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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/62

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30
Part I.
HISTORY OF AECHITECTURE.

the whole adding very considerably to all the apparent dimensions of the interior. It would have been easy to have carried the system further, and, by increasing the number of the pillars longitudinally and the number of divisions vertically, to have added considerably to even this appearance of size; but it would then have been at the expense of simplicity and grandeur: and though the building might have looked larger, the beauty of the design would have been destroyed.

One of the most striking exemplifications of the perfection of the Gothic architects in this department of their art is shown in their employment of towers and spires. As a general rule, placing a tall building in juxtaposition with a low one exaggerates the height of the one and the lowness of the other; and as it was by no means the object of the architects to sacrifice their churches for their towers, it required all their art to raise noble spires without doing this. In the best designs they effected it by bold buttresses below, and the moment the tower got free of the building, by changing it to an octagon, and cutting it up by pinnacles, and lastly by changing its form into that of a spire, using generally smaller parts than are found in the church. By these devices they prevented the spire from competing in any way with the church. On the contrary, a spire or group of spires gave dignity and height to the whole design, without deducting from any of its dimensions.

The city of Paris contains an instructive exemplification of these doctrines—the façade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame (exclusive of the upper story of the towers), and the Arc de l'Étoile being two buildings of exactly the same dimensions; yet any one who is not aware of this fact would certainly estimate the dimensions of the cathedral as at least a third, if not a half, in excess of the other. It may be said that the arch gains in sublimity and grandeur what it loses in apparent dimensions by the simplicity of its parts. The façade of the cathedral, though far from one of the best in France, is by no means deficient in grandeur; and had it been as free from the trammels of utilitarianism as the arch, might easily have been made as simple and as grand without losing its apparent size. In the other case, by employing in the arch the principles which the Gothic architects elaborated with such pains, the a]iparent dimensions might have been increased without detracting from its solidity, and it might thus have been rendered one of the sublimest buildings in the world.

The interior of St. Peter's at Rome is an example of the neglect of these principles. Its great nave is divided into only four bays, and the proportions and ornaments of these, borrowed generally from external architecture, are so gigantic, that it is difficult to realize the true dimensions of the church, except by the study of the plan;