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Architectural sculptures is a phrase used to describe the statutes and figures used by sculptors when building temples, museums, buildings, bridges, tombs and graves. The statutes are usually incorporated in the building but separate sculptures that are part of the building are also considered as architectural sculptures. It can also be defined as an important part of the building made mainly for decoration purposes. Architectural sculptures have being used by our fore fathers throughout the history of mankind in buildings. The paper discusses the uses, style, meaning, characteristics and comparison of the architectural sculptures in relation to the Greek temples, Egyptian temples, Islamic mosques and Byzantine churches.
The Greek temples were buildings built to store and house their idol sculptures. The temples were not built to serve religious functions because the rituals and sacrifices to their idol gods were offered outside the temples. The temples were used to give offering to the gods in the ancient time. It is noticeable that the Greek temples are the most widespread building in the Greek architecture. Example of temples in Greece includes the temple of Aphaia built in 7 B.C. The temples where usually made in a holy arena known as the temenos. The holy enclosure mainly reflected the rural setting of the Greek cults. The first Greek temples were mainly constructed using mud bricks which were laid on strong stone foundations.
Uses of architectural sculptures in the Greek temples
The architectural sculptures in the Greek temple were mainly used to represent religion. The Greek people were strong believers in religion and it is not a surprising fact that the Greek temples were widespread, the most stunning and largest buildings in the country. The architectural sculptures also represented the Greek political system. Sculptures represented warriors, gods and kings of the Wars for example the Apollo statue in 372 B.C. They also represented a political function as sculptures were built to revel civic pride; power and offer gratitude to the idol gods of the city for their success in Wars. The architectural sculptures were used to represent artistic values where human form was used to represent the god’s form.
It was believed that there was no difference in art in the representation of human form and god’s form. An example is the Replica of Phidias statute of Zeus located in Parthenon. The replica was built in 570 B.C. Architectural sculptures in Greek ancient time were used for aesthetic functions. The Athena Parthenos erected in 5th century B.C was used to connect and show the concepts of harmony and order which play an important role in the Greek architecture. Classical sculptures like the Caryatid Porch 421-407 BC were used to represent love and romance in the society (Fagan, 22).
Uses of architectural sculptures in the Egyptian temples
Egyptian Temples are the site of ancient, most dominant and influential civilization which resulted to development of a massive and different structures composing of the Egyptian architecture. Examples of the famous Egyptian architecture include the great pyramid of Giza and the great sphinx of Giza. The Luxor temple is a vast ancient temple complex situated on the east banks of the Nile River. It is located in the eastern city of Luxor formerly known as Thebes. The temple was built in the 14th century BC during the reign of Amenhotep the third (Ashpitel, 47).
The sculptures were developed to represent the Egyptian gods, the Pharaohs who comprised of the kings and queens in physical form.To the Egyptians, making the sculptures was a noble occupation and form of art. This is because it comprised of forming vast masses combined with beauty and duration. They portrayed the impressive quality of the Pharaohs in character, size and their thoughts. The vast figures of the statutes were constructed to resemble famed kings, queens and gods. The purposes of the sculptures were meant to give everlasting life to the king and queen. To fulfill the ritual the subjects had to see the king and the queen in physical forms.
Firm convections were adhered to while making the architectural sculptures. The male sculptures were made to be darker than the female one. In seated architectural sculptures, the hands were required to be positioned in the knees .Precise and definite laws, rules and regulation were used to govern the appearance of each Egyptian god, king or queen. For example, Anubis (2850 B.C) the god of burial rites was permanently represented by a jackal head while Horus (2875 B.C) god of the sky was represented by a falcon head. The Egyptian architectural sculptures also represented the artistic works of the people. The convections were monitored closely to enhance that the appearance of the statutes did not change over a long period of time.
The architectural sculptures represented and conveyed an endlessness and non-aging and entry to eternal afterlife. The sculptures epitomized the entry of spiritual world and beginning of a long afterlife.
