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almost entirely perished, and the scanty ruins which remain are of uncertain date. When of considerable diameter, they were divided into aisles by inner circles of columns and roofed with wood.
While the round church, according to Mr. Fergusson's view, was the sole sacramental temple of the Roman Christians, the basilica was appropriated to their secular assemblies. The bishop took the chair of the magistrate in the apse, his clergy sat on the benches which lined the circumference, and the laity stood in the nave. When the building came to be used for a house of prayer, the Christian altar was put in the same position which the Pagan altar had occupied before, and its sacred precincts were set apart for the clergy. They afterwards extended the privileged ground to some distance in front of the apse, The whole formed a raised platform, which was separated from the rest of the church by pillars called cancelli. This is the origin of our English term chancel.' The space in cathedrals is not named from the screen which railed it off
, but is termed the presbytery from the persons to whom it was assigned. Next to the presbytery was the choir,-a species of church within a church, or enclosure of a portion of the nave for religious services. Mr. Fergusson thinks that the full plan was established by the fourth or fifth century. But we are less concerned at present with these liturgical arrangements than with the features which display to us the Christian architecture of ancient Rome.
Before the great days of intersecting vaults Trajan had built, about A.D. 100, a basilica with a wooden roof. Its ground-plan and dimensions were imitated by the Christians in the basilica of St. Peter, which belongs to about A.D. 330, and in the basilica of St. Paul, which belongs to about A.D. 386. St. Peter's was removed in the fifteenth century to make way for its celebrated successor; and St. Paul's was burnt down in 1822. Exact measurements and drawings exist of both. They were nearly the same size, or 380 feet in length by 212 feet in breadth. Like the basilica of Trajan, they were divided by four rows of columns into five aisles, and the central aisle or nave was 80 feet wide. In the basilica of Trajan there were probably double aisles at the ends as well as at the sides, for the columns are believed to have been disposed in the form of two complete parallelograms. In the Christian basilicas the columns are confined to the sides, but, stopping short at some distance from the apsidal extremity, there is, in effect, a single broad cross aisle at the upper end. The cross aisle in St. Paul's is of equal width with the nave. Here we have the commencement of the mediæval transept, which, when the choir was joined to the presbytery, was placed
lower down the central aisle, that it might still be the line of division between the inner sanctuary and the outer church.
The woodcut represents the central aisle of St. Paul's, and will show the particulars in which architecture had lost and gained. The Greek and the Etruscan systems were reconciled
View of the interior of St. Paul's, at Rome, before the fire. by adopting half of each. The column was put in the place of the pier of the arch, and the arch was put in the place of the entablature of the column. The section of the entablature which was set upon the capitals in the Maxentian basilica has disappeared in St. Paul's, and the construction is relieved from its lingering anomalies.* For the three huge tunnels of 72 feet span, we have a line of small arches, and it becomes palpable that number in architecture may prevail over size. The broad cross-aisle which ran in front of the apse was happily devised to confer importance upon the end of the basilica and cause it to terminate in a climax. The Gothic cathedrals miss this beauty. • Their principal point of grandeur,' says Mr. Fergusson, 'is half-way down the church, at the intersection with the transept ;' and the impression is weakened by the inferior proportions into which the building relapses along the choir and presbytery. It would be a mistake to ascribe every merit in the Christian basilicas to the taste and judgment of constructors who could take columns of different orders from the temples and rank them together. A more barbarous discord could not be imagined. The vista of arches might have been due to necessity rather than choice. The Christians would probably have preferred the Maxentian basilica and its vaults, but they were not equal to the achievement. In abandoning the large arches they fell into the opposite error, and made their arches so narrow that they are too insignificant for pillars 33 feet in height. Lintels of stone must be short, or they would snap in the middle; and the builders of the basilica, regardless of the meanness which results with the arch, put the columns as close as when they carried entablatures. A second deformity would have been alleviated by a suitable span. The increased rise of the arch would have diminished the excess of wall which was heaped over the openings for the purpose of accommodating the height of the church to the width, and of affording room for a clerestory by elevating the nave above the roof of the aisles. The disproportion of the solids to the voids was of a piece with the general want of keeping. The arches were without mouldings, and their poverty contrasts harshly with the richness of the columns. The clerestory and roof were rude and bare, and the ugly exterior was composed of plain brick walls and plain arch-headed windows. The magnitude of the basilicas seems to indicate some conception of architectural grandeur; but everything beautiful in the details had been dragged from the temples, and the rest might have been the work of village masons and carpenters. The parts which furnish hints for an improvement on previous designs would seem to have been chiefly the compulsory product of circumstances, and were certainly accompanied by an insensibility to harmony, by an incapacity for invention, and by clumsiness of execution.
