Example research essay topic: Ayasofya – 5,052 words

Architecture, the practice of building design and
its resulting products; customary usage refers
only to those designs and structures that are
culturally significant. Architecture is to
building as literature is to the printed word.
Vitruvius, a 1st-century BC Roman, wrote
encyclopedically about architecture, and the
English poet Sir Henry Wotton was quoting him in
his charmingly phrased dictum: “Well building hath
three conditions: Commoditie, Firmenes, and
Delight.” More prosaically, one would say today
that architecture must satisfy its intended uses,
must be technically sound, and must convey
aesthetic meaning. But the best buildings are
often so well constructed that they outlast their
original use. They then survive not only as
beautiful objects, but as documents of the history
of cultures, achievements in architecture that
testify to the nature of the society that produced
them. These achievements are never wholly the work
of individuals. Architecture is a social art.
Architectural form is inevitably influenced by the
technologies applied, but building technology is
conservative and knowledge about it is cumulative.
Precast concrete, for instance, has not rendered
brick obsolete.

Although design and construction
have become highly sophisticated and are often
computer directed, this complex apparatus rests on
preindustrial traditions inherited from millennia
during which most structures were lived in by the
people who erected them. The technical demands on
building remain the elemental ones-to exclude
enemies, to circumvent gravity, and to avoid
discomforts caused by an excess of heat or cold or
by the intrusion of rain, wind, or vermin. This is
no trivial assignment even with the best modern
technology. The availability of suitable materials
fostered the crafts to exploit them and influenced
the shapes of buildings. Large areas of the world
were once forested, and their inhabitants
developed carpentry. Although it has become
relatively scarce, timber remains an important
building material.

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Many kinds of stone lend
themselves to building. Stone and marble were
chosen for important monuments because they are
incombustible and can be expected to endure. Stone
is also a sculptural material; stone architecture
was often integral with stone sculpture. The use
of stone has declined, however, because a number
of other materials are more amenable to industrial
use and assembly. Some regions lack both timber
and stone; their peoples used the earth itself,
tamping certain mixtures into walls or forming
them into bricks to be dried in the sun. Later
they baked these substances in kilns, producing a
range of bricks and tiles with greater durability.
Thus, early cultures used substances occurring in
their environment and invented the tools, skills,
and technologies to exploit a variety of
materials, creating a legacy that continues to
inform more industrialized methods.

Building with
stones or bricks is called masonry. The elements
cohere through sheer gravity or the use of mortar,
first composed of lime and sand. The Romans found
a natural cement that, combined with inert
substances, produced concrete. They usually faced
this with materials that would give a better
finish. In the early 19th century a truly
waterproof cement was developed, the key
ingredient of modern concrete. In the 19th century
also, steel suddenly became abundant; rolling
mills turned out shapes that could make structural
frames stronger than the traditional wooden

Moreover, steel rods could be positioned
in wet concrete so as to greatly improve the
versatility of that material, giving impetus early
in the 20th century to new forms facilitated by
reinforced concrete construction. The subsequent
profusion of aluminum and its anodized coatings
provided cladding (surfacing) material that was
lightweight and virtually maintenance free. Glass
was known in prehistory and is celebrated for its
contributions to Gothic architecture. Its quality
and availability have been enormously enhanced by
industrial processing, which has revolutionized
the exploitation of natural light and
transparency. When masonry materials are stacked
vertically, they are very stable; every part is
undergoing compression. The real problem of
construction, however, is spanning.

