The concept of chaos, which emerged as the war of light and dark, between the lower and the superior in the historical process, has revealed the desire of people to build their own identities and their belonging and identities in the world. 

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Gobekli Tepe -©

The concept of the temple, whose traces we started to come across more frequently after we started to live in settled life, continues its traces from past to present. We also encounter the formation of a space for people to worship/ceremonies such as shelter, food, and altars to god. 

While trying to explain the natural world, the Ancient Greeks discovered the concept of nature. Translated as ‘nature’, the word ‘Phusis’ encompassed much more of the natural world we think. This process, which started with Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, has gained an important place in terms of architecture, as well as nature and natural figures that have inspired the temples built for every religion such as churches, mosques, Buddhist temples.

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Ancient Greek Temple -©

When the primitive ages are examined, it can be seen the desire of people to gather and unite independently of their basic needs by building a temple, and the formation of their existence in the historical process as can be seen in many examples such as Göbekli Tepe and Chauvet Cave in France. So much so that even nomadic people built a temple and came together in certain periods to the sky and nature, perhaps to their gods. 

When we examine the figures they use in these temples, the places where temples are located, and even the forms from primitive ages to the present day, we observe that the concept of the temple and nature has established a strong union.

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Chauvet Cave -©

In the concepts of god and temple in ancient Greece, there was the idea of ​​nature (phusis) that was alive, immortal, and creative. In this view, the notion of creation was more than a god’s ability, there was the point of view that gods created not nature but nature created gods. 

As Aristotle called it, philosophers with these interpretations in ancient times were considered naturalists. For this reason, unlike today’s religious structures, the temples of people in ancient times were handled in a way that was devoted to nature rather than to a god. While the Greeks accept almost all natural entities and powers as gods, this “God” they define is perceived as human. While Protagoras says “man is the measure of everything”, it is not possible for us not to see their reflections in temples. 

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Anthromorphic proportions are seen in ancient Greek and Roman architecture as well as in Egyptian civilizations, which are the circle, triangle, etc., they use by adapting the human body and natural forms. They aimed to reflect the harmony between humanity and nature, nature and god by building temples in such forms. 

Vitruvius said that the structure and form of the human body are the most beautiful reflection of the integrity of nature. In the column ornaments, we witness the presence of embroideries that refer to the female and male bodies, and animal figures representing power. 

If we look in more detail, when we examine the relationship between the cave and the domed structures, we can see that these structures are perceived as the female body, the womb, and the womb of the mother nature and that the concave forms in the design of these spaces are mostly inspired by the female body. Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian regular columns are known to each have a sexual reference.

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Acanthus Leaf -©
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Karnak Temple, Egypt -©

Plant motifs have different meanings in different geographies. For example, acanthus leaf motifs on Corinthian columns, which are frequently encountered in Greek architecture, symbolize heaven in Christian art. Above the entrance in ancient Egyptian temples, the figure, which takes the shape of a bird, commonly known as the falcon, represents the wings of the sky god Horus. The sky was also represented by vultures carved into the ceiling inside the temple. With these decorations, the temple in ancient Egypt was meant to reflect the world; the sky above and the world below. 

Using these figures and forms while building the temple also represent the appreciation of the power and productivity of nature, albeit in different regions. These images are related to the productivity of the natural environment and structure of the region and the beliefs of the people living in those regions and the perspective of the concept of heaven.

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Mihintale Mountain Temple -©

In Buddhist beliefs, it is possible to see nature and appreciate nature frequently, and for this, we find that Buddhist worship areas make use of the forms and reflections of nature. If we consider a temple located on a mountain, the shape, formation, location, and geography of the Mihintale Mountain and natural elements such as terrain, rocks, trees, water pools, and climbing heights on the slopes are discussed. 

These elements, together with the Buddhist philosophy, make this mountain turn into a Buddhist place. Thus, they used the mountain as a whole, except for the temples and meditation areas that take place on the mountain as a unit. 

At this point, unlike other regions, we see that nature is an element of worship, even though they do not deify nature directly, and accompany this worship. Nature is far from being an element only inspired and used. At the same time, nature is a host that is respected.

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Florence Cathedral’s Dome-©

The definition we know as Aden in Christianity and as Heaven in Islam offers people a nature that is promised after death. We see the use of nature in buildings such as churches, basilicas, and mosques, which emerged with the spread of monotheistic beliefs; As in older temples, forms or figures are not in the same way as nature and nature formalism, but natural figures, nature depictions are in question, while these depictions are in a very close relationship with the concept of heaven. 

With these depictions of human beings, we can say that when they enter religious houses, they feel close to their gods, while at the same time, they feel close to the concept of paradise that is described and promised to them.

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Sagrada Familia -©

Again, inspirations from nature appear this time with the similarity of the form itself with the structures in nature in the 15th century. The famous architect Brunelleschi while working to finish Florence Cathedral, he designed the dome inspired by the eggshells. 

From larger and scary structures to temple periods dominated by horrible animal figures, including temple periods full of visual arts and immersive perspective and light games, we see nature emerging in temples such as churches, basilicas, and mosques, albeit with a change in shape. 

Microscopic examination of natural forms and structures has enabled nature to take place in architectural design more rationally and rationally. The rational and rational thinking that started in the 18th century and then the proximity of humanity to technology and scientific developments in the 19th century caused effective changes in the approach of nature and architecture.

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Lotus Temple -©

In this way, many visual and functional issues of design such as structure, form, facade design, lighting, and ventilation have begun to be more efficient when inspired by nature. These inferences will inevitably have reflections on the temple areas that humanity has brought to the present day since the earliest history. 

In the Sagrada Familia church, natural effects emerge, which Gaudi designed with the phrase “The tree outside my workshop is my mentor”. While it makes you feel the entrance to a paradise garden with its stained glass that creates endless light games when you enter, the columns of the building remind you of branching trees.

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Thorncrown Chapel -©

Lotus Temple designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba is a house of worship inspired by the lotus flower, the national flower of the region in India. In addition to these obvious examples of nature inspiration as a form, Thorncrown Chapel, which stands out with its integrity with nature by being located in a forest designed in the 20th century, evokes a forest feeling in the forest. 

The structure, which attracts attention with its repeating column and lattice structure, has turned nature itself into the visual feast of the temple by not using walls. In this context, we can say that the concept of paradise garden handles the natural garden that exists in the world we live in as a whole. This unity is the temple state of being in and with nature without any other decorations and visual games.

Thorncrown Chapel -©

Admiration for nature, thoughts such as natural formations symbolizing god powers, have led to the perception of the concepts of nature and god together, and this has caused the structures they built to be nourished by these concepts. In recent years, when nature appeared in buildings in terms of form, function, and structure after the descriptions of the paradise garden concept, we see that the temples were designed in this context. 

In this worship and temple duo, which started with admiration and fear, we witness the indispensable unity of nature and the temple with the contribution of the development of science, from the motifs to the stained glass, from the forms to the structure.


Eylul Evyapan, studies architecture that was her childhood dream. She is passionate about illustration, resilient design, future solutions and new challenges in architecture. Writing has been her favorite hobby and she wants to combine her passion for architecture and writing to make people think about various subjects.