Converted Christian and Islamic Architecture: A Path to Understanding

by Serena Hoffman

Faculty Intro:

“Converted Christian and Islamic Architecture: A Path to Understanding,” by Serena Hoffman, is an essay that grew out of a multi-step “Inquiry Essay” project in WRT 181 that invites students to explore their curiosity by exploring their interests, questions that they want answers to, and ideas that they find provocative, ultimately adding their own voices to the ongoing conversation. This essay was born of an interest in the architecture, history and significance of Hagia Sophia, a structure discussed in the context of an Art History class that the author was taking concurrently with our writing class, and a fascination with how this sacred space was used by different faith communities. Enjoy!” – Charlee Sterling

From the Author:

“I became strongly aware of how different religions, especially Islam and Christianity, view each other when a Muslim girl from Afghanistan joined my high school class. As I became closer with her, I started to notice the fear and confusion in people’s eyes when they saw someone wearing a hijab or burqa, and I noticed those same emotions in myself. I wondered why I felt this way, and realized that people who wear those garments feel fear as well. Fear fuels hatred, and hatred between religions is certainly evident in today’s world. But why fear, why hate, for each other? Is it because we are afraid of our differences, because we don’t understand each other?

This paper attempts to dispel the notion that Christianity and Islam are so incredibly different. In the first semester of my freshman year of college, I took an Introduction to Art History course with April Oettinger. Some of the class’s focus was on architecture, as buildings and structural design can point to thinking and beliefs of that time. One of the buildings we looked at was the Hagia Sophia, which was originally used as a church and later converted into a mosque. This building and its religious conversion sparked the idea for this research paper, which I wrote with the guidance of my writing teacher, Charlee Sterling: the Hagia Sophia, and other buildings with a similar history, can be used as a model of coexistence and peace for religions themselves.

The combination of the personal and the historical in this essay create a topic that I feel very passionate about. My hope is that we can start to let go of our fear for others if we learn about and understand how much common ground we really do share.”

Read: Converted Christian and Islamic Architecture: A Path to Understanding

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