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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/452

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Part II.

arrangement of the original building. It was not, however, found to be pleasing in an architectural point of view, and was not consequently again employed.

The annexed section probably represents very nearly the original

284. Capital of Sta. Pudentiana. (From Hubsch.)

form of the nave, though it has been so encrusted with modern accretions as to render it difficult to ascertain what the first form really was. The shafts of the pillars may have been borrowed from some older edifice, but the capitals were clearly designed to support arches, and must therefore be early Christian (fourth century?), and are among the most elegant and appropriate specimens of the class now extant.

In some instances, as in San Clemente, above alluded to, in San Pietro in Vincula, and Sta. Maria in Cosmedin, the colonnade is divided into spaces of three or four intercolumniations by blocks of solid masonry, which give great apparent solidity and strength to the building, but at the expense of breaking it up into compartments more than is agreeable, and these destroy that beauty of perspective so pleasing in a continuous colonnade. This defect seems to have been felt in the Santa Praxede, where three of these blocks are introduced in the length of the nave, and support each a bold arch thrown across the central aisle. The effect of this might have been most happy, as at San Miniato, near Florence; but it has been so clumsily managed in the Roman example, as to be most destructive of all beauty of proportion.

Some of the principal beauties as well as some of the most remarkable defects of these basilican churches arise from the employment of columns torn from ancient temples: where this has been done, the beauty of the marble and the exquisite sculpture of the capitals and friezes, give a richness and elegance to the whole that go far to redeem or to hide the rudeness of the building in which they are encased. But, on the other hand, the discrepancy between the pillars—Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns being sometimes used side by side—destroys all uniformity, and the fragmentary character of the entablatures they support is still more prejudicial to the continuity of the perspective, which should be the greatest charm of these churches. By degrees, the fertile quarries of ancient Rome seem to have become entirely exhausted; and as the example of St. Paul proves, the Romans in the fourth century were incapable of manufacturing even a bad imitation, and were at last forced to adopt some new plan of supporting their arcades. The church of SS. Nereo ed Achilleo is, perhaps, the most elegant example of this class, the piers being light