Ways must be
found to connect walls so as to provide a roof.
The two basic approaches to spanning are
post-and-lintel construction and arch, vault, and
dome construction. In post-and-lintel
construction, lintels, or beams, are laid
horizontally across the tops of posts, or columns;
additional horizontals span from beam to beam,
forming decks that can become roofs or be occupied
as floors. In arch, vault, and dome construction,
the spanning element is curved rather than
straight. In the flat plane of a wall, arches may
be used in rows, supported by piers or columns to
form an arcade; for roofs or ceilings, a sequence
of arches, one behind the other, may be used to
form a half-cylinder (or barrel) vault; to span
large centralized spaces, an arch may be rotated
from its peak to form a hemispherical dome (see
Arch and Vault; Dome). Post-and-lintel solutions
can be executed in various materials, but gravity
subjects the horizontal members to bending stress,
in which parts of the member are in compression
while others are in tension. Wood, steel, and
reinforced concrete are efficient as beams,
whereas masonry, because it lacks tensile
components, requires much greater bulk and weight.
Vaulting permits spanning without subjecting
material to tension; thus, it can cover large
areas with masonry or concrete.

Its outward
thrust, however, must be counteracted by abutment,
or buttressing. Trussing is an important
structural device used to achieve spans with less
weighty construction. Obviously, a frame composed
of three end-connected members cannot change its
shape, even if its joints could act as hinges.
Fortunately, however, the principle of
triangulation-attaching a horizontal tie beam to
the bottom ends of two peaked rafters-can be
extended indefinitely. Spanning systems of almost
any shape can be subdivided into triangles, the
sides of which can be made of any appropriate
material-wood, rolled steel, or tubing-and
assembled using suitable end connections. Each
separate part is then subject only to either
compressive or tensile stress. In the 18th
century, mathematicians learned to apply their
science to the behavior of structures, thus making
it possible to determine the amounts of these

This led to the development of space
frames, which are simply trusses or other elements
arrayed three-dimensionally. Advances in the art
of analyzing structural behavior resulted from the
demand in the 19th century for great civil
engineering structures: dams, bridges, and
tunnels. It is now possible to enclose space with
suspension structures-the obverse of vaulting, in
that materials are in tension-or pneumatic
structures, the skins of which are held in place
by air pressure. Sophisticated analysis is
particularly necessary in very tall structures,
because wind loads and stresses that could be
induced by earthquakes then become more important
than gravity. Architecture must also take into
account the internal functional equipment of
modern buildings. In recent decades, elaborate
systems for vertical transportation, the control
of temperature and humidity, forced ventilation,
artificial lighting, sanitation, control of fire,
and the distribution of electricity and other
services have been developed.

This has added to
the cost of construction and has increased
expectations of comfort and convenience. In modern
architectural terminology the word program denotes
the purposes for which buildings are constructed.
Certain broad purposes have always been
discernible. The noblest works-temples, churches,
mosques-celebrate the mysteries of religion and
provide assembly places where gods can be
propitiated or where the multitudes can be
instructed in interpretations of belief and can
participate in symbolic rituals. Another important
purpose has been to provide physical security:
Many of the world’s most permanent structures were
built with defense in mind. Related to defense is
the desire to create buildings that serve as
status symbols. Kings and emperors insisted on
palaces proclaiming power and wealth.

People of
privilege have always been the best clients of
designers, artists, and artisans, and in their
projects the best work of a given period is often
represented. Today large corporations,
governments, and universities play the role of
patron in a less personal way. A proliferation of
building types reflects the complexity of modern
life. More people live in mass housing and go to
work in large office buildings; they spend their
incomes in large shopping centers, send their
children to many different kinds of schools, and
when sick go to specialized hospitals and clinics.
They linger in airports on the way to distant
hotels and resorts. Each class of facility has
accumulated experiences that contribute to the
expertise needed by its designers. The attention
of clients, architects, and users is more and more
focused on the overall qualities manifested by
aggregates of buildings and parts of cities as
being more significant than individual structures.
As the total building stock grows, conserving
buildings and adapting them for changes in use
becomes more important.

