“I want to just be lazy and I want some of the people around me to be doing things, because that makes me feel comfortable and safe - and I want some of them to be doing nothing at all, because they can be graceful and companionable for me.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
Religious buildings (churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship) often have an intentional orientation, largely to assist with fixing the direction people face when praying. The altar in Christian churches is often pointed toward the liturgical east. Islamic mosques are traditionally oriented toward the Qibla (direction of Mecca).
For these calculations, I selected five countries that are dominated by five different religions (Thailand – Buddhism; Italy – Catholicism; Israel – Judaism; Pakistan – Islam; India – Hinduism). The shapefile containing the Israel buildings was merged with Palestine, which is predominantly Islamic. Though these could be separated, the exact border between the two countries is a bit tenuous, so I opted to leave it as a single region.
The method for the calculation is shown on the graphic. For each building footprint, a bounding rectangle is defined. This rectangle is oriented to minimize its width. The orientation of the building is then measured as the azimuth of the rectangle’s height (longer sides). Orientation is counted in both directions, so a building facing due east is also considered to face west. The plots show the frequency of a given orientation in 5° bins.
As you can see, most religious buildings in these countries are aligned east-west. Pakistan is slightly north of east from Mecca, which may explain why many of the religious buildings there are orientated WSW-ENE.
Data source: http://download.geofabrik.de/
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a gorgeous edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Stunning isn’t it! Look at the close-up and see if you can read it. This image shows the opening of the Cook’s tale.
Image source: British Library MS Harley 7334. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.