Seville, Spain – Seville Cathedral; Boston, MA – African Meeting House
The Seville Cathedral, located in Seville, Spain, is one of the largest religious buildings in the world. Now a Christian cathedral, this structure has a diverse religious history. The building was founded in 1403 on the site of a former mosque. The structure has five naves which make it the largest Gothic building in Europe. The style of architecture of the entire building, mudéjar, is unique to and originates in Spain. This art style embodies the meeting of Islam and Christianity and the stages of history in the city, which is visible in the structure of the cathedral. Mudéjar is the term given to Muslims who continued to practice their religion in areas which had come under Christian possession during the Reconquest of 1248. The promotion of peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims, and Jews allowed for the construction and prosperity of the cathedral and also contributed to the complexity of the structure. The site of the Seville Cathedral was declared a “World Heritage” in 1987 by UNESCO because of its unique architectural style and because the structure is the largest Gothic edifice in Europe.
The African Meeting House in Boston, Massachusetts was consecrated in 1806, housing the first African Baptist Church of Boston. It is the oldest black church building in America. This building served as a cultural, educational, and political connection for Boston’s black community. The building committee for this building consisted of two branches: financial and labor. The labor branch mainly consisted of African-American craftsmen. The African Meeting House offered education opportunities for both children and adults. The African-Americans which made up the first congregation of this church established a sanctuary for peaceful worship and school that would support African-American education. The first abolition organization, Massachusetts General Colored Association, met here. In 1832, the New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded here by William Lloyd Garrison. The African Meeting House also served as a recruitment center for the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment, which was the first official African-American military regiment for the Union in the Civil War. In 1898, the African Meeting House was sold to a Jewish Congregation and was a synagogue until it was later acquired by the Museum of African American History in 1972.
Both structures are places which promote peaceful religious coexistence and provide a gathering place for this coexistence. As demographics and cultures changed in Spain and Boston, these buildings changed as well. The Seville Cathedral’s architecture changed as different groups possessed power in the region, demonstrating a unique architectural style: mudéjar. The African Meeting House served as a church, school, and meeting house and was later utilized as a synagogue. The mudéjar style reflects the integration of Islamic and Christian influence on the construction of the building. The African Meeting House was occupied by diverse religious groups as the Seville Cathedral was, first as a Baptist Church then later a synagogue. The Seville Cathedral first existed as a mosque and then later as the Seville Cathedral. Both the Seville Cathedral and the African Meeting House are multifunctional religious buildings which promote acceptance of diverse cultures and histories.
The Ministry of Culture and Sport. “Mudéjar Art.” Spain is Culture, SEGITTUR, http://www.spainisculture.com/en/estilos/mudejar/.
Museum of African American History. “A Gathering Place for Freedom.” Museum of African American History, https://www.maah.org/exhibits_detail/A-Gathering-Place-for-Freedom.
National Historic Landmarks Program. “African Meeting House.” National Historical Landmarks Program, National Park Service, https://web.archive.org/web/20090606132718/http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=1069&ResourceType=Building.
National Park Service. “African Meeting House.” National Park Service, 23 Dec. 2015, https://www.nps.gov/boaf/learn/historyculture/amh.htm.
Seville Cathedral. “World Heritage.” Catedral De Sevilla, artiSplendore, https://www.catedraldesevilla.es/la-catedral/patrimonio-de-la-humanidad/.
UNESCO. “Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville.” UNESCO, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/383/.
Courtesy of The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed January 27, 2020, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/73.