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A temple (from the Latin word templum) is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. 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. This tradition dates back to prehistoric times. For the ancient Egyptians, the word pr could refer not only to a house, but also to a sacred structure since it was believed that the gods resided in houses. The word "temple" (which dates to about the 6th century BCE), despite the specific set of meanings associated with the religion of the ancient Rome, 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.

Ancient Near East

The oldest known temple seems to be that found at Göbekli Tepemarker in southeastern Turkeymarker, dating from the 10th millennium BC.

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 Beit Hamikdashmarker, which translates literally as "the Holy House".

The Temple Mountmarker in Jerusalemmarker is the site where the First Templemarker 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 shrine, the Dome of the Rockmarker (c. 690).

The Greek word synagogue came into use to describe Jewish places of worship during Hellenistic times and it, along with the Yiddish term shul, and the original Hebrew term Bet Knesset ("House of meeting") are the terms in most universal usage.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the word ‘temple’ began to be used, almost exclusively by the followers of Reform Judaism, first in Germany, then in other countries,espescially in the United States, as in Temple Beth-El. The word refers not to Roman temples, but to the Temple of Solomonmarker. Orthodox Judaism considers this usage inappropriate, as it does not consider synagogues a replacement for the Temple in Jerusalem (there were local places of worship contemporaneous with the existence of the Temple, e.g. the one that can be seen at Masadamarker).

Greco-Roman temples

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 Pantheonmarker which faces north. In ancient Rome, only the native deities of Roman mythology had a templullm; any equivalent structure for a foreign deity was called a fanum.

Indian religions

Hindu temples

These may also be called by other names, including mandir or mandira, koil or kovil, devasthana and devalaya, depending on the region in the Indian subcontinent and its local language.

Hindu temples are large and magnificent with a rich history. Some date as far back as the Bronze Age and later the Indus Valley Civilization. In the present day magnificent Hindu temples have been built in various countries of the world including Indiamarker, Great Britainmarker, the United Statesmarker, Australia, South Africa and Canadamarker.

Buddhist temples

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.

Sikh temples

A Sikh temple or shrine is called a Gurudwara, that is, the House of God, the House of the Guru, where the Guru dwells. Its most essential element also know as Shurk is the presence of the Guru. The temples have entrance from all sides, signifying that they are open to all without any distinction whatsoever.

Jain temples

Jain idols of Tirthankaras are worshipped in Jain temples. Usually they are built from Marble stone. Some famous Jain temples are located in Palitanamarker, Shankeshwar, Shikharji, Vataman, Mumbaimarker, and Ahmedabadmarker.Usually Jain temples have many marble pillars which are carved beautifully with Demi god posture. The main vestibule usually contains the statues of 3 of the thirthankars: Parshwanath, Rishabdev and Mahavir. The Jain Dilwara temples at Mount Abu are considered the most beautiful Jain pilgrimage sites in the world.

Ayyavazhi temples

Zoroastrian temples

Zoroastrian temples may also be called the [darb-e meh and atashkada.

Christian temples

The word temple has traditionally been rarely used in the Western Christian tradition. The principal words typically used to distinguish houses of worship in Western Christian architecture are: basilica, cathedral and church.

The word temple however is used very frequently in the tradition of Eastern Christianity and in particular, 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” ( ) is far more common. The term "temple" ( ) is also commonly applied to larger churches. Some famous churches which are referred to as temples include Hagia Sophiamarker, Saint Basil's Cathedralmarker, Cathedral of Christ the Saviourmarker, or the Temple of Saint Savamarker in Belgrademarker, Serbiamarker. See also: Orthodox church and catholicon.

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 will make use of a wide variety of terms to designate their worship spaces, such as Tabernacle, Temple, etc. Additionally some Breakaway Catholic Churches such as the Mariavite Church in Polandmarker have chosen to also designate their central church building as a temple, as in the case of the Temple of Mercy and Charity in Płockmarker.

LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Dedicated 1893.

Temples in the Latter Day Saint movement

According to Latter Day Saints, in 1832, Joseph Smith, Jr. received a revelation to restore the practice of temple worship, in a "house of the Lord". The Kirtland Templemarker 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.

Temples of the LDS church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a prolific builder of "Latter-day Saint" or "Mormon" temples. 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.

Other Latter Day Saint Denominations

Various other sects of the church founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., initially known as the Church of Christ, also have temples.

Masonic 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, Londonmarker. Some confusion exists as Masons usually refer to a Lodge meeting as being in Lodge.

Other religions

Though the word "temple" is used broadly, one should use it with discretion in the context of some religions. A mosque for example, should never be called a temple.Convention allows the use of temple in the following cases:

See also

Additional reading

Hani, Jean, Le symbolisme du temple chrétien, G. Trédaniel (editor); [2. éd.] edition (1978), 207 p., ISBN 2-85707-030-6


  1. Monroe, Edgar, Temples of Egypt, , website accessed August 30, 2006.
  2. New York Buddhist Temple for World Peace
  3. Utah Attorney General’s Office and Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The Primer, Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Polygamous Communities. Updated June 2006. Page 23.
  4. Andrea Moore-Emmett. God's Brothel. Pince-Nez Press: June 1, 2004. ISBN 1930074131

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