See City Planning. The
aesthetic response to architecture is complex. It
involves all the issues already discussed, as well
as other, more abstract qualities. An experience
of architectural space is personal and
psychological; it differs from that of sculpture
or painting because the observer is in it. It is
affected by associations the observer may have
with the materials used and the way they have been
assembled, and by the lighting conditions.
Structural logic may or may not have been
dramatized. Elements such as windows, and their
scale and rhythm, affect the observer, as do the
interplay of geometrical form and the way space is

Movement through a sequence of spaces
has narrative force; no single point of view is
adequately descriptive. The recurrence of thematic
forms, appearing in varied guises and contexts,
contributes to unity and creates
feelings-relaxation and protection or stimulation
and awe. Perhaps the key element is proportion-the
relation of various dimensions to one another and
their relation to human scale. During the mid-19th
century, architecture became institutionalized as
a profession requiring formal preparation and
subject to codes of performance. During this
period connoisseurship-full academic training in
the history of architecture and its aesthetics-was
the designer’s most important qualification. In
every Western country the cole des Beaux-Arts in
Paris was accepted as the model for architectural

Architecture was easily separated from
engineering, which had pragmatic rather than
aesthetic goals. Yet today the profession delivers
not only aesthetic guidance but also a bewildering
array of technical services requiring many
specialized contributors. The architect strives to
maintain the position of generalist, one who can
take the long view while orchestrating the
resolution of complex interrelated issues. For the
convenience of Western readers, the architecture
of the ancient world, of the Orient, and of the
pre-Columbian Americas may be divided into two
groups: indigenous architecture, or ways of
building that appear to have developed
independently in isolated, local cultural
conditions; and classical architecture, the
systems and building methods of Greece and Rome,
which directly determined the course of Western
architecture. The oldest designed environments
stable enough to have left traces date from the
first development of cities. This region, the
greater part of modern Iraq, comprises the lower
valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Assyrian city of Khorsabad, built of clay and
brick in the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722-705
BC), was excavated as early as 1842, and much of
its general plan is known. It became the basis for
the study of Mesopotamian architecture, because
the far older cities of Babylon and Ur were not
discovered and excavated until the late 19th and
20th centuries. See Mesopotamian Art and
Architecture. Early Persian
architecture-influenced by the Greeks, with whom
the Persians were at war in the 5th century
BC-left the great royal compound of Persepolis
(518-460 BC), created by Darius the Great, and
several nearby rock-cut tombs, all north of Shraz
in Iran. See Iranian Art and Architecture. The
urban culture of Egypt also developed very early.
Its political history was more stable, however,
with strong continuity in the development and
conservation of tradition.

Also, granite,
sandstone, and limestone were available in
abundance. These circumstances, in a cultural
system conferring enormous power on rulers and
priests, made possible the erection, over a long
period, of the most awesome of the world’s ancient
monuments. Each Egyptian ruler was obsessed with
constructing a tomb for himself more impressive
and longer lasting than that of his predecessors.
Before the 4th Dynasty (begins c. 2680 BC)
Egyptian royal burial took the form of the
mastaba, an archetypal rectangular mass of
masonry. This evolved into the stepped pyramid and
finally into the fully refined pyramid, of which
the largest and best preserved are those of Khufu
(built c. 2570 BC) and Khafre (circa 2530 BC) at
Giza near Cairo.

These immense monuments testify
to the pharaohs’ vast social control and also to
the fascination of their architects with abstract,
perfect geometrical forms, a concern that
reappears frequently throughout history. Egyptians
built temples to dignify the ritual observances of
those in power and to exclude others. Thus, they
were built within walled enclosures, their great
columned halls (hypostyles) turning inward,
visible from a distance only as a sheer mass of
masonry. A hierarchical linear sequence of spaces
led to successively more privileged precincts. In
this way was born the concept of the axis, which
in the Egyptian temples was greatly extended by
avenues of sphinxes in order to intensify the
climactic experience of the approaching
participants. The temples also introduce the
monumental use of post-and-lintel construction in
stone, in which massive columns are closely spaced
and bear deep lintels.

