The Visual Beauty of the Structures at the Sacred Sites
Art and architecture emerged from humanity's experience of and reverence for the sacred. The earliest community-erected structures were shrines where people gathered to venerate the powerful spirits of the Earth and heavens, and the first art, be it dance, painting, or sculpture, was an attempt to invoke those spirits so that they might become more accessible to humans. As people experienced the spiritual and therapeutic powers of the sacred places, their art and architecture embodied and reflected the profundity of those experiences. In addition to their more commonly discussed ceremonial functions, the stone rings, pyramids, temples, cathedrals, mosques and other sacred structures are equally important as works of art. Indeed, many of these structures represent the greatest artistic creations of human civilization. (Remember, a single painting by Monet or a musical piece by Beethoven is the work of one individual in a relatively short period of time, while the great sacred structures are the work of thousands of people toiling over hundreds of years.) Long after the sacred structures were erected and decorated they continue to serve as reminders of the sublime spiritual and artistic impulses that gave rise to their creation. These great works of art hold the inspiration of their creators and contemporary visitors may connect with that inspiration simply by gazing upon the shrines. As the beauty of different geographic features can inspire and spiritually transform people, so also can the beauty of the structures erected at the sacred sites.