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Iry Lising Ü

on 18 September 2013

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General Influences

Discussion Points
Architectural Character
Building Materials and Construction systems
Comparative Analysis
Openings / Entrances
Structural Elements

Christianity had its birth in Judaea,
an eastern province of the Roman Empire,
spread and carried by St. Peter, St. Paul, and other missionaries to Rome, as the centre of the World-Empire.

In spite of opposition and persecution,
the new religion took root and grew, till it was strong enough to become the recognized universal religion of the whole Roman Empire.

Early Christian architecture at Rome was influenced by, and was the logical outcome of;

Existing Roman architecture
modified in other parts of the Empire according to the type already recognized as suitable for the geographical situation of those countries, such as Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, and Egypt.
Geological influences may be said to have acted indirectly on Early Christian architecture for the ruins of Roman buildings often provided the quarry where materials were obtained.

This influenced the style, both as regards construction and decoration.

Columns and other architectural features, as well as fine sculptures and mosaics from older buildings, were incorporated into basilican churches of the new faith.

North Italy has the climate of the temperate region of Europe
Central Italy is genial and sunny
Southern Italy is almost tropical.

This variety of climatic conditions is sufficient to account for diversity of architectural features and treatment in the peninsula itself.

The climatic conditions in Roman provinces as Egypt, Syria, and North Africa where Christianity was established were varied, and naturally modified the style in those countries where the fiercer sun and hotter climate necessitated small windows and other Eastern features.

In all human history there is no record so striking as that of the rise of Christianity a phenomenon so outstanding as the rapidity with which it was diffused throughout the civilized world, and, not only in this period but also in all subsequent ages.

Christianity has inspired the building of some of the greatest architectural monuments.

The number of Christian communities established by the Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys round the Eastern Mediterranean, in Syria, Africa, Greece, and Italy, might lead us to expect many more ruins of Early Christian basilican churches throughout these districts.

Constantine changed the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium in A.D. 324, when the old Roman political system came to an end, and reigned as an absolute monarch till his death in A.D. 337.

Christianity suffered disabilities upon the division of the Roman Empire, which first took place in A.D. 365 when Valentinian became Emperor of the West and his brother Valens of the East.

Theodosius the Great (A.D. 379-395) reunited, for a time, the Eastern and Western Empires, and in A.D. 438 Theodosius II published his legal code, an important work on the constitutions of the Emperors from the time of Constantine.

The series of Emperors in the West came to an end in A.D. 475, and the Eastern and Western Empires were nominally reunited by Zeno, who reigned at Constantinople.

In A.D. 568 the Lombards penetrated into Italy and held the northern part for 200 years. In A.D. 800 Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope in Rome, and from this date the Empire was styled the Holy Roman Empire, a title retained till A.D. 1800.

Under Pope Gregory the Great (A.D. 590–604) Early Christian architecture, the latest phase of Roman art, gradually fell into disuse, and for the next two centuries architectural development was practically at a standstill in Europe

Even though the influence of Byzantium asserted itself, old Roman traditions were in abeyance till the time when Romanesque architecture gradually evolved.

Early Christian architecture may be taken to have lasted from about 300 to 600 AD.

The Early Christians, as Roman craftsmen, continued old Roman traditions

Utilized as far as possible the materials from Roman temples which had become useless for their original purpose for their new buildings.

Their churches, modeled on Roman basilicas, used old columns which by various devices were brought to a uniform height.

Early Christian buildings hardly have the architectural value of a style produced by the solution of constructive problems.

Basilican churches had either closely spaced columns carrying the entablature, or more widely spaced columns carrying semicircular arches.

The basilican church with three or five aisles, covered by a simple timber roof, is typical of the Early Christian style as opposed to the vaulted Byzantine church with its central circular dome placed over a square by means of pendentives and surrounded by smaller domes.

It s long perspective of oft-repeated columns which carry the eye along to the sanctuary ; a treatment which, combined with the comparatively low height of interiors, makes these churches appear longer than they really are, as is seen in S. Paolo fuori le Mura, and S. Maria Maggiore.