The best-known Egyptian
temples are in the mid-Nile area in the vicinity
of the old capital, Thebes. Here are found the
great temples of Luxor, Karnak, and Deir al Bahri
(15th-12th century BC) and Idfu (3rd century BC).
See Egyptian Art and Architecture; Temple. Hindu
traditions are rich in visual symbols; the early
stone architecture of India was elaborately
carved, more like sculpture than building,
especially as the designers did not emphasize
structural systems and rarely faced the task of
enclosing large spaces. The Indian commemorative
monument takes the form of large hemispherical
mounds called stupas, like the one built from the
3rd century BC to the 1st century AD, during
Buddhist ascendancy, at Sanchi, near Bhopal in
central India. In the early period of monastery
and temple building, shrines were sculpted out of
the solid rock of cliffs. At sites such as Ellora
and Ajanta, northeast of Bombay, are great series
of these artificial caves carved over many

As the art of temple building
developed, construction by subtraction gave way to
the more conventional method of adding stones to
form a structure, always, however, with more
concern for sculptural mass than for enclosed
volume. Hindu temples are found throughout India,
especially in the south and east, which were less
dominated by the Mughal rulers. Jainism, still a
very successful cult, has its own temple tradition
and continues to build on it. See Indian Art and
Architecture. In Southeast Asia a Buddhist temple
is called a wat. The most famous of these, and
perhaps also the largest known, is Angkor Wat in
central Cambodia, built in the early 12th century
under the long-dominant Khmer dynasty.

A richly
sculptured stone complex, it rises 61 m (200 ft)
and is approached by a ceremonial bridge 183 m
(600 ft) long that spans the surrounding moat.
Buddhist architectural traditions, sometimes
coming via China, are strongly evident in Myanmar
(formerly known as Burma), Thailand, Malaysia,
Java, and Sri Lanka. The rich temples and shrines
of the Royal Palace compound in Bangkok are less
than 200 years old, testifying to that culture’s
continuing vitality. The cultures of China and
Japan have shared many features, but each has used
them according to its national temperament. The
resultant architectures are quite different from
each other in both form and purpose. China has a
traditional reverence toward ancestors; the stable
and hierarchical life of the Chinese extended
family is proverbial. It is reflected in the
formality of the Chinese house, built in
rectangular form, preferably at the northern end
of a walled courtyard entered from the south, with
auxiliary elements disposed in a symmetrical
fashion on either side of the north-south axis.
This pattern was the point of departure for more
lavish programs for mansions, monasteries,
palaces, and, eventually, whole cities.

The city
of Beijing took form over a very long time, under
various rulers. Two contiguous rectangles, the
Inner City and the newer Outer City, each embrace
several square kilometers. The Inner City contains
the Imperial City, which in turn contains the
Forbidden City, which sheltered the imperial court
and the imperial family. The entire development
adheres to symmetry along a strong north-south
avenue-the apotheosis, on a grand urban scale, of
the Chinese house. Stone, brick, tile, and timber
are available in both China and Japan. The most
characteristic architectural forms in both
countries are based on timber framing.

In China,
the wooden post carried on its top an openwork
timber structure, a kind of inverted pyramid
formed of layers of horizontal beams connected and
supported by brackets and short posts to support
the rafters and beams of a steep and heavy tile
roof. The eaves extended well beyond column lines
on cantilevers. The resulting archetype is
rectangular in plan, usually one story high, with
a prominent roof. See Chinese Art and
Architecture. The Japanese house developed
differently. The Japanese express a deep poetic
response to nature, and their houses are more
concerned with achieving a satisfying relationship
with earth, water, rocks, and trees than with
establishing a social order.

This approach is
epitomized in the Katsura Detached Palace (1st
half of the 17th century), designed and built by a
master of the tea ceremony. Its constructions
ramble in a seemingly casual way, but in reality
constitute a carefully considered sequence always
integrated with vistas to or from outdoor
features. Japan had already perfected timber
prototypes early in its history. The Ise Shrine,
on the coast southwest of Tokyo, dates from the
5th or 6th century; it is scrupulously rebuilt
every 20 years. Its principal building, within a
rectangular compound containing auxiliary
structures, is a timber treasure house elevated on
wooden posts buried in the ground and crowned by a
massive roof of thatch. Lacking both bracketing
and trussing, the ridge is supported by a beam or
ridgepole held up by fat posts at the middle of
each gabled end; the forked rafters, joining atop
the ridgepole, exert no outward thrust.

