Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/456

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
424
Part II.
ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE.

216 feet in length by 104. It is now called S. Martino in Cielo d'Oro, from its having been decided in the twelfth century that the other church in Classe possessed the true body of the saint to which both churches were dedicated. As will be seen by the plan, it is a perfectly regular basilica, with twenty-two pillars on each side of the nave, which is 51 feet in width. The bema is well raised, and forms a sort of incipient transept in front of the apse, and it possesses a handsome narthex with light pillars in front.

The great merit of these two basilicas, as compared with those of Rome, arises from the circumstance of Ravenna having possessed no ruined temples whose spoils could be used in the construction of new buildings. Consequently the architects, being obliged to think for themselves and design every detail, introduced a degree of harmony into their proportions utterly unknown in the Roman examples. From Woodcut No. 287, representing three arches of the nave of S. Apollinare Nuovo, it will be seen that the pillars are pleasingly spaced; their capitals, surmounted by a block representing the architrave, suffice for the support of the arches that spring from them; the triforium belt is adorned with figures, and is of pleasing proportions; and the window over each arch fills up the remaining height to the roof, without either overcrowding or leaving any space that is not easily filled up by the decorations applied. It is true the parts do not all quite harmonize, but the entire architecture of the building is an immense stride in advance of the Roman style. All this is still more apparent in Woodcut No. 288, taken from the angle where the nave joins the apse in the Apollinare in Classe, which shows a still further advance towards forming a new style out of the classical elements: a little more and the transition would be almost complete. It is still easy, however, not only to trace the derivation of every detail from the classical model, but also to see that the architect was trying to adhere to that style as far as his means and his purposes would allow.

Externally these buildings appear to have remained to the present hour almost wholly without architectural embellishment. It was considered sufficient for ornamental purposes to make the brick arches necessary for the construction slightly more prominent and important than was actually required. As if impelled by some feeling of antagonism to the practice of the heathens, the early Christians seem to have tried to make the external appearance of their buildings as unlike those of their predecessors as was possible. Whether this was the cause or not, it is certain that nothing can well be less ornamental than these exteriors; and even the narthex, which in the Apollinare in Classe afforded an excellent opportunity for embellishment, could not be less ornamental if it were the entrance to a barn instead of to a church of such richness and beauty as this in all its internal arrangements.