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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/467

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Bk. I. Ch. III.
435
CIRCULAR CHURCHES

octagonal wall, whereas the Roman example has in addition two curvilinear wings, enclosing its sides. There are also some minor alterations, such as the introduction of galleries, and the prominence given to the choir; but still nothing at all to justify the title of Byzantine, usually applied to this church. It is in reality a bad copy from a building in Rome, and very unlike any building in the East we are acquainted with, though no doubt there are certain forms of similarity, as indeed must be found in all the buildings of the age before the final separation of the two churches took place.

As will be seen from the annexed plan, the diameter of the external octagon is 110 ft., of the internal one only 50, so that the dome here is

301. Plan of St. Vitale, Ravenna. (From Isabelle.) Scale 100 ft. to 1 in.

a third less than that of its prototype, and so completely had the architects degenerated from the dome-builders of Rome, that instead of the scientific construction of the Minerva Medica, this is wholly composed of earthen pots, and protected by a wooden roof. It is said these pots have been used in the East for domes and roofs from the earliest ages, that they form as stable and as permanent a mode of covering as stone itself, and that they might with facility be so used as to surpass the heavier material for this purpose. But such is not the case here; and though it appears invidious to blame that which has stood the wear and tear of thirteen centuries, and has witnessed the fall of so many of its younger and more aspiring rivals, the

302. Section of St. Vitale, Ravenna. (From Isabelle.) Scale 50 ft. to 1 in.

construction of this dome serves rather to show how excellent the expedient is, than the method by which it can best be applied.