This tiny
but beautifully proportioned and crafted monument
is an excellent example of the understated
subtlety of the art of Japan. See Japanese Art and
Architecture. The nomadic North American tribes
left little permanent building, but the Pueblos of
Sonora, Mexico, and of Arizona and New Mexico did
build in stone and adobe. These cultures were
already in decline by AD 1300; a number of
impressive cliff dwellings and other villages
remain as significant monuments. See Native
Americans. The Spanish conquistador Hernn Corts
encountered the Aztecs in 1519 and within two
years had destroyed their capital city,
Tenochtitln, where Mexico City now stands.

But he
passed over the nearby center of the older
Teotihuacn culture (100 BC-AD 700), which has now
been extensively restored and excavated.
Teotihuacn contains two immense pyramids-of the
sun and of the moon-that recall those of Egypt.
They are arranged, along with other monuments and
plazas, on a north-south axis at least 3 km (2 mi)
in length, and the complex is embedded in what was
a vast city, laid out accurately in blocks. Monte
Albn, near Oaxaca de Jurez, was the center of the
Zapotec culture that flourished about the same
time. Its imposing stone structures are set around
a spacious plaza created by leveling the top of a
mountain. The Mayan civilization had existed for
2700 years when first confronted by the Spanish in
the 17th century, but its greatest building
periods fall within the 4th to the 11th century.
The Maya occupied every part of the Yucatn
Peninsula, the principal sites, in roughly the
order of their development, being Copn (Honduras),
Tikal (Guatemala), Palenque, Uxmal, Chichn Itz,
and Tulum (Mexico). The important ceremonial
monuments found in these centers are of stone;
although the enclosure of space has more emphasis
than in other pre-Columbian cultures, the Mayans
never mastered the true vault. Nevertheless, they
created impressive structures through extensive
earth moving and bold architectural sculpture
either integral with the stone or as added stucco

The so-called Governors’ Palace at
Uxmal, sited on a great artificial terrace, is a
long, horizontal building, the proportions and
ornamentation of which suggest the eye and hand of
a master designer. The Incas’ thriving empire was
centered high in the Andes of east-central Peru at
Cuzco, which flourished from about 1200 to 1533,
with other cities at nearby Sacsahuaman and Machu
Picchu. Inca architecture lacks the sculptural
genius of the Maya, but the masonry craftsmanship
is unexcelled; enormous pieces of stone were
transported over mountain terrain and fitted
together with precision, in what is called
cyclopean masonry. See Pre.Columbian Art and
Architecture. The building systems and forms of
ancient Greece and Rome are called classical
architecture. Greek contributions in architecture,
as in so much else, defy summarization.

architecture of the Roman Empire has pervaded
Western architecture for more than two millennia.
The architecture that developed on mainland Greece
(Helladic) and in the basin of the Aegean Sea
(Minoan) belongs to the Greek cultures that
preceded the arrival in about 1000 BC of the
Ionians and the Dorians. The Minoan culture
(3000-1200 BC) flourished on the island of Crete;
its principal site is the multichambered Palace of
Minos at Knossos, near present-day Irklion. On the
Pelopnnisos near Argos are the fortress-palaces of
Mycenae and Tiryns, and in Asia Minor the city of
Troy-all of them excavated by the German
archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the last
quarter of the 19th century. Mycenae and Tiryns
are believed to represent the Achaean culture, the
subject of Homer’s epic Iliad and Odyssey. See
Aegean Civilization. The Greek temple emerged as
the archetypal shrine of all time.

