Impact of Religion on Roman Basilica Architecture 3
Christianization of Roman Basilica 5
Roman Architecture 8
Hadrian’s Pantheon 9
Influence of Roman Architecture on Western Architecture 17
Impact of Religion on Roman Basilica Architecture
Architecture is one of the most significant aspects of our daily lives. Architecture has been in existence since time immemorial. There have been invention and development of numerous new artistic styles. Rome is one of the countries that have greatly influenced world architecture countries; Romans contributed highly towards art and architecture with the development of basilicas being the most notable. The religious orientation of roman emperors influenced the construction of religious buildings for worship and the expansion of their religions. The reign of Constantine as the first, christen emperor, no doubt led to the expansion of Christianity. However other than constructing churches to expand Christianity, Constantine recognized the importance of the basilica as an authoritative and functional building with a symbolic architecture. He therefore converted some basilicas into churches and tacitly influenced newer churches to adopt the basilica architecture. This paper examines the architecture of basilicas and the influence that religion had on them during the reign of Emperor Constantine.
Basilica, a Latin word, was used initially to describe a roman public structure normally situated in the forum of a roman town. In the second century BC, public basilicas started to emerge in Hellenistic cities. In 1914, remnants of a large profound Neopythagorean basilica dating back to the 1stC AD were found near the Porta subterranean in Rome. The stuccoes on the inner vaulting have endured but their precise interpretation remains an issue of debate. The phrase basilica started to refer exclusively to big cathedrals that have been offered special ceremonial rites by the pope subsequent to the Roman Empire turning out to be Christian legitimately. Hence, the senses are retained by the word currently- architectural and ecclesiastical (Edward, 2009).
The roman basilica, in architecture, was a huge roofed hall erected for business transactions and disposing of lawful matters. A public basilica for business transaction had been section of any settlement that viewed itself as a city as early as the time Augustus, applied in the similar manner as the late medieval enclosed market abodes of Northern Europe, where the meeting room, for absence of urban space, was set over the malls. These kinds of buildings normally consisted of interior arcades that split the space providing aisles or colonnaded on one or both sides, with an apse at one end where the magistrates sat, usually on slightly raised platform. According to Edward (2009), the central passageway tended to be broad and higher than the flanking platforms so that there is light penetration through the clerestory windows.
The expansion of the Christian church came with a demand for large buildings for the purposes of worshiping to differentiate church activities from the pagan activities conducted outdoors. The apse provided the best location for an altar and the spacious colonnade and nave offered a suitable sitting area for worshipers. The Roman Catholic Church considers basilicas as integral religious buildings and therefore churches considered, as basilicas are generally significant grand and beautiful.
In Rome, the first basilica built was the basilica Porcia, named after Marcus Porcius Cato who built it in 184 BCE for use by tribunals and meetings. A fire destroyed the basilica in 52 BCE and left no remains. The basilica Porcia was never rebuilt. Another one, the basilica Pompeii dates back to the end of the second century. It had distinct architectural features that made it functional and grand in appearance. A few feet from the entrance on the inside stood long columns dividing the colonnade and the nave. The basilica’s columns were made of tiles covered with stucco. The outer walls had large window openings that let enough light into the interiors. On the end of the building was a tribunal axis that dominated the nave. Exedral rooms symmetrically lined the tribunal and were from lateral stairs concealed under the axis that lead to a vaulted room. The limited access to the tribunal and the exedral rooms provided a visible yet private office space for the public administration activities of Pompeii.
Probably roman basilica, which started for tradition, functions during the ruling of Maxentius, the pagan emperor and finished subsequent to 313 AD by Constantine. Constantine wanted to construct churches as the patron of Christianity and figured out the conversion of existing symbolic buildings would be effective for their architectural forms rather than coming up with new architectural forms. While early basilicas were concentrated on their functionality of space and separation of authority, the new Christian basilica’s architecture emphasized more on the symbolic decoration that highlighted the mystery of Christianity. Therefore, Constantine inspired church architectures took a centralized theme, as opposed to longitudinal architecture, of different aspects of the Christian faith such as resurrection and martyrs.
