Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: Ancient and Modern Architecture

Ancient and Modern Architecture, consisting of Views, Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Most Remarkable Edifices in the World: edited by M. Jules Gailhabaud. Series the first, Royal 4to. London, Firmin Didot et Co. 1844.

This work has been published with the praiseworthy design of offering science in a popular and inviting form. While furnishing pure and correct examples of the architectural styles of different peoples and different ages, it forms at the same time a handsome ornament even to the drawing-room table. It is particularly calculated to give wide and general views to popular readers, by leading to habits of comparison, and for this reason it is especially deserving of encouragement. The drawing is correct, and the plates are beautifully executed. It ought to be stated that the work was originally published in France, and that the plates are the works of French artists; the text, written by some of the most distinguished of the French antiquaries, has been translated into English, with the addition of a preface by professor Donaldson. The volume we have before us forms the first series, or year, and we have also received five parts of the second year, which give promise of a volume fully as interesting as the first.

The subjects in the first volume commence with the Indian temples. It is remarkable that the most durable monuments of the far east were temples, while those of the west which have lasted longest are its tombs. Several plates are devoted to the wonderful temples of Elora, excavated from the solid rock, which, although they are placed first in the series, are probably not much older than the commencement of the Christian era. They hold the position here given to them by their primeval character, rather than by their early date. The Egyptian style is illustrated by interesting details of the little temple of Ebsamboul, one of the most remarkable monuments of that singular country. From Egypt we are led to the primitive monuments of Persia, which are illustrated by the celebrated tomb of Nakshi-Rustam, and by some details from the ruins of Persepolis. There can be little doubt that the tomb of Nakshi-Rustam was the burial-place of some one of the early Persian kings, and it is supposed to be that of Darius, described by the Grecian writers.

From these eastern monuments we are brought to the primeval monuments of the west, which are here divided into Pelasgian and Celtic. One of the most remarkable examples of the former has been discovered in the small isle of Gozo near Malta, of which several views and ample details are given in the volume before us. It is interesting as furnishing a more perfect specimen of a building which appears to bear some analogy in form to the supposed circular temples left by the earlier inhabitants of our islands. The selection of Celtic monuments engraved in the present work is especially interesting to the English reader, because they are all chosen from examples in Brittany, and afford the means of comparison with similar monuments in our own island. The Celtic monuments consist entirely of unornamented stones, of colossal dimensions. A single stone, or Maen-hir, at Locmariakar, was, when unbroken, sixty-five feet in length. These monuments have always been objects of reverence among the lower orders, and they often bear marks of the superstitious worship of the peasantry in modern ages. "Near Joinville (Meuse), there is a maen-hir remarkable for a Roman inscription, at about two-thirds of its height. It consists of the words Viromarus Istatilif; Viromarus son of Istatilius, and was evidently engraved long after the erection of the monument. . . . A few maen-hirs have been found covered with rude sculptures, but these decorations were doubtless added at a later period. There is a stone of this kind near Brecknock, in Wales; it is called the maiden stone, and bears a rude carving of a man and woman in high relief. But notwithstanding all that has been said on this subject, we do not think it possible a single specimen of carving on a Celtic monument can with any certainty be attributed to the Druids; of course we do not consider as sculptures a few hues or shapeless ornaments, scarcely visible, which may be seen on some stones of that epoch." After having shewn how, in the earlier ages of Christianity, these monuments of paganism were doomed to destruction, and great numbers must have perished, the writer of this article proceeds to state the feelings with which they were subsequently consecrated to Christian purposes. "At last the epoch arrived when Christianity, become more tolerant from the fact of its triumph being no longer doubtful, condescended to appropriate the monuments of polytheism, and converted the Roman temples into churches. The lower orders had been accustomed to perform acts of devotion at the foot of the Druidical stones; so instead of throwing these down, they were sanctified and consecrated to the worship of the true God. Sometimes the maen-hir itself was hewn into the form of a cross, as one of those near Carnac; sometimes one or more crosses were cut upon them, as on that of the Mountain of Justice on the road from Auray to Carnac; at a more recent day, crosses and religious symbols were sculptured upon them in a more advanced style of art, as those on the maen-hir of Ploemeur (north coast), which can scarcely be older than the sixteenth centmy." The numerous figures of the Celtic monuments of France given in this first volume, and in the parts published of the second series, are extremely valuable.

The monuments of primeval architecture, however wonderful by their mass, or interesting by their associations, have little of real beauty and are totally deficient in purity of taste. These important qualities first present themselves in the works of the Greeks and Romans, which are here illustrated by views and details of the elegant temple of Segesta and the noble Parthenon, and of the amphitheatre of Nismes and the arch of Trajan at Benevento. We are then introduced through the Roman basilicas to the Christian architecture of the middle ages. The succeeding subjects are the basilica of St. Clement at Rome, the existence of which may be traced from the fifth century; the church of St. Vital at Ravenna, begun in the sixth century, a good example of the Byzantine style; the Catholicon, or cathedral of Athens, another early example of the same style; the church of St. Mary at Toscanella. a beautiful example of the earlier ecclesiastical architecture of Provençe; the cathedral of Bonn, a specimen of the style prevalent in Germany at the beginning of the thirteenth century; the mosque of Ibn Tûlûn at Kairo, said to have been completed in 878, a valuable specimen of Saracenic architecture; and the cathedral of Freyburgh, an imposing monument of the Gothic style as prevalent in Germany. All these form very excellent studies, and the outline will naturally be filled up by other examples in the two following volumes; for it appears by the preface that the whole work is to extend to three volumes.

This volume concludes with two specimens of modern buildings, the church of the Invalides at Paris, a work of the age of Louis XIV., and the Halle-au-Blé, or Corn Exchange, with its remarkable dome of cast-iron, executed in the earlier part of the present century.

t. wright.