Unlike the
Egyptians, the Greeks put their walls inside to
protect the cella and their columns on the
outside, where they could articulate exterior
space. Perhaps for the first time, the overriding
concern is for the building seen as a beautiful
object externally, while at the same time
containing precious and sacred inner space. Greek
architects have been praised for not crushing the
viewer with overmonumentality; yet they found it
appropriate to build temples on basically the same
theme ranging in size from the tiny Temple of Nike
Apteros (427-424 BC) of about 6 by 9 m (about 20
by 30 ft) on the Athens Acropolis to the gigantic
Temple of Zeus (circa 500 BC) at Agrigento in
Sicily, which covered more than 1 hectare (more
than 2 acres). The Greeks seldom arranged their
monuments hierarchically along an axis, preferring
to site their temples to be seen from several
viewpoints in order to display the relation of
ends to sides. In successive efforts during many
centuries the Greeks modified their earlier
models. Concern for the profile of the building in
space spurred designers toward perfection in the
articulation of parts, and these parts became
intellectualized as stylobate, base, shaft,
capital, architrave, frieze, cornice, and
pediment, each representing metaphorically its
structural purpose.

Two orders developed more or
less concurrently. The Doric order predominated on
the mainland and in the western colonies. The
acknowledged Doric masterpiece is the Parthenon
(448-432 BC) crowning the Athens Acropolis (see
Parthenon). The Ionic order originated in the
cities on the islands and coasts of Asia Minor,
which were more exposed to Asian and Egyptian
influences; it featured capitals with spiral
volutes, a more slender shaft with quite different
fluting, and an elaborate and curvilinear base.
Most of the early examples are gone, but Ionic was
used inside the Propylaea (begun 437 BC) and in
the Erechtheum (begun 421 BC), both on the Athens
Acropolis. The Corinthian order, a later
development, introduced Ionic capitals elaborated
with acanthus leaves. It has the advantage of
facing equally in four directions and is therefore
more adaptable than Ionic for corners.

planning was stimulated by the need to rebuild
Dorian cities after the end (466 BC) of the
Persian Wars and again by the challenge of new
cities established (beginning 333 BC) by Alexander
the Great. The plan of Miletus in Asia Minor is an
early example of the gridiron block, and it
provides a prototype for the disposition of the
central public areas, with the significant
municipal buildings related to the major civic
open spaces. A typical Greek agora included a
temple, a council house (bouleuterion), a theater,
and gymnasiums, as well as porticoes giving shape
to the edges of the open space. Greek domestic
architecture transformed the Mycenaean megaron
(hearthroom) into the house with rooms disposed
about a small open court, or atrium, a theme later
elaborated in Italy, Spain, and North Africa. See
Greek Art and Architecture; House. Roman
architecture continued the development now
referred to as classical, but with quite different

Unlike the tenuously allied Greek
city-states, Rome became a powerful,
well-organized empire that planted its
constructions throughout the Mediterranean world,
northward into Britain, and eastward into Asia
Minor. Romans built great engineering works-roads,
canals, bridges, and aqueducts. Their masonry was
more varied; they used bricks and concrete freely,
as well as stone, marble, and mosaic. Use of the
arch and vault introduced curved forms; curved
walls produced a semicircular space, or apse, for
terminating an axis. Cylindrical and spherical
spaces became elements of design, well suited to
the grandiose rooms appropriate to the Roman
imperial scale. Barrel or tunnel vaults are
inherently limited in span, and they exert lateral

Two Roman inventions of enormous
importance overcame this. First was the dome,
inherently more stable than the barrel vault
because it is doubly curved, but also limited
because it thrusts outward circumferentially. It
was possible for Hadrian to rebuild (AD 118-28)
the Pantheon in Rome with a dome 43 m (142 ft)
above the floor, but only by encircling it with a
massive hollow ring wall 6 m (20 ft) thick that
encloses eight segments of curved units. Thus, a
dome provides for a one-room building but cannot
easily be combined with other domes to make a
larger space. The second important invention was
the groin vault, formed by the intersection of two
identical barrel vaults over a square plan. They
intersect along ellipses that go diagonally to the
corners of the square.

