1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Propylea

(Part 57)


The only pure Greek architectural works besides temples that remain to us, and of which we have certain information, are propylaea, choragic monuments, and theatres. The propylaeum, or propylaea, as applied to the Acropolis of Athens, is the entrance or gateway through the wall of the peribolus. It consists of a Doric hexaprostyle portico internally, with a very singular arrangement of its columns, the central intercolumniation being ditriglyph. This was done, probably, to allow a certain procession to pass, which would have been incommoded by a narrower space. Within the portico there is a deep, recess, similar to the pronaos in a temple, but without columns in antis; a wall pierced with five doorways, corresponding to the intercolumniations of the portico, close to the entrance; and beyond it is a vestibule, divided into three parts by two rows of three Ionic columns, and forming an outer portico, fronted externally by a hexaprostyle exactly similar to that on the outside. Right and left of it, and setting out about one intercolumniation of the portico from its end columns, at right angles, are two small triastyle porticoes in antis, with chambers behind them. These have been called temples, but most probably they were nothing more than porters lodges or guard-houses. The whole structure, though extremely elegant and possessing many beauties, is not a good architectural composition: the unequal intercolumniation detracts from its simplicity and harmony. The use of Ionic columns in a Doric ordinance is equally objectionable; and their elevation from the floor of the portico on insulated pedestals is even worse, though their intention is obvious; and without raising them, the ceiling might have been too low, or they must have been made taller. The uneven style of the small temples or lodges is not pleasing, even though they be taken as flank and not as front compositions; and, moreover, their entablature abuts indefinitely against the walls of the larger structure, both internally and externally, to the total destruction of the harmony of the general composition. Indeed, the unequal heights of the entablature of the greater ordinance involves a fault which would require more than all the beauties of detail and harmony of proportion to countervail, if it were not impossible to embrace them in one view.

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