Temples, churches, cathedrals… all of these are tangible ways to influence a culture for generations. Not every religion will demand a specific place of worship, though, so here’s some of the things you’ll need to consider.
Does your religion require formal worship services, or for its members to gather for certain holidays or rituals? If so, then at some point, someone in that religion will likely suggest a permanent meeting location. This can by anything from a designated open space to an elaborate building constructed solely for the purpose of worship. A single location may suffice for a long time, but as the religion spreads and the population grows, secondary locations may be required, especially to accommodate believers who live outside of reasonable travel distance to the original place of worship.
If you’re worldbuilding a religion for a specifically nomadic people who cover very great distances, then there may need to be either a portable type of temple (similar to the tabernacle that the Hebrew people constructed after they fled slavery in Egypt) or there are certain criteria in place for where they are allowed to hold religious services and rituals. These criteria might be anything from “where clear water flows,” (if water holds any significance to your fictional culture/religion, for example) to simply a place large enough to hold the amount of people expected to gather.
Even nomadic peoples may have specific locations that are important to them and their religions, though. Especially if a prophet received a vision in a certain place, then whenever they pass near that place again, there may be a required religious gathering.
Next to consider is if there are certain construction requirements for a place of worship. This might be anything from the types of materials used (if a specific tree has been mentioned by a deity, perhaps that is the only type of lumber that can be used in construction a temple for that deity), to certain aesthetic requirements (religious symbols, stained glass windows portraying religious parables, etc.)
The final thing to consider (at least for this blog post) is who is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and administration of services held at these places of worship. These people may be those who have sworn vows (either of service, such as priests and pastors, or of lifestyle, like monks and nuns), or those who are performing penance. Building maintenance, etc., may possibly be hired out.
- Are there any locations in your world that are significant, historically, to specific religions? If so, why, and have they built any temples, shrines, or churches on or near them?
- Is regular attendance at a religious service a vital part of the religion you’re creating? Do religious services have to take place in a house of worship, or can they be performed anywhere?
- What features would be considered an integral part of a house of worship? Are these features significant for cultural and/or religious reasons, or both?
- If you are artistically inclined, sketch out some ideas you have for houses of worship, and then start identifying elements from the building(s) that you can incorporate into your cultures and religions.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!
Rebekah Loper began creating epic worlds and stories as a child and never stopped. She is the author of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding series, and has a fantasy novella published in Beatitudes and Woes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (…ok, ok, they’re chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she is not writing, she can be found battling the elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.