Because the curvature is in
more than one direction, each barrel tends to
reinforce the other. The great advantage of the
groin vault is that it can be placed on four piers
(built to receive 45 thrust), leaving the sides of
the square for windows or for continuity with
adjoining spaces. In the great Roman thermae
(baths) and basilicas (law courts and markets),
rows of square groin-vaulted bays (or units)
provided vast rooms lighted by clerestory windows
high on the long sides under the vaults. The
Romans introduced the commemorative or triumphal
arch and the colosseum or stadium. They further
developed the Greek theater and the Greek house;
many excellent examples of houses were unearthed
in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum,
towns that were buried in the violent eruption of
Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The Roman genius for
grandiose urban design is seen in the plan of
Rome, where each emperor left a new forum,
complete with basilica, temple, and other

Their plans are axially organized, but
with greater complexity than heretofore seen. The
most remarkable among the great complexes is
Hadrian’s Villa (AD 125-32) near Tivoli, which
abounds in richly inventive plan forms. The Greek
orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) were widely
adopted and further elaborated. But the Romans
ultimately trivialized them by applying them
indiscriminately, usually in the form of engaged
columns or pilasters with accompanying cornices,
to both interior and exterior walls as a form of
ornamentation. They lost in the process the
orders’ capacity to evoke a sense of the loads
being sustained in post-and-lintel construction.
See Roman Art and Architecture. Two major
architectural developments were initiated by
historic religious events.

The first occurred in
312, when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great
conferred recognition on Christianity, which led
to the development of Christian architecture. The
second, the promulgation of Islam in about 610 by
the Prophet Muhammad, spawned Islamic
architecture. Constantine the Great’s removal in
330 of the imperial capital to Byzantium, which
became Constantinople (modern Istanbul), separated
the Christian church into East and West and set in
motion two divergent architectural
developments-Early Christian and Byzantine-each
taking as its point of departure a different Roman
prototype. The term Early Christian is given to
the basilican architecture of the church prior to
the reintroduction of vaulting about the year
1000. The surviving churches in Rome that most
clearly evoke the Early Christian character are
San Clemente (with its 4th-century choir
furnishings), Sant’ Agnese Fuori le Mura (rebuilt
630 and later), and Santa Sabina (422-32). While
Byzantine architecture developed on the concept
called the central church, assembled around a
central dome like the Pantheon, the Western or
Roman church-more concerned with congregational
participation in the Mass-preferred the Roman

Early models resembled large barns, with
stone walls and timber roofs. The central part
(nave) of this rectangular structure was supported
on columns opening toward single or double
flanking aisles of lower height. The difference in
roof height permitted high windows, called
clerestory windows, in the nave walls; at the end
of the nave, opposite the entrance, was placed the
altar, backed by a large apse (also borrowed from
Rome), in which the officiating clergy were
seated. The Eastern emperor Justinian I was in
control of Ravenna during his reign (527-65). Some
of the constructions there can be considered
Byzantine, as they featured mosaic mural
compositions in Byzantine style. Two of Ravenna’s
great churches, however-Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo
(circa 520) and Sant’ Apollinare in Classe (circa
530-49)-are basilican in plan.

See Early Christian
Art and Architecture. Byzantine architecture has
its early prototypes in San Vitale (526-47) in
Ravenna and in Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus
(527) in Constantinople, both domed churches on an
octagonal plan with surrounding aisles. But it was
Justinian’s great church at Constantinople, Hagia
Sophia, or the Church of the Holy Wisdom (532-37),
that demonstrated how to place a vast dome over a
square plan. The solution was to place the dome on
pendentives, or spherical triangles, that make a
circle out of the square by rounding its corners.
The pendentive can be understood by visualizing
its geometry. A square drawn on the ground has two
circles, one circumscribed around it, the other
inscribed within it. A he ….



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