A temple (from the Latin word templum) is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. It is typically used for such buildings belonging to all faiths where a more specific term such as church, mosque or synagogue is not generally used in English. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism among religions with many modern followers, as well as other ancient religions such as Ancient Egyptian religion.
- Hindu temples
- Buddhist temples
- Jain temples
- Mesopotamian temples
- Egyptian temples
- Greco Roman temples
- Pagan temples
- Zoroastrian temples
- Sikh temples
- Jewish synagogues and temples
- Orthodox Christianity
- Western Christianity
- Latter Day Saint movement
- LDS Church
- Other Latter Day Saint denominations
- Masonic temples
The form and function of temples is thus very variable, though they are often considered by believers to be in some sense the "house" of one or more deities. Typically offerings of some sort are made to the deity, and other rituals enacted, and a special group of clergy maintain and operate the temple. The degree to which the whole population of believers can access the building varies significantly; often parts or even the whole main building can only be accessed by the clergy. Temples typically have a main building and a larger precinct, which may contain many other buildings.
The word comes from Ancient Rome, where a templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template", a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out on the ground by the augur. Templa also became associated with the dwelling places of a god or gods. Despite the specific set of meanings associated with the Ancient Roman religion, the word has now become quite widely used to describe a house of worship for any number of religions and is even used for time periods prior to the Romans.
Hindu temples are known by many different names, varying on region and language, including Alayam, Mandir, Mandira, Ambalam, Gudi, Kavu, Koil, Kovil, Déul, Raul, Devasthana, Degul, Deva Mandiraya and Devalaya.
Hindu temples are large and magnificent with a rich history. There is evidence of use of sacred ground as far back as the Bronze Age and later the Indus Valley Civilization. Hindu temples have been built in various countries around the world, including Cambodia, Nepal, Mauritius, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Great Britain, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Canada.
They include the structures called stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha. Traditional Buddhist temples are designed to inspire inner and outer peace.
A Jain temple is the place of worship for Jains, the followers of Jainism. Some famous Jain temples are Shikharji, Palitana Jain Temples, Ranakpur Jain Temple, Shravan Belgola, Dilwara Temples and Lal Mandir. Jain temples are built with various architectural designs. Jain temples in North India are completely different from the Jain temples in South India, which in turn are quite different from Jain temples in West India. Additionally, a Manastambha (meaning column of honor) is a pillar that is often constructed in front of Jain temples.
The temple of Mesopotamia derived from the cult of gods and deities in the Mesopotamian religion. It spanned several civilizations; from Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian. The most common temple architecture of Mesopotamia is the structure of sun-baked bricks called a Ziggurat, having the form of a terraced step pyramid with flat upper terrace where the shrine or temple stood.
Ancient Egyptian temples were meant as places for the deities to reside on earth. Indeed, the term the Egyptians most commonly used to describe the temple building, ḥwt-nṯr, means "mansion (or enclosure) of a god". A god's presence in the temple linked the human and divine realms and allowed humans to interact with the god through ritual. These rituals, it was believed, sustained the god and allowed it to continue to play its proper role in nature. They were therefore a key part of the maintenance of maat, the ideal order of nature and of human society in Egyptian belief. Maintaining maat was the entire purpose of Egyptian religion, and thus it was the purpose of a temple as well. Ancient Egyptian temples were also of economic significance to Egyptian society. The temples stored and redistributed grain and came to own large portions of the nation's arable land (some estimate as much as 33% by the New Kingdom period). In addition, many of these Egyptian temples utilized the Tripartite Floor Plan in order to draw visitors to the center room.
Though today we call most Greek religious buildings "temples," the ancient pagans would have referred to a temenos, or sacred precinct. Its sacredness, often connected with a holy grove, was more important than the building itself, as it contained the open air altar on which the sacrifices were made. The building which housed the cult statue in its naos was originally a rather simple structure, but by the middle of the 6th century BCE had become increasingly elaborate. Greek temple architecture had a profound influence on ancient architectural traditions.
The rituals that located and sited the temple were performed by an augur through the observation of the flight of birds or other natural phenomenon. Roman temples usually faced east or toward the rising sun, but the specifics of the orientation are often not known today; there are also notable exceptions, such as the Pantheon which faces north. In ancient Rome only the native deities of Roman mythology had a templum; any equivalent structure for a foreign deity was called a fanum.
The Romans usually referred to a holy place of a pagan religion as fanum; in some cases this referred to a sacred grove, in others to a temple. Medieval Latin writers also used the word templum. In some cases it is hard to determine whether it was a building or an outdoor shrine. For temple buildings of Germanic paganism, the Old Norse term hof is often used.
Zoroastrian temples may also be called the darb-e meh and Atashkadeh. A fire temple in Zoroastrianism is the place of worship for Zoroastrians. Zoroastrians revere fire in any form. In the Zoroastrian religion, fire (Atar), together with clean water (Aban), are agents of ritual purity. Clean, white "ash for the purification ceremonies is regarded as the basis of ritual life," which, "are essentially the rites proper to the tending of a domestic fire, for the temple fire is that of the hearth fire raised to a new solemnity.
