Early Christian architecture

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An integral part of the architecture of the Roman Empire, the most important buildings are of three types: churches, commemorative structures, and covered cemeteries. The exemplar of churches after the recognition of Christianity in C4 was the Roman basilica, of which San Pietro, Rome (c. 320–30—demolished early C16), was an influential example because seen by countless pilgrims. The form reached its standard in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome (423–40), with the clerestoreyed nave, lean-to aisles, and apsidal end. The old St Peter's was built over a cemetery, and its funereal character was emphasized by the large mausolea attached to the tall transeptal structure on one side. Another circular mausoleum, that of Santa Costanza, Rome (c.350), is a clerestoreyed domed structure surrounded by an annular barrel-vault. Originally it was attached to the covered cemetery of Santa Agnese (c.340). Early Christian basilicas had nave-arcades incorporating columns taken from early buildings, or even nave-colonnades where the entablatures were recycled. Openings were almost invariably semicircular-headed.

Aspects of Early Christian architecture were revived in C19, especially as part of the Rundbogenstil pioneered by von Klenze, Gärtner, and others. Good examples can be found in England too (e.g. Wild's Christ Church, Streatham Hill, London (1840–2), and Losh's St Mary, Wreay, Cumb. (begun 1842).

Colvin (1991);Krautheimer (1986);Mango (1986)Jane Turner (1996)

Subjects: Architecture.

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