When you visit multicultural and -national big cities, it often becomes apparent to me how churches of different religions seem to compete on beautiness, height, materials used like gold or colourful windows.

Historically, has this strong and expensive highlighting of churches rather have been a matter of strategic advertising and competition among different religions in the same region or do we see not much beautiful and expensive churches in religions with less financial means like, e.g. the Catholic church. I have seen very beautiful and big Indian churches in Dublin, so I doubt this. How big has this self-advertising historically been and developed over the centuries, did this start after the crusades of the Catholic church? Have their been even policies by the Pope to erect only beautiful churches worldwide?

In Germany we had some scandals among bishops spending far too much on churches and their private domiciles.

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    Historically polytheistic countries have had temples of multiple religions in the same city, while monotheistic countries have usually permitted members of only one religion or denomination to build houses of worship. Widespread toleration of multiple religions by monotheistic societies is rather recent.
    – MAGolding
    Jun 29 '19 at 16:39
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    @MAGolding: Basically since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Art. XXVIII: "That those of the Confession of Augsburg ... shall have the free Exercise of their Religion ...." Article XLIX: "It is agreed by the unanimous consent ... that whatever rights and benefits are conferred upon the Estates and subjects of the Catholic and Augsburg faiths [Lutheran], ... shall also apply to those who are called Reformed [Calvinist]" Jun 29 '19 at 16:52
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    @MAGolding: It is always worth noting that the U.S. Founding Fathers were a generation closer in time to the Treaty of Westphalia (128 years in 1776) than we are to the American Civil War (154 years as I write this in 2019). Jun 29 '19 at 16:56
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    English usage point: churches are the religious buildings of only the Christian religion. The religious buildings of other religions are temples, mosques, synagogues, &c, depending on the religion. And FWIW, Christian churches tend to be rather plain on the outside, at least to my taste.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 29 '19 at 17:02
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    Even used as a metaphor, "foot race" implies there's a finish line. But there isn't any way to define an "end" to rivalry like this.
    – Spencer
    Jun 29 '19 at 18:00

First of all, you assume that the building of imponent religious buildings was due to competition with other religions. But as MAGolding comments, for most of the history there was little "competition": each region/country has its main religion and that would be the one that would get almost all of the support & resources; if you were lucky other religions would be tolerated but even then the minoritary religion temples would be generally rather humble (both due to lack or resources and because it would not be wise to be seen as a "challenger" to the main religion themples).

What you are missing is:

  • For most of the history, religions have amassed inmense fortunes. Simply put, they had the means to build such constructions, so why not?

  • Intra-religious rivalry. The bishop of Paris would not want or need to compete with the Hagia Sophia in Istambul; few people would ever see both of the buildings to compare, and anyway there was no direct relation. But the bishop of Paris could want to show that pesky bishop of Rouen whose diocesis was more important, richer and prestigious.

  • Similarly, one of the ways of showing the wealth of the upper class was to finance religious buildings (whole or in part). If the count of Seville decided to build a church, everybody would commend his piety, and everybody in the street would know where the funds for that church did come from. Making them as important as possible would serve to show both the count's piety and wealth.

In any case, I think that the best example of what you ask for would be the Baroque style and the Counter-Reformation; specially the Council of Trent that impulsed the advent of Baroque Art as a means of propaganda to fight against the Reformation.

The Council of Trent proclaimed that architecture, painting and sculpture had a role in conveying Catholic theology wikipedia

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    Your points are all valid, but limiting yourself to them is very cynical, and for that reason I won't upvote an answer that's good as far as it goes. In Medieval Europe, anyway, people believed and people wanted their church to be grand for the glory of God as well as for the glory of their town. (I have no reason to believe that this isn't true of other cultures and other religions.) Secondly, if you look at the actual sources of funds, the great cathedrals were built with city money, church money, money from pilgrims, and donations earmarked for the building.
    – Mark Olson
    Jun 29 '19 at 20:14
  • The Hagia Sophia would have been in Constantinople, when it was a church.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 30 '19 at 17:59

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