Sacred Spaces

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11825

You can tell much about cultures by the design and construction of the buildings they most esteem. Religious structures are usually the most spectacular, so put on your traveling shoes and visit some!


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


At one time, the greatest, most magnificent buildings of all were places of worship; places like churches, cathedrals, mosques, and temples.

  • What are the most magnificent types of buildings in our own times?

Some of the most majestic — and most frequently visited — buildings in the world are sacred buildings.

Believers and tourists alike flock to sites like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The glittering metals and the dazzling artwork, the symbolism and ritual, combine to make us forget the world outside and think about deeper things.

Such places have captured the imagination of travelers for centuries. Below is the famous Hagia Sophia church, built in the ancient city of Constantinople (now it's known as Istanbul):

Hagia Sophia church

Here is what the famous Arab traveler, Ibn Battuta, said about that place when he first saw it in the year 1332 AD:

Of the great church I can only describe the exterior, for I did not see its interior. It is called by them Aya Sufiya [Hagia Sophia], and the story goes that it was built by Asaph, the son of Berechiah, who was Solomon's cousin. It is one of the greatest churches of the Greeks, and is encircled by a wall so that it looks as if it were a town. It has thirteen gates and a sacred enclosure, which is about a mile long and closed by a great gate. No one is prevented from entering this enclosure, and indeed I went into it with the king's father; it resembles an audience-hall paved with marble, and is traversed by a stream which issues from the church. Outside the gate of this hall are platforms and shops, mostly of wood, where their judges and the recorders of their bureaux sit. At the gate of the church there are porticoes where the keepers sit who sweep its paths, light its lamps and close its gates.

Ibn Battuta spent most of his life traveling from place to place and describing his discoveries. In this lesson, you will take a virtual journey to some amazing places, including the Hagia Sophia, and you will write a description of your discoveries!

Make a list of some of the religious buildings you have either visited or that you know about. Share your list with your parent or teacher and see how many they can add to the list. Then reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • How would you describe the buildings you included in your list?
  • What are the most lavish and important types of buildings in our own times?
  • How does the way a building is constructed communicate beliefs, values, and principles?

In the Got It? section, you will take a virtual journey to some of the most mind-blowing buildings in the world. You will even get the chance to do something Ibn Battuta never got the chance to do: go inside the Hagia Sophia!

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