Christianization of Roman Basilica
Once Christianity had been legalized in 4thC, Christians were prepared to construct large and more attractive structures for worship compared to the secretive meeting place they were using initially. Architectural formulas used to construct temples were not suitable, not for their pagan associations though because the pagan cult and sacrifices took place outdoors under open sky in the gods’ sight with the treasury and cult figures being housed in the temple as a backdrop. The common conventional architecture of the basilicas was the usable model at hand when Constantine wanted to honor his imperia holiness (Watson, 2009). These had a middle nave with one passageway at each side and an apse at one end. Bishop and priests sat at this raise dais. This kind of basilica was constructed by Constantine in his palace compound at Trier, adopted afterward very effortlessly for church use. It is an extensive rectangle having two storeys ranked with arch-headed casements one on top of the other. There were no passageways and the arch in which Constantine held state was at the far end beyond a huge arch. This kind of basilica was constructed in Western Europe, Greece Palestine, Syria and Egypt. The Church of St. Elias at Thessalonica, the Nativity at Bethlehem and the great basilicas at Ravenna are first-class ancient examples of architectural basilica. It represents the first shift toward a centralized architecture different from the longitudinal basilicas. In addition, it is embodied with Constantine’s principles of symbolism of important beliefs in Christianity. Having a more detailed decoration on the interior compared to the outside.
Watson (2009) asserts that the first basilicas with transepts were constructed under Emperor Constantine’s order in both Rome and Constantinople- his New Rome. Gregory Nazianzen was the first person to point out its likeness to a cross around 380 when describing the Constantinian Church of the Holy Apostles. This comparison met with a stunning success because the sects of the cross were thinning out nearly at that same period. Hence, a Christian figurative theme was used quite naturally to a form scrounged civil semi-public patterns other Christian basilicas including Santa Sabina, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St John Lateran were constructed in Rome in the later on 4thC. The basilicas took the shape of audience halls and provided the ambience of prominence desired by Constantine. St. John the Lateran church is a refocus of the architecture from the exterior to a marvelous interior with grand decorations and lighting. Symbolic attention is visible in the architecture St. Peter church built on top of the tomb of Peter having a cross axes of the nave that formed a transept and focused attention of worshipers on the tomb of Peter.
The 4thC and 5thC-‘s Christian basilica stood behind the completely enclosed open space ringed with an arcade like the peristyle or stoa that was its forebear or like the cloister that was its descendant. From outside, the open space was entered via a variety of constructions beside the public street. This was St Peter’s Basilica’s architectural ground plan in Rome. It was until 15thC when it was knocked down to pave way for current church construction to a new plan. The middle nave is taller than the passageways in most basilicas forming a chain of windows referred to as clerestory (Garth, 1994). In the Caucasus, some basilicas especially those of Georgia and Armenia, have a middle nave only slightly higher than the two passageways and all three covered by a single inclined roof. A much darker interior is the outcome of this construction. This plan is therefore called Oriental Basilica. The term oriental signifies the borrowing of key architectural concepts from the eastern continents of the world not previously present on the Roman and western world. The church at ST Catherine’s Monastery, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna and Mt Sinai are the popular examples of churches built in basilica style. The massive Romanesque, which still preserves the basilica’s essential plan, emerged gradually in the early middle Ages. It consists of thick walls, round arches, tough landings, groin domes, with large towers, and a decorated walkway. Piers supported arches sometimes with vertical arches supporting them. Arches are always a semicircle. The most distinct feature is the inclusion of columns to separate piers or alternate with piers.
The power embodied by the roman architecture scene attracted Constantine and his planners into using basilicas as the worship building for christens so as to separate them from pagans and highlight the new status that Christianity held in Rome. Therefore roman Architecture is worth mentioning to ruminate this powerful aspect. Numerous European cities still stand reminders of the ancient Rome’s power and the prejudice of roman supremacy is still noticed across the western world. Architecture was essential to the Rome’s success. Both recognized architecture such as basilicas and temples and its useful buildings such as bridges and conduits served significant duties in unification of the empire. Roads construction with bridges facilitated communication across the far-flung empire. Romans were enabled by the aqueducts such as the Pont du Gard to provide sufficient water supply to its cities. Its cities were protected by city walls such as the one in Autun. A network of administrative centers was provided by cities and served as observable symbols of power across the empire. Romans founded quite a number of European cities and towns with London and Paris being most notable (Garth, 1994). The symbolic authority power of the roman architecture led to the assent to superiority of Christianity over paganism during Constantine’s reign.