1. The Eastern Empire
2. The Western Empire
1. Simplicity in Design and Treatment
2. Coarseness in Execution
Early Christian Architecture is Transitional Architecture
Influenced by Roman Architecture and with no own structure
Trabeated and Arcuated
Salvaged materials from Pagan Temples
Basilicas or Roman halls of justice probably served the Early Christians as models for their churches, connecting link between buildings of pagan Classic times and those of the Romanesque period which followed.
Basilica (Gk. basilikos = kingly), was applied to a Christian church as early as the 4th century, was a peculiarly appropriate designation for buildings dedicated to the service of the King of Kings

One axis referring to Basilican Type
2. CENTRAL – Two axes referring to square plan added before the church proper.


Two types of Trusses Introduced

1. King Post Trusses
2. Queen Post Trusses



BASILICA: Typical plan.
A, D, apse
B, B’, secondary apse;
C, high altar;
G, transept;
H, nave;
J, J’, aisles
Types of Apse
1. Semi-circular (Italian)
2. Polygonal (German)
3. Square (English)
4. Compound (French)

Principle building or structure
Comparative Analysis
The Early Christians followed the basilican model for their new churches.

May also have used old Roman halls, baths, dwelling-houses, and even pagan temples as places of worship.

These were still constructed according to Roman methods of using rubble or concrete, faced with plaster, brick, or stone.

Mosaic decoration was added internally, and sometimes also externally on west facades.

Little regard was paid to external architectural effect.

Arcades, doors, and windows were either spanned by a semicircular arch

The Early Christians followed the basilican model for their new churches.

May also have used old Roman halls, baths, dwelling-houses, and even pagan temples as places of worship.

Which in nave arcades, often rested directly on the capitals without any entablatures, or were spanned by a lintel..

Timber roofs covered the central nave, and only simple forms of construction, such as king and queen post trusses, were employed.

The narrower side aisles were occasionally vaulted and the
Apse was usually domed and lined with beautiful glass mosaics, which formed a fitting background to the sanctuary .

Differ both in design and size, often taken from earlier Roman buildings. It was natural that early Christian builders should use materials and ornament of the pagan Romans.

Used Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, or Composite from ancient Roman buildings, except those in S. Paolo fuori le Mura.

The carved capitals are governed by Roman pagan precedent and sometimes by that of Byzantine, and in both the acanthus leaf forms an important part.

Coarse variations of old Roman types, and the carving, though rich in general effect, is crude ; for the technique of the craftsman had gradually declined.

Enrichments were incised on moldings in low relief, and the acanthus ornament, although still copied from the antique, became more conventional in form.

The introduction of color gave richness and glimmering mystery to interiors.

The mosaics which was the principal form of interior ornament, lined the domed apses generally represented Christ surrounded by apostles and saints with all those symbolic emblems.
Usually made of glass

Fresco painting usually in figure forms
Examples of Early Christian Churches
Plan of San Clemente, Rome
(A.D. 1084-1108)

San Clemente, Rome
(A.D. 1084-1108)
rebuilt over an earlier church, retains the original internal arrangement as well as fittings of the fifth century and shows the suitability of the basilican plan for Christian ritual and for sheltering a number of worshippers .

San Clemente, Rome (A.D. 1084-1108)

Basilican Church of St. Peter, Rome (A.D. 330)
Erected by Constantine near the site of the martyrdom of St. Peter

Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome (A.D. 432)
Built by Pope Sixtus III and is the only church of which there is evidence that it was
originally a pagan basilica, and it is one of the most typical of basilican churches.

Basilica of St Peter
Built by Constantine the Great

Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Erected by Constantine over the reputed tomb of Christ

The Church of the Nativity,
Bethlehem (A.D. 330)
Founded by Constantine over the traditional birthplace of Christ.

Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall (A.D. 380)
Was destroyed in A.D. 1823, but was rebuilt on the original design,
and is the largest and most impressive of all basilican churches.

Church of
St. Paul Outside the Wall
Largest and most impressive example of Early Christian Architecture
Baptistery Plans
Other Structures
1. BELFRY – Attached bell tower

2. CAMPANILLE – Detached bell tower
Example - Leaning Tower of Pisa

3. TOMBS - Early Christian burial up to the end of the fourth century of the Christian era took place in the Catacombs outside Rome ; for burial within the city was prohibited by law. These tombs, cut in the tuf a formation, followed the old Roman type, except that, as the Christian church did not then allow cremation, " loculi " or wall recesses were formed to receive the bodies.
- St. Constanza, Rome (A.D. 330) erected by Constantine for his daughter, but later converted into a church in A.D. 1256.
-The Tomb of Galla Placidia, Ravenna (A.D. 420) , appears to be the earliest building which is cruciform in plan.
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