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Rome & Religious Architecture: Influences & Examples

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  • 0:03 Rome and Religion
  • 1:32 Roman Religious Architecture
  • 2:27 Roman Temples
  • 3:51 Architecture Examples
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, we'll explore the religious architecture of Ancient Rome. You'll learn about its main characteristics and the influences that defined Roman religious temples. You'll also see relevant examples of this type of architecture.

Rome and Religion

The ancient world has inspired many architects throughout history. Greece and Rome's majestic columns and sublime building gave a lasting impression. Romans were influenced by older civilizations, and they developed an amazing religious and civic architecture that changed history.

The Roman civilization developed in the territories of today's Italy, and it expanded widely throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Rome was a kingdom, a republic, and an empire. Rome is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC. It lasted until the collapse of the Roman Empire during the 5th century AD.

Romans had a polytheistic religious system, which means they believed in many different gods. There were major deities and secondary figures. Some of the main gods were Jupiter (the king of gods and god of the sky), Neptune (the god of water), Mars (the god of war), Minerva (the goddess of wisdom), and Venus (the goddess of fertility). Much of the Roman mythology was influenced by Greek and Etruscan beliefs.

Roman religion was an important part of everyday life. The official cult was promoted and funded by the state, and different unofficial cults from the provinces were often prosecuted; that was the case with early Christianity. There was no separation between religion and government. Therefore, the emperor was also an influential religious figure and was considered to be very close to the gods.

Roman Religious Architecture

Roman architecture was a marvelous mixture of civic and religious buildings. Engineering and architecture allowed for the creation of aqueducts, venues for entertainment, and also exquisite temples.

Influences in Roman Religious Architecture

Romans took elements from Greek and Etruscan architecture and developed their own style. The Etruscans were a civilization in the Italian peninsula that preceded the Roman civilization. Romans borrowed their use of the arch and the knowledge on hydraulics, which they continued to develop. Romans took the characteristics and proportions of columns, known as classical orders, from ancient Greece and expanded them. They also incorporated some of the Greek proportions. Roman architecture maintained and enhanced Greek temples.

Concrete was a Roman development that deeply changed and influenced architecture. The use of this material allowed for the developing of more daring buildings, with broader arches and bigger domes.

Roman Temples

The temple was the main piece of Roman religious architecture. A temple was the area adjacent to the building where the rituals were performed. However, over time, the word temple became associated with the building itself. Only priests were allowed inside the structure, and it was considered a home for the deity.

The Roman uniformity and order imposed to every field of common life can also be seen in its religious architecture. There were two main types of temples in Roman architecture: the square and the round temple.

Square temples had either a square or rectangular layout. They were usually built over a raised platform. The building consisted of a portico, which was usually enclosed by columns, and the main room, known as cella. The altar or statue of the deity was located inside. A stair was built on the front to access the portico. An even number of columns were built at the entrance, framing the way in. Painted sculptures are believed to have decorated the rooflines.

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