The constructions in these cities handed out Roman authority unswervingly and circuitously. For instance, administrative functions were served by a type of building referred to as basilica. Exemplification of this category of buildings was done by the Basilica Ulpia built by the Emperor Trajan at the starting of 2ndC AD. An apse, which was used as the seat of the magistrate held responsible for law special consideration was the characteristic element of these basilicas. An image of the emperor, the source of law usually accompanied the magistrate. The seated Pontius Pilate sided by images apparently; the emperor is shown by the 6thC illustration of Christ being judged. The hemispherical line on top of the scene is explained well by viewing this as an echo of the form of the apse. The concept of Roman authority the church in a Roman city placed across for the empire’s citizens. The connection with power was a significant foundation for the application of the basilica type as the normal form of the Christian church since the time of Emperor Constantine. Notably, emperors had a significant say in the construction of religious buildings for the purpose of worship and its expansion. Pagan emperors built pagan temples all over their jurisdiction areas and it was therefore apparent that Constantine as the first Christian empowered would build churches to expand Christianity. Constantine’s decision to use basilicas as churches ultimately led to construction of more basilicas during his reign.
Constantine’s conversion of public basilicas into churches led to their additional detailed decoration to increase their grander. Just as Constantine displayed his might through the marvelousness of his basilicas, other emperors before him constructed their temples to highlight their power and ability. One of the impressive architectural formations of all times is the pantheon of Hadrian. This is because it is original, completely bold, and many-layered in connections and meaning, the container of a type of immanent universality. It talks about an even broad world than that of regal Rome, and has left its stamp on architecture more than any other building. Its message consisted of fact and secrecy, earth and that above, stasis and variability pulses via the architecture of western man, in both ideas and shape, its descendants are all about. The power of its terrestrial symbolism still works irrestibly upon the guest who the overwhelming reaches of its canopied void by passing via the bronze door into the surrounding rotunda. Domed rotunda refers to a place where one can participate, emblematically of the absolute laws and hoped-for calm of the universe. There lower order there is combined with the top, the harmony of which Hadrian dreamed. A pantheon is not a sacred or worldly, but a place of nature and man, of man and the forces the referred to as gods by the ancients (Warmington, 1999).
Constantine wanted to build churches when he turned out to be the benefactor of Christianity. Note how this incentive is like earlier Roman Emperors who also gave bodily evidences to their authority and goodness by building temples. Obviously, the forms of pre-Constantinian Christian buildings such as the Dura-Europos Christian meetinghouse were unsuitable when putting into consideration the new rank of Christianity. The customary Roman temple type was obviously inappropriate when regarding the connection with pagan cults as demonstrated by the Maison Carree built during the ruling of Augustus (Warmington, 1999).
There is also an important difference between the purpose of the Roman pagan temple and a Christian background. For instance, the ceremonies and sacrifices took place generally on the outdoor in pagan practices while the temple served as the house of the cult. The treasury and cult sculpture could be also housed there. The temple was the sacrifices’ basis. The openness and comprehensive nature of pagan religious practices are reflected by the pagan temple’s exterior orientation. On the other hand, Christianity was a secrecy religion by definition, and hence required to have a clear separation between the faithful and non-faithful. This would result to an important reorientation of spiritual architecture from an exterior to the interior architecture.
An architecture that had a sense in the world of Romans was also required by Constantine and planners of his church. This was because very new forms of architecture will not be as effective as forms of architecture that carried meaning. This resulted to application of category of Roman building referred to as the basilica. Roman basilicas therefore served places for public gatherings such as law courts, army drill holes, reception rooms in regal palaces, financial centers, among others. Roman cities would frequently have a basilica as a middle public building. It was like what is currently referred to as city hall, a center of public authority. These basilicas had frequently a form of architecture referred to as an apse. This was a crescent projection normally off the rectangular building’s short walls. The apse was a location where law court resided (Peter, 2003). This was where the law was given out by the magistrate. The figure of the royal leader usually appeared adjacent to the magistrate’s seat. This undoubtedly indicated the officially permitted authority’s translation from the emperor to the magistrate (Peter, 2003). A miniature illustrating the Pilate’s judgment from a 6thC manuscript known as the Rossano Gospels is helpful to inspect.
