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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/453

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Bk. I. Ch. II.

octagons; but the most characteristic, as well as the most original, is the San Vincenzo alle Tre Fontane, shown in section and elevation in Woodcut No. 285. It so far deviates from the usual basilican

85. Half Section, half Elevation, of the Church of San Vincenzo alle Tre Fontane.
(From Gutensohn and Knapp.) Scale 50 ft. to 1 in.

arrangements as almost to deserve the appellation of Gothic. It has the same defect as all the rest—its pier arches being too low, and for which there is no excuse here—but both internally and externally it shows a uniformity of design and a desire to make every part ornamental that produces a very pleasing effect, notwithstanding that the whole is merely of brick, and that ornament is so sparingly applied as barely to prevent the building sinking into the class of mere utilitarian erections.

Among the most pleasing architectural features, if they may be so called, of these churches, are the mosaic pavements that adorn the greater number. These were always original, being designed for the buildings in which they are used, and following the arrangement of the architecture surrounding them. The patterns too are always elegant, and appropriate to the purpose; and as the colors are in like manner generally harmoniously blended, they form not only a most appropriate but most beautiful basement to the architecture.

A still more important feature was the great mosaic picture that always adorned the semi-dome of the apse, representing most generally the Saviour seated in glory surrounded by Saints, or else some scene from the life of the holy personage to whom the church was dedicated. These mosaics were generally continued down to nearly the level of the altar, and along the whole of the inner wall of the sanctuary in which the apse was situated, and as far as the triumphal arch which separated the nave from the sanctuary, at which point the mosaic blended with the frescoes that adorned the upper walls of the central nave above the arcades. All this made up an extent of polychromatic decoration which in those dark ages when few could read, the designers of these buildings seem to have considered as virtually of more importance than the architectural work to which it was attached. Any attempt to judge of the one without taking into consideration the other, would be forming an opinion on hearing but