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Architecture of Persuasion: Building Images for New Ideas in a Changing World

Architecture of Persuasion


Architecture of Persuasion: Building Images for New Ideas in a Changing World, 200 CE–700 CE Istanbul’s skyline today is punctuated by the minarets and domes of the great mosques of Islam. Yet a Christian cathedral, Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia, 360 CE), established the building type. Its form would become a common sight, transferring monotheistic Christian imperialism throughout the Byzantine tributary states, acting as a persuasive agent, a propaganda tool, for the new uniform orthodoxy that would rule in both the secular and religious realms. At its completion, Holy Wisdom has only one participating worshipper, the Emperor Justinian himself. Everyone else is an onlooker, a witness. Domes, ancient sky symbols, perpetuate memories of the primeval house shapes.

Holy Wisdom is a cosmic house, but it is also a universal imperial crown suspended from heaven to bring divine power to Justinian’s empire. The Old St. Peter’s, when completed in Rome (ca. 355 CE), would attempt the same end with the adaption of the Roman basilica as a new church type for use throughout Carolingian Europe. And Islam will later adopt and adapt Justinian’s domed central-plan church for its ubiquitous communal prayer hall, the mosque. We can look for similar traits in the mega-monument-building programs of imperial states around the world, in places where religious belief had become a tool of nation building. For instance, the Zapotec priests and nobility of Middle America built themselves a new segregated ritual site from which to rule their expanding kingdom. Learning Objectives Looking at Europe, the Mediterranean, and Middle America during the period from ca. 200 CE to 500 CE, appreciate how architecture now sets out to serve, indeed persuade, populations to accept new forms of governance (i.e., “divine” rulers) and religious beliefs (e.g., Christianity and Islam). Understand how new building types are developed to serve these ends by early Christian (Europe), Buddhist (Sri Lanka), and Zapotec (Middle America) societies. Appreciate the importance of ritual and symbolism in influencing the design of the palace/shrine complexes at these sites. Learning Activities Recommended time to complete this unit: 2 weeks. Access the course home page for news and updates. Access and review the course-support websites. Check in with your Academic Expert. Read the Study Guide case studies and the assigned readings for this unit; check the recommended online links. Continue to build your Journal. Read A Global History of Architecture, “Ohio’s Hopewell Mounds” to “Horyu-ji Temple Complex” (chapters “400 CE” to “600 CE”), pp. 234–301.

Holy Wisdom: A New Universal Imperial Crown

Answer five of the study questions at the end of this unit. Review the course assignments and focus in particular on Assignment 2: Review of Scholarly Sources. Complete and submit Assignment 4: Short Essay and Sketch. Case Study 1 TOP Monte Albán (Zapotec Capital City), Mexico Monte Albán's importance stems from its role as the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to 1,000 years. Founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period at around 500 BCE, by the Terminal Formative period (ca. 100 BCE–200 CE), Monte Albán had become the capital of a large-scale expansionist polity that dominated much of the Oaxacan highlands and interacted with other Mesoamerican regional states such as Teotihuacán to the north. Zapoetec belief was centred on a two-tiered society: commoners were born and remained as such; nobility were descended from venerated ancestors, were buried in tombs, and ascended to the sky to become “cloud people.” Monte Alban was built as a new ritual centre for the Zapotec elite, high above the Oaxaca valley. The temple precinct is at the highest point. The entire complex is a summary of their complex astronomical belief system and of their rituals, which utilized hallucinogenic mushrooms and other plants.  Middle America, city, pyramidal structures Case Study 2 TOP Jetavanarama Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka The capital of Sri Lanka from the 3rd century BCE to 1000 CE was made up of complexes of stupas and monasteries built over the years, each sponsored by a king in support of a particular Buddhist sect. The Jetavanarama (or Jetavanaramaya) Stupa (280 CE), built on a raised platform, is the largest of the five main stupas, each of which had its own monastery complex. Built for King Mahasena (who reigned 276–303 CE), it enshrines a sacred relic believed to be the sash of the Buddha. It is one of the tallest structures in the ancient world (nearly 122 metres), slightly smaller than the Giza pyramids, and comprised of 93 million baked bricks. Symbolically significant in this period of warring rival Buddhist sects, the stupa was built on the land formerly occupied by the great Mahavihara, a Theravada monastery owned by a sect whose rebellion against the king had ended in defeat. Read: A Global History of Architecture, “200 CE” (“Anuradhapura,” pp. 223–224) Image: A Global History of Architecture.

Keywords: Unit 4, Case Study 2, Jetavanaramaya Stupa, 3rd century BCE–1000 CE, Sri Lanka, South Asia, stupa Case Study 3 TOP St. John Lateran, Rome, Italy The Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran (Italian = Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni in Laterano), commonly known as St. John Lateran's Archbasilica or St. John Lateran's Basilica. Built in 314 CE, the church was created by transforming an earlier Roman imperial palace’s great hall. Through this adaptation of the basilica plan to a new ritual use, a prototype standard church form for church architecture in European Christendom was established. Read: A Global History of basilica Case Study 4 TOP Old St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy This pilgrimage shrine and papal seat was commissioned in the 320s CE by Emperor Constantine. Endowed with imperial revenues from estates in Syria and Asia Minor between 318 and 333 CE and took about 30 years to complete. The architectural program combined a martyrium, a tomb, a shrine, and a place of worship. However, the intention was to create a setting for large-scale mass communal ritual carrying a message of imperial glory. The basilica was demolished by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century to make way for the building of the new St. Peter’s. Read: A Global History of  Europe, basilica Case Study 5 TOP Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), Istanbul, Turkey Latin = Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish = Ayasofya This new kind of central-plan palace church of the eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople (Istanbul) was commissioned in 531 CE by Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It was to replace a basilica built by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and was dedicated to Christ as Holy Wisdom (Greek = Hagia Sophia; Turkish = Aya Sofya). It was completed in 537 CE under Anthemios of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, two Greeks from Asia Minor. Instead of late-imperial Roman monolithic concrete construction, a combination of brick spans and curtain walls was used, with masonry piers. It was rebuilt and repaired in 558, 989, and 1346 CE, was converted to a mosque in 1453, and was refurbished in 1846. It was converted to a museum after 1931. Read: A Global History of Architecture, “600 CE” (“Age of Justinian” and “Hagia Sophia,” pp. 279–281) Image: A Global History of Architecture.

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