1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Roman Architecture: Résumé

(Part 81)

Roman Architecture: Résumé

Roman architecture as we know it, dates only from about the Christian era, and the rapidity with which it spread from that time is something marvellous. Through nearly the whole extent of the Roman empire, through Italy, Asia Minor, Sicily, Britain, France, Syria, Africa, -- with one great exception, Egypt, -- all was Roman in mouldings, ornaments, details, the very style of carving and the construction. No matter what the country or the architect, all seem to have lost their nationality when the Roman came, and to have adopted implicitly his system of design and decoration. It has been seen that he copied the orders and much of the leading forms of his buildings from the Greeks. But he speedily added others. The apse and the circle on plan were his; so were the dome and the arch in elevation; and thus he enlarged at once the whole range of the architect’s powers, and whilst utterly disregarding the delicate refinements of the Greeks, secured a freedom of design which resulted at length in our Pointed architecture.

But great as the advance was, it seems to have been arrested just when opportunities were offered, on the grandest scale, for bringing about the noblest results. The Roman architect seems to have been unable to reach the highest effort of art, viz., to bring the whole of any grand edifice into one splendid mass, to concentrate the detailed parts into one grand whole. But in reflecting on what the Roman did not do, we must not forget that we owe to him some of the grandest forms to which we too are now accustomed.

We now come to a complete change in the structures which we have to describe. Henceforth we shall find no Forum, no public bath, theatre, temple, or house. All these forms disappear, and for nearly 700 years, until the time when the Norman castle arose, well-nigh every building of architectural merit was in some way or other ecclesiastical. But with our Christian faith there arose forms of beauty utterly unknown to the Pagan, which culminated in the glories of Lincoln and Canterbury.

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