Ziggurats were used in ancient times for purposes of worship and to fulfill spiritual needs. One example, The Pyramid of the Magician, has a legend attached to it depicting the god Itzamna who had single-handedly built it in one night. The Pyramid of the Magician is, by 100 feet, the tallest architectural structure in the city of Uxmal on the Yucatan peninsula. Interestingly enough, the pyramid has a stairwell that faces the setting sun on summer solstice. Also of note, the whole city is perfectly aligned to mimic how the planets were thought to lie in the solar system at the time.
At the top of most Ziggurats, there were sanctuaries that were dedicated to the protective gods and/or goddesses of that particular city. The buildings were normally magnificent in size and the stairways leading up to the sanctuaries normally consisted of a very long series of steps. Experts feel that this symbolism represents how various peoples wished to unite the heavens and the earth.
As ancient as Ziggurats may seem, they can easily be compared to modern day churches and place of worship. Modern day churches are used presently as places where people can worship their god, who is felt to protect and watch over them; highly comparable to the purpose of the ancient Ziggurats. Not only are their purposes analogous, but their appearances can also be similar. For instance, most modern day places of worship have some sort of symbolic representation of their god near or at the very top of the building. This may seem commonplace to most, but perhaps the origin of the influence comes from the ancient architects. The long and high stairways of most Ziggurats can be compared to the symbolism that we, today, use near the top of churches.
Along the same lines of thought, modern day churches also normally possess some sort of symmetry, whether it is to the surroundings or within the structure itself. This can be paralleled to the Pyramid of the Magician in that that...
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