they pray.

Synagogues may be
harder to locate than churches or mosques. Synagogues often have no decoration on their buildings. The buildings may come in many different designs and forms. Sometimes a Star of David or a scripture in Hebrew will be the only clues that the building is a synagogue at all. No matter what the synagogue looks like on the outside, inside there will always be a special decorated cabinet which holds the Torah, the holy book of the Jews.

Hindu and Chinese temples are often placed at the centre of a courtyard surrounded by high walls. The outside of Hindu temples are often covered with ornate statues which depict the gods. Pictures form an important part of the decoration. Incense burns on the altars. Chinese temples often have green roofs and covered gateways which are crowned by dragons. The walls will typically be painted in red. As in Hindu temples, worshippers will burn incense at the altars. Hindu and Chinese temples are also similar in the great coming and going of people through the whole temple area.

Source: New English Digest


mosques: Muslim places of worship (mezquitas)
gathering places: favorite haunts where people gather (lugares de reunión)
preserve: keep, maintain (mantienen, conservan)
to reach across: to be in communication with, establish communication with (para relacionarse con)
as a whole: in general (en general)
stand out: are highly noticeable (se destacan)
unique: singular (particular, distintiva)
tall spires: tall towers (elevadas torres)
: tall slim towers (torrecillas delgadas)
stained-glass windows: windows made from glass of different colours (
los vitrales)
prayer: the act of communicating in adoration or contrition or thanksgiving (
la oración, el rezo)
to worship: to show religious devotion to (adorar)
dome: a hemispherical roof (cúpula, domo)
: a slim slender tower with balconies (minarete)

synagogues: houses of worship for a Jewish congregation (las sinagogas)
harder to locate: more difficult to find (más difíciles de ubicar)
clues: hints, evidence (evidencias, signos)
what the synagogue looks like: the physical appearance of the synagogue (qué aspecto tenga la sinagoga)
: the first of three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures comprising the first five books of the Old Testament (Torah, libro sagrado de los judíos)
: a yard wholly or partly surrounded by walls or buildings
ornate statues: rich in decorative detail, ornamented sculptures (estatuas ornamentadas, decoradas)
depict: show (exhiben)
incense burns: a substance that produces a fragrant odor is burned (el incienso arde)
worshippers: believers
(los creyentes)