Historically, a majority of religious traditions in the world used art, mainly for the expression of the divine. This is because, generally, artworks have a strong impact emotionally as well as the ability to act directly and immediately upon an individuals perception, before their theoretical thinking. Therefore, art can be used for the enhancement of a given area of knowledge and experience including that of religion. Based on these facts, the following paper provides a discussion explaining the relationship that exists between art and religion while giving examples of how artists in different cultures created works for sacred rituals.
One way in which the relationship between art and religion is depicted is the fact that both try to tell a story. Over the years, written stories and those that are orally transmitted have served as the backbone of the beliefs in various religions. Similarly, storytelling has been a key artistic expression of imaginations. In religion, storytelling involves the invention of gods and goddesses that are in the shape of an animal, human or plant and then related to natural events and human lives. Some of the artistic works that demonstrate the story aspect of art in relation to religion include the reliefs in Vezelay Abbey that tell visual stories with the aim of reinforcing the significance of Christians remaining true to God regardless of the challenges their faith may be subjected to in their lifetime (Sachant et al., 2016).
In the absence of preserved religious art, little would be known about the life of the ancient people in a given religion. This is particularly evident when it comes to "funereal arts". According to Sachant et al. (2016), a significant body of funereal arts has been found at early burial sites and in many occasions, this provides strong evidence related to how people lived in the past. The authors add that such sites are generally respected and usually considered sacred in religion. An example of such a site is the work of Etruscans which was a tomb made from a fairly soft rock known as tufa. Within the tombs, the Etruscans created beautiful chambers as an illustration of their expected life after death (Sachant et al., 2016).
Art in religion is also represented in the form of monumental shrines, temples as well as cathedrals which in most cases are considered as the Houses of Gods (Sachant et al., 2016). In a majority of religions across the world, sacred structures are critical as they provide inspiring meeting places for worshippers while serving as an adobe for monks and priests. An example of such sacred structures is the Stonehenge which is understood to provide insights into the evolution of a ritual location in the early times (Sachant et al., 2016). The site has the design of a sacrifice or ritual offering table and also serves as an illustration of how the early people of England viewed the universe and their position in it. Altars were also other sacred structures that were created by artists in religious settings for the performance of religious rituals such as sacrifice. For example, the Heiau at Wimea is a drawing by John Webber representing a Hawaiian temple comprising of a stone temple platform in an area that is enclosed and also containing cult images. These places were used for various religious reasons such offering first fruits, treating the sick, achieving success in war as well as controlling the rain (Sachant et al., 2016). Other examples of sacred structures as provided by Sachant et al. (2016) include the Mayan temple and the floating gate.
In conclusion, as demonstrated herein, there is a close relationship between art and religion. The relationship is underpinned by the fact that both art and religion tell a story while the preserved religious art informs people about life in the ancient time. Also, art manifests itself in religion through sacred structures such as shrines and temples while various artists have created works for sacred rituals as illustrated in this paper.
Sachant, P., Blood, P., LeMieux, J., & Tekippe, R. (2016). Introduction to Art: Design, Context, and Meaning.
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