Uses of architectural sculptures in the Islamic mosques
In Islamic mosques, the use of architectural sculptures is limited by the regulation of the religion. A few examples of architectural sculptures exists mainly the minarets. The minarets are slender or thin towers rising from the mosques. The minarets are used to call for adhan to the Muslim members.In the early days the mosques did not have minarets and adhans were called from any high points in the mosque. Mosques in Damascus, Fustat and Medina had towers in the Umayyad period. During the period ruled by Abbasid (750 A.D), minarets were introduced to be part of the mosques. Six mosques built in the ninth century had sole tower of minarets attachedto the wall opposite the mihrab
The minarets in the mosques were used to symbolize and demonstrate power of the Abbasid religious authority. Regions opposed to the Abbasid rule did not approve to the mark of conformity. The minarets were also a sign of leadership change in the early times. During the post Fatimid period (1245 A.D), under the rule of Mamluk many building were built using minarets. In the Abbasid rule (750 A.D), the minarets were restricted to only congregational mosques. The minarets were built to serve aesthetic functions in the mosques. It is apparent from the way the minarets were decorated and design to form a cylindrical shape.
Uses of architectural sculptures in the Byzantine Churches
The Byzantine architectural sculptures found on the churches were designed by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire emerged due to its unique cultural and artistic entity and formed after 330 A.D. The empire is today referred as to the Roman Empire. Early Byzantine architectural sculptures were built as a continuation of the Roman architecture. An example of architectural sculpture in the Byzantine church includes the Cappadocia (357A.D). The Byzantine churches own the collection of the first class architectural sculptures made during the byzantine period (Fagan, 117).
The architectural sculptures constructed in the churches were mainly built for aesthetic purposes. The early churches in Cilicia during the reign of Byzantine emperor Zeno (476-491) used architectural sculpture for decoration purposes. Use of basilicas decoration was commonly used in the sculptures. It is apparent based on the rich decorations used by the Byzantine people. The architectural sculptures were used as a mark of the economic prowess of the Byzantine Empire. The architectural sculptures made of bronze, copper and gold were a sign that the Empire was an economical powerhouse. Sculptures also were used for religious symbolism. The sculptures represented the relationship between the people and God in the churches.
Styles and Meaning of architectural sculptures in the Greek temples
Many of the Greek architectural sculptures did not survive for long because their used wood and mud bricks. The sculptures were usually used to enhance figurative decoration. The Greeks used reliefs and sub reliefs slabs. Pediment triangle style was used to enable the architectural sculptures to form a freestanding figure. During the archaic time, the relief beautification style was used to decorate as evident in the Apollo statute (2 B.C). The Greek sculptors also used the combination of human and animals to make the sculpted figures. It is noticeable that the most decorated part of the sculpture was the frieze (Jodge & Balen, 112).
Styles and Meaning of architectural sculptures in the Egyptian temples
Due to scarcity of mud, the most common material used to construct the sculptures was stone, limestone, granite, sandstone and sun baked mud bricks. Due to the fact that Egyptian architectural sculptures were built mainly for religious purposes, the statutes were characterized by steep walls with small opening and thick structures that was a method used to sustain stability in the mud sculptures. Most of the architectural sculptures used the lintel and post construction which comprised of huge slabs of stones or baked mud. The huge slabs of stones and mud are used as the base of the architectural sculptures. Use of arches and ornamentation in the sculptures was common and used to symbolize the historical events.
Styles and Meaning of architectural sculptures in the Islamic mosques
The minarets are designed to be of square, octagonal, round, rectangular in shape and covered with a pointed roof. The minarets represent a decorative theme which uses three dimensions perceptive. The use of shinny equipments, glazers, repetition of the designs and use of distinct texture is generally applied. The structure of the minarets uses the muqarnas technique in its building. It is a honeycomb decoration that reflects and refracts the light (Muller, 17).
Styles and Meaning of architectural sculptures in the Byzantine churches
The Byzantine architectural sculptures used the roman sarcophagi and sarcophagi style and designs. It was a representation of the statutes, figures and ornaments holding its origin from the Eastern Roman Empire. It was a sigh of their stylistic differences, development and diversity. Due to influence from the Greeks, the Byzantine Empire used the Doric, ionic and Corinthian style to build their architectural sculptures (Muller, 145).
The architectural sculptures from the four categories are commonly used for religious purposes. It is apparent because all the societies have a firm belief to their gods. Architectural sculptures were used to serve aesthetic functions. They were used to beautify the temples, churches and mosques in the early days. The materials used are different from each other. The Egyptian and Greeks mainly used baked mud mixed with granite to make the sculptures while the Byzantines and the Muslims used slabs of stones. The architectural sculptures were used for different purpose including religious functions, aesthetic purposes and artistic functions by all the categories.
The paper has discusses the uses, style, meaning, characteristics and comparison of the architectural sculptures in relation to the Greek temples, Egyptian temples, Islamic mosques and Byzantine churches.