* The arcades in the court-yard of Diocletian's palace at Spalatro have not any bits of entablature on the capitals, and there may have been precedents equally early at Rome. The designer of the palace can hardly have been influenced by constructive propriety, since he has used the entablature with complete ir.consisteucy in other parts of the building. Several of the columns of St. Paul's are said to have been transferred from the mausoleum of Hadrian, which was circular, and the difficulty and expense of working a new and straight entablature may have been the reason that arches of a cheap and easy construction were substituted. The columns in the central aisle of the basilica of St. Peter had an entablatare and no arches.
A gallery looking into the nave was placed over the aisles in the basilica of Trajan ; and, unless they were hampered by the want of a second tier of columns to support the roof of the gallery, it is singular that the builders of St. Peter's and St. Paul's should not have preferred the system to their tall unsightly wall. The arrangement was here and there adopted later of interposing
a gallery a gallery between the ground-story and clerestory, but the plan did not grow into fashion till the mediæval architects took up the theme, and turned the middle space into the cathedral triforium. The main importance to us of the five and three-aisled basilicas of Rome is that they supplied the outline for the Gothic churches, and teach us whence so ripe and ambitious a form was derived when they suddenly started into life.
The troubles of the time did not allow the Roman Christians to reform their architecture, and perhaps their finished system would have taught us little which may not be readily deduced from their first attempts. In the convulsions and chaos which ensued building not only ceased to be an art but a trade. The barbarians in the sixth century swept over the nations like a sea. Animal passions were in the ascendant, and where intellect had sway it was of the coarse robust kind which dominates and not adorns. The new comers had much more pressing occupations, more imperious wants, and more grovelling tastes than architectural embellishments. Nor if they had coveted imperial structures had they any need to rear them for themselves. They had only to enter and take possession. The Romans built wherever they penetrated, and had covered Europe with works of every description. In number and extent the monumental class of edifices were vastly beyond the requirements of rough warriors, who with the fierce intolerance of ignorance would often have destroyed what they could not appreciate. Their own produc
. tions, we may conclude, were principally humble habitations which may provoke but would not reward curiosity. For five hundred years the annals of Western architecture are nearly a blank. The dates of many reputed relics of the dark ages are dubious or apocryphal. Other vaunted specimens have been altered and repaired till they have lost all historical value. The authenticated particulars are few, and there is little to detain those who find no pleasure in accepting illusory theories for facts.
There was a gleam of promise in the reign of Charlemagne, but the dawn was quickly lost in a second night. His works were inspired by the genius of the individual, and society was not sufficiently advanced to carry them on. It is not till we arrive at the eleventh century that we find national architectures springing into existence, and spreading with a steady luxuriant growth. The stage of civilisation had just been reached when men emerge from the pressure of material necessities and become alive to the delights of mental refinement. There was a general ferment and renovation. Improved political institutions, chivalry, and poetry, all had their birth in company with mediæval architecture. Independent communities passed through the same process impelled by the force of similar circumstances. They had not developed a style of their own, and when their rude native structures ceased to satisfy their aspirations they copied the majestic Roman remains. The imitations were as various as the imitators. Each race had its peculiar genius and bias which it impressed on its buildings. The commencing Gothic in the separate provinces of Europe has qualities in common which are due to the model, and differences which are due to the taste and talents of the constructors. A pervading church was the cause of a certain uniformity of plan. Throughout the several styles, which are at once divergent and cognate, there is, for the most part, a resemblance more striking than that of agreement in particular forms— the resemblance of a free, masculine, nascent power. There are two descriptions of imitation—the one cold, sterile, and unintelligent, the other thoughtful, ingenious, active, and even in its copyings replete with creative life. The Gothic builders belonged to the animate school. They were strangers to tame routine and the wholesale reproduction of obsolete designs. From the beginning it is clear that they think for themselves, and that we have lighted upon fresh progressive families of mankind. Dr. Whewell called the round-arched Gothic a corruption of the Roman style. It was not corruption, but regeneration. It was not the debasement of an expiring, but the commencement of a rising art, which manifests from the beginning its independence, its originality, and in some respects its superiority. The imperfections are not those of a barren, exhausted decrepitude, but of vigorous, inexperienced youth. The nations revelled in their newly-discovered faculty, and for centuries the costly enthusiasm was sustained, or was rather increased than diminished.
The walls of the Greeks were composed entirely of dressed stone or marble, which was laid without mortar.* Exceeding nicety was indispensable to fit the courses with accuracy and to secure a true bearing for every part of the surfaces. Upon this system the colossal edifices of the Romans would have demanded years of patience and a host of skilled artisans. They were a people zealous to multiply their buildings, and in haste to reap the fruit of their labours. They needed a method less costly, less tedious, and less difficult. They formed a casing of brick or masonry, and filled the trench between the inner and outer face with concrete. At intervals a layer of stone was interposed throughout the thickness of the wall, partly to tie the casings to
There is mortar, however, in the joints of the Parthenon pillars. It is very thin at the outer edges, but tolerably thick in the centre.