To complete the appeal of the basilica architecture and the effectiveness of its symbolism in expanding Christianity as desired by Constantine, a look at its influence on American architecture would suffice. Thus, the spread and adaption of the basilica architecture style is in line with the expansion of Christianity across the world. According to Rolfe (2009), the Roman architecture’s tradition has had a significant influence on American architecture. For instance, numerous courthouses across America can be viewed to be concerning the Roman architecture, a particularly outstanding example in the United States Supreme Court building in Washington. It was designed by Gilbert Cass and accomplished in 1935, the center of the building can be observed as being directly based on the type of Roman Temple such as the characteristics of being elevated on a dais and approached by a formal front staircase. The freestanding columns only come out on the Supreme Court building’s front like the Roman temple. The exterior of the Supreme Court is dressed in white marble like many of the other main public buildings in Washington. The choice of mineral was deliberate to echo the power of Greek and Roman formal architecture. The middle nave is taller than the passageways in most basilicas forming a chain of windows referred to as clerestory (Garth, 1994). In the Caucasus, some basilicas especially those of Georgia and Armenia, have a middle nave only slightly higher than the two passageways and all three covered by a single inclined roof. A much darker interior is the outcome of this construction. This plan is therefore called Oriental Basilica. The church at ST Catherine’s Monastery, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna and Mt Sinai are the popular examples of churches built in basilica style. The massive Romanesque that still preserves the basilica’s essential plan emerged gradually in the early middle Ages.
It was apparently this form, which became the background of the Early Christian basilicas. Probably work started on the church that would be an authorized chair of the ST John, Bishop of Rome in the Lateran in the months of Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge war. The church was constructed on the location occupied by the barracks of his former opponents previously. The Sessorian Palace, Constantine’s roman residence also adjoined the church. This site talk clearly of the power Constantine wished to have over the church. The church was 333 1/3 Roman feet long, hence being longer than a football pitch. The dramatic revolution underwent by Christianity when it went under imperial support is suggested by this size alone.
Candles and lamps with the gold and silver furnishings
Lights and lamps are currently common objects in churches particularly Roman catholic. However, many people have been asking and questioning themselves about the origin and importance of these lights and lamps with the gold and silver furnishings in churches and temples. However, Egeria, a Spanish pilgrim, described Constantine’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem putting into consideration candles and lamps with golden and silver furnishings and their effects in church. He said that the decorations were too wonderful for words. All you can observe is gold, silk and jewels (Peter, 2003). You cannot just envision the number and clean weight of the candles, lamps, narrows and everything else they make use of for the services. They are supplementary than explanation and so is the wonderful building itself. It was built by Constantine and festooned with gold, expensive marble and medley as much as his empire could offer (Peter, 2003).
The early church at St John the Lateran was substituted by a 17th and 18thC building. The original Constantinian church is popular only via the backgrounds archeologists exposed in the 1930s. An excellent extant example of this kind of building is provided by the ancient fifth Roman basilica of Sta. Sabina. When this is compared to the Tier Basilica, you will also realize the dramatic difference that is presented by this kind of architecture to Dura Europos Christian house. The reorientation of the structure to the interior’s architecture is obvious to the exterior of Santa Sabina with its basic brick wall. The foundation of much known about Christian church architecture was formed by the early Christian basilica. Therefore, it is significant that we share a widespread vocabulary.
The early Christian basilica became the phase for the amplification of the Eucharistic liturgy with its enlarged stress on processions. Concentration was also aimed at the 4thC church to the worship of spots connected with Christian martyrs. This resulted to the creation of an option function and forms of Christian building. This kind of building is referred to as a martyrium. It is significant to view the connection back to these practices in early church when putting into consideration significant of worship of saints via the cult. Constantine specially made martyria in the Holly Land including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of Nativity in Jerusalem. The Rotunda of the Anastasis was constructed on the mark believed to be where Christ was buried hence replacing a temple that was located on that site initially. In 614, the original building was burnt by Chosroes Parviz, the Persian king. Regardless of this, it is significant to stress the influence of this building in following Christian architecture constructed on the most sacred site of Christianity. The form is concerning the characteristic Roman form of crypt of as demonstrated by the crypt constructed as section of his palace in split. The church of Santa Costanza in Rome was a crypt constructed for Constantina, daughter of Constantine.
