Saturday, 3 February 2007

Enclosures within Buildings: Early Christian Basilicas in Rome

Santa Sabina

San Lorenzo fuori le mure

San Clemente

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Four examples of the basilica type which survive in Rome.The basilica had developed out of Roman civil structures for trade and the dispensation of justice but the christian basilica internalised the language of Roman public space with the perimeter colonnades and triumphal arch. In some instances the columns would themselves have previously lined fora and other public spaces, but reiterated as an interior, with parallel rows of columns forming a public space, a nave, before a triumphal arch framing the altar in its apse, the chancel. The materials for these buildings, both structure and decoration, were provided by the spolia of pagan structures, particularly marble columns and panels. The longitudinal axis connecting the public space to the altar was then marked by a series of elements which indicated the enhanced status of each zone, exploiting the iconography of the triumphal arch to signify Christ’s victory over death.

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