The Evolution Of Christian Architechture Essay

1685 words - 7 pages

Good essay on development of Basilica plan - History of Modern Art -The Evolution of Christian ArchitectureCertain aspects of Christian architecture changed quickly anddramatically between the Early Christian and Gothic periods, but the basicbasilica plan remained throughout. Christian worship, being congregational,requires a hall, and the Roman basilica - a civic lawcourt - became the earlymodel for both large and small churches. The basilica, processional in form, hada long axis running from a centered doorway to the altar at the other end of thebuilding. They were generally shaped like a cross, either in the form of a Greekcross (with arms of equal length) or a Latin cross (with one longer arm, thenave).One of the earliest examples of Christian architecture and an excellentexample of the basilica plan was Old St. Peters in Rome. It was built byEmperor Constantine shortly after he legalized Christianity, around 333 C.E.Like many other pilgrimage churches, it was built over the grave of a saint. Itwas approached through a colonnaded atrium like that of a Roman house andwas entered from one end through a porch, or narthex. Based on the shape of aLatin Cross, Old St. Peters had a long and wide nave, or central aisle, with atransept crossing the nave near the front of the church. Including the nave, OldSt. Peters had five large aisles for members of the congregation to stand induring the services. The great church was capable of holding three to fourthousand worshippers at one time. At the far end was the raised bema, whichheld the altar, leading to the semicircle, half-domed apse. Like all Christianchurches of this time and times to follow, the entrance was always in the east,leading down the nave to the apse in the west. This east-west axis was verysymbolic to the Christian faith, it signified the coming to God.Outside, St. Peters had a simple brick exterior, but inside were wallsdecorated with frescoes and mosaics, huge marble columns, and lavish altarcloths. This symbolized the ideal Christian person, plain on the outside, but fullof riches on the inside. But despite the apparent holiness, Pagan spoils wereused throughout; columns, decorative panels, masonry, and bronze roof tilesfrom imperial buildings were incorporated in the new structure. Unlike otherchurches to follow, no vaulting was used in the roof. Instead it had a timbertrussed roof like other typical Roman buildings.Another symbolic yet functional architectural device was that of theclerestory windows above the central nave. Much light entered through theseclerestory windows, allowing light for the services and illuminating the wallpaintings, but as well as symbolizing the light of God. For over a thousand yearsOld St. Peters was the center of the Catholic world, until it was destroyed in the16th century.As in art, a wide diversity characterizes the ecclesiastic architecture ofthe Byzantine period. The origins of the Byzantine style are rooted in thetraditions of the Roman Empire....

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