This central plan also became the feature plan for baptisteries. The death and resurrection symbolism of the baptism’s sacrament describes the connection. The church of St Peter’s in Rome was founded by Constantine in about 321 or 322. This building, referred traditionally as Old St Peter’s to differentiate it from modern church, was highly significant in later medieval structural design. It is supposed to have constructed on the location of burial of the principal disciple of Christ, St Peter, and the first roman Bishop. Old St Peter’s is supposed to be categorized as a martyrium as opposed to community church when focusing on St Peter’s tomb in the apse. This purpose resulted to the clarification of new architectural form referred to as the transept which marks nave’s cross axis. It is significant to remember that the transept was only found during this era at the churches of St Paul and St Peter’s in Rome even though this form will be also universal in following medieval church plan.
Influence of Roman Architecture on Western Architecture
Echoes of the Roman Empire’s custom are found in cities across the western world. Countries and head of government have imitated the discrete form of Roman Architecture to endow with visual testimony on their power and authority (Rolfe, 2009). Especially good instances can be obtained in Paris. Napoleon positioned out to construct Paris to be an innovative Rome after he was crowned emperor in 1804 (Rolfe, 2009). The Arc de Triomphe, specially made in 1806 by Napoleon though not accomplished until 1836 is the most popular instance of the French borrowing of Roman formulas. Napoleon specially made a colossal detached column that was based directly on the Trajan’s column from the early 2ndC. The Vendome column topped by Napoleon’s bronze figurine dressed in a roman Emperor’s style such as the Trajan on his column. Napoleon is shown holding a globe topped by a Nike or conquest figure while standing in the classical contrapposto stance. The Laurel wreath worn by Napoleon means that he is a conquering emperor. He decided to construct a Temple of Glory to his military. The outcome was what is currently referred to as the church of the Madeleine. Pierre-Alexandre Vignon, the architect, based clearly his building on the separate form of the Roman temple.
According to Rolfe (2009), the Roman architecture’s tradition has had a significant influence on American architecture. For instance, numerous courthouses across America can be viewed to be concerning the Roman architecture, a particularly outstanding example in the United States Supreme Court building in Washington. It was designed by Gilbert Cass and accomplished in 1935, the center of the building can be observed as being directly based on the type of Roman Temple such as the characteristics of being elevated on a dais and approached by a formal front staircase. The freestanding editorials alone come out on the Supreme Court building’s front like the Roman temple. The external side of the Supreme Court is fully clad in white mineral just like a lot of the other main communal structures in Washington. The choice of mineral was deliberate to echo the power of Greek and Roman official structural design. The memoirs of Augustus explains how when Rome was transformed from a city of brick to a marble city by Augustus. The resolution to base design of courthouses in America on Roman temple is comprehensible when kept in mind that our lawful system traces its power back to the tradition of Roman law. The language of legal authority is still Latin.
According to Rodgers (1989), tombstones developed frankly from Roman forms to decorate numerous American cities. For instance, there is the Washington Square Arch in New York City derived from the tradition of Roman Triumphal Arches. Tombstone of Washington referred to as Baltimore was based undoubtedly on the facade of the Column of Trajan (Rodgers, 1989). When putting into consideration the famous location of American cities provided to equestrian figurines of great revolutionary or Civil War generals (Rolfe, 2009). I’Enfant based clearly his plans on Roman planning when he laid down the plan for Washington D.C. The Mall with its axial planning that originated from the capitol edifice down via the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is based without a doubt on the Roman fora’s design (Harries, 2004).
In general, religious had significant impact on the Roman Basilica architecture in Emperor Constantine the Great period. This is because it led to invention and development of new architectural designs. Despite the fact that architecture was in existence since long time ago, decriminalization of Christianity in Rome led to rapid development of basilicas, which later turned out to be churches. Emergence of Christianity led to emergence of new architectural method and design. With basilicas viewed as precious building s and holly places, they came up with new plan and designs of furnishing it hence improving architecture generally. However, since then, it has become unfortunate that modern societies are moving away from these ancient architectural designs and adopting new methods. This is due to increased use of technology. However, this has affected architecture negatively since ancient techniques are disappearing. Hence, I would like to call upon government and education sector to facilitated art and architecture by introducing it as a subject in education curriculum. I also call upon all people to work towards the wellbeing and success of art and architecture. All religions should take part in development of architecture, churches should uphold some of the ancient styles of construction to facilitate the rate at which development of art and architecture is taking place.
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Rodgers, S. (1989). “The Metamorphosis of Constantine.” The Classical Quarterly 39: 233–246.
Rolfe, J. (2009). Excerpta Valesiana, in vol. 3 of Rolfe’s translation of Ammianus Marcellinus’ History. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 2009.
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