Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/472

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
440
Part II.
ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE.

ornaments and details, this tomb at Ravenna is not surpassed by any building of its class and age.

Though the investigation of the early history of these circular forms of churches is not so important as that of the rectangular basilicas, it is extremely interesting from the influence they had on the subsequent development of the style. In Italy it is probable that one half of the early churches were circular in plan; and one such is still generally retained attached to each cathedral as a baptistery. Except for this purpose, however, the form has generally been superseded: the rectangular being much easier to construct, more capable of extension, and altogether more appropriate to the ritual of the Christian community. In France the circular form was early absorbed into the basilica, forming the chevet or apse. In Germany its fate was much the same as in Italy, but its supersession was earlier and more complete. In England some half dozen examples are known to exist, and in Spain they have yet to be discovered.

Had the Gothic architects applied themselves to the extension and elaboration of the circular form with the same zeal and skill as was displayed in that task by their Byzantine brethren, they might probably have produced something far more beautiful than even the best of our mediƦval cathedrals; but when the Barbarians began to build, they found the square form with its straight lines simpler and easier to construct. It thus happened that, long before they became as civilized and expert as the Easterns were when they commenced the task, the Westerns had worked the rectangular form into one of considerable beauty, and had adapted it to their ritual, and their ritual to it. It thus became the sacred and appropriate form, and the circular or domical forms were consequently never allowed a fair trial in Western Europe.


Secular Buildings.

Very few remains of secular buildings in the Romanesque style are now to be found in Italy. The palace of Theodoric at Ravenna, though sadly mutilated, is perhaps the best and most perfect. In all its details it shows a close resemblance to that of Diocletian at Spalatro, but more especially so to the Porta Aurea and the most richly and least classically decorated parts of that edifice, but much intermixed with mouldings and details belonging properly to the Gothic styles, which were then on the eve of being introduced into general use.

Another building, perhaps slightly more modern, is that which is now called the Palazzo delle Torre at Turin, which still retains the architectural ordinance of the exterior of a Roman amphitheatre, but so modified by Gothic feeling that the pilasters are even more useless