Baha’i Houses of Worship
You may or may not have heard of the Baha’i Faith. From its beginnings in Persia in 1844, it has spread around the world, yet it remains a relatively unknown minority religion.
Throughout its history, Baha’is have gathered for worship and to conduct community business in their homes. Larger communities rent or build local centers, but only a handful of Baha’i Houses of Worship exist thus far.
The first Baha’i House of Worship was built in the city of Ishqabad, then under Russian control and now part of Turkmenistan. Construction began in 1902 and was completed in 1908. The spiritual and social heart of a community of over 1,000 Baha’is, this was the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, the “dawning-place of the mention of God,” accompanied by dependencies including a school, a hostel for travelers, and a small hospital. With the rise of the Soviet Union, the temple was taken over by the government and leased back to the Baha’is until 1938, when it was turned into an art gallery. In 1948, the building was seriously damaged by an earthquake and was finally demolished in 1963. The site became a public park.
By then, a second Baha’i House of Worship stood in Wilmette, Illinois, on the shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. Long in the making, its symbolic cornerstone was laid in 1912 by ‘Abdu’l-Baha during his historic visit to the United States and Canada. Construction would only begin in 1921 and would not be completed until 1953. Its unique design and quartz-laced concrete exterior have earned it numerous design awards. The temple is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A home for the aged once operated as a dependency of this Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which now stands as the oldest and holiest Baha’i House of Worship in the world. It also happens to be my favorite. I became a Baha’i here.