A Sikh temple is called a Gurdwara, literally the doorway to the Guru. Its most essential element is the presence of the Guru, Guru Granth Sahib. The Gurdwara has an entrance from all sides, signifying that they are open to all without any distinction whatsoever. The Gurdwara has a Darbar Sahib where the Guru Granth Sahib is seen and a Langar where people can eat free food. A Gurdwara may also have a library, nursery, and classroom. A Gurdwara can be identified from a distance by tall flagpoles bearing the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag.
Jewish synagogues and temples
In Judaism, the ancient Hebrew texts refer not to temples, the word having not existed yet, but to a "sanctuary", "palace" or "hall". Each of the two ancient temples in Jerusalem was called in the Tanakh Beit YHWH, which translates literally as "YHWH's House."
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the site where the First Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple were built. At the center of the structure was the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. The Temple Mount is now the site of the Islamic edifice, the Dome of the Rock (c. 690).
The Greek word synagogue came into use to describe Jewish (and Samaritan) places of worship during Hellenistic times and it, along with the Yiddish term shul, and the original Hebrew term Beit Knesset ("House of meeting") are the terms in most universal usage.
Since the 18th Century, Jews in Western and Central Europe began to apply the name "temple", borrowed from the French where it was used to denote all non-Catholic prayerhouses, to synagogues. The term became strongly associated with Reform institutions, in some of which both congregants and outsiders associated it with the elimination of the prayers for the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple, though this was not the original meaning—traditional synagogues named themselves thus over a century before the advent of Reform, and many continued to do so after. In American parlance, "temple" is often synonymous with "synagogue", but especially non-Orthodox ones.
The word temple, however, is used frequently in the tradition of Eastern Christianity; particularly the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the principal words used for houses of worship are temple and church. The use of the word temple comes from the need to distinguish a building of the church vs. the church seen as the Body of Christ. In the Russian language (similar to other Slavic languages), while the general-purpose word for "church" is tserkov, the term khram (Храм), "temple", is used to refer to the church building as a temple of God (Khram Bozhy). The words "church" and "temple", in this case are interchangeable; however, the term "church" (Ancient Greek: ἐκκλησία) is far more common. The term temple (Ancient Greek: ναός) is also commonly applied to larger churches. Some famous churches which are referred to as temples include Hagia Sophia, Saint Basil's Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, or the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade, Serbia. See also: Orthodox church (building) and catholicon.
The word temple has traditionally been rarely used in the Western Christian tradition, notably in Irish, denoting some pre-schism churches with the word teampall. The principal words typically used to distinguish houses of worship in Western Christian architecture are basilica, cathedral and church. The Catholic Church has used the word temple in reference of a place of worship on rare occasions. An example is the Roman Catholic Sagrada Familia Temple in Barcelona, Spain and the Roman Catholic Basilique du Sacré-Cœur Temple in Paris, France.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, following the Enlightenment, some Protestant denominations in France and elsewhere began to use the word temple to distinguish these spaces from Catholic churches. Evangelical and other Protestant churches make use of a wide variety of terms to designate their worship spaces, such as church, tabernacle or temple. Additionally some Breakaway Catholic Churches such as the Mariavite Church in Poland have chosen to also designate their central church building as a temple, as in the case of the Temple of Mercy and Charity in Płock.
Latter Day Saint movement
According to Latter Day Saints, in 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation to restore the practice of temple worship, in a "house of the Lord". The Kirtland Temple was the first temple of the Latter-day Saint movement and the only one completed in Smith's lifetime, although the Nauvoo Temple was partially complete at the time of his death. The schisms stemming from a succession crisis have led to differing views about the role and use of temples between various groups with competing succession claims.
The Book of Mormon, which Latter Day Saints believe is a companion book of scripture with the Bible, refers to temple building in the ancient Americas by a group of people called the Nephites. Though Book of Mormon authors are not explicit about the practices in these Nephite temples, they were patterned "after the manner of the temple of Solomon" () and served as gathering places for significant religious and political events (e.g. Mosiah 1-6; 3rd Nephi 11-26).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is a prolific builder of "Latter-day Saint" or "Mormon" temples. There are 155 operating temples (which includes 3 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 14 under construction, and 8 announced (not yet under construction). Latter-day Saint temples are reserved for performing and undertaking only the most holy and sacred of covenants and special of ordinances. They are distinct from meeting houses and chapels where weekly worship services are held. The temples are built and kept under strict sacredness and are not to be defiled. Thus, strict rules apply for entrance, including church membership and regular attendance. During the open-house period after its construction and before the temple is dedicated, the temple is open to the public for tours.
Other Latter Day Saint denominations
Various sects in the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith have temples.
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with its origins in the eighteenth century whose membership is held together by a shared set of moral and metaphysical ideals. Freemasons meet as a Lodge. Lodges meet in a Masonic Temple, Masonic Center or a Masonic Hall, such as Freemasons' Hall, London. Some confusion exists as Masons usually refer to a Lodge meeting as being in Lodge.
Convention allows the use of temple in the following cases: