Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

Neptune for the government of Athens. On the metopes was sculptured the battle of the Centaurs with the Lapithæ; and the

frieze contained a representation of the Parathenaic festivals. Ictinus, Callocrates, and Carpion were the architects of the temple; Phidias was the artist; and its entire cost has been estimated at one and a half millions sterling. Of this building eight columns of

the eastern front, and several of the lateral colonnades, are still standing. The sculptures with which it was enriched are, with a few exceptions, utterly defaced.

The Parthenon, however, dilapidated as it is, still retains an air of inexpressible grandeur and sublimity; and it forms at once the highest part in Athens and the centre of the Acropolis.” The temple of Theseus is regarded by the same authority as one of the most noble remains of the ancient magnificence of Athens, and the most perfect, if not the most beautiful, existing specimen of Grecian architecture. It is built of Pentelic marble; the roof friezes and cornices still remain ; and so gently has the hand of time pressed upon this venerable edifice, that the first impression of the mind in beholding it, is doubt of its antiquity.

Of their numerous sculptures, the statue of Jupiter Olympus --regarded as one of the seven ancient wonders—was perhaps the most gigantic and costly. This statue was made by the famous sculptor, Phidias. It was composed of ivory, gold, and precious stones, and was seated upon a throne equally remarkable for its costliness and workmanship. The height was about 180 feet. It was placed in the innermost recess of the temple of Jupiter Olympus, at Achaia, between the cities of Elis and Pisa, where the Olympian games were observed. The statue of Minerva, executed by Phidias after the battle of Marathon, and placed near the gate of the Acropolis, was another colossal sculpture-the height, including the pedestal, being about 60 feet.

The temples, theatres, baths, monumental columns, and triumphal arches erected by the Romans, though not equal in point of taste and genius to those of Athens, were perhaps of a bolder and more gigantic description. The baths, as they now exist, are an assemblage of naked, half-dilapidated brick walls, which surprise by their huge size and the extent of ground they cover

-those of Caracalla, for example, occupying not less than twentyeight acres ! In the palmy days of Rome, these were fitted not only, as baths, but as gymnasia, reading and lecture rooms, gardens, theatres, and the like--being, as a whole, the most gigantic places of recreation ever built or known in any age or in any country. Among the numerous sacred edifices that once adorned Rome, the Pantheon, and the temples of Vesta, Peace, Fortune, and Bacchus, present extensive and very interesting remains. The former, though stripped of its external ornaments, to furnish materials to decorate the modern cathedral of St Peter's, is still incomparably the finest. It is a perfect circle of 180 feet in diameter. “Its beauty,” says Forsyth, consists in its admirable proportions; and its portico, 110 feet in length by 44 in depth, supported by sixteen Corinthian columns of white marble, has a most majestic appearance. Its portal is more than faultless : it is positively the most sublime result that was ever produced by so little architecture.”'


The great wonder of ancient Rome, however, is the Colosseum, unquestionably the most august ruin in the world, and by far the largest theatre of which we have any knowledge. It consists of a vast ellipse, the length of the longest diameter being 620, and that of the shortest 513 feet, so that it covers about five and a quarter acres of ground! The longest diameter of the arena has been variously given at from 287 to 300, and the shortest at from 180 to 190 feet; the space between the arena and the outer wall (from 160 to 167 feet) being occupied by the walls, corridors, and seats, that rose, tier above tier, from the wall round the arena nearly to the top of the outer wall. The latter, which is about 179 feet in height, consists of three rows of vaulted arches, rising one above another, exclusive of which it had, when perfect, upper works of wood. This colossal amphitheatre is said to have had seats for 87,000 spectators, and standing room for 20,000 more! Belonging to the same class of buildings were the circuses, of which Rome had at one time no fewer than fifteen. Of these the chief was the Circus Maximus, of which there are now no remains; but of whose dimensions we may judge from the statement of Pliny, that it was capable of accommodating 200,000 spectators.

The only other remains to which we can allude are those triumphal columns alike remarkable for their antiquity and workmanship. That erected in honour of the Emperor Trajan is about 130 feet high, exclusive of the pedestal. It consists of large blocks of hollow within, and so cu

is och har riously cemented, as to seem but one entire stone,

bis a spiral staircase leading to the summit, to which the light is admitted by a number of loopholes ; and the outside is

[ocr errors]


adorned with fine bas-reliefs, representing the principal actions of the emperor.

It is now inappropriately surmounted by a statue of St Peter, instead of the golden urn in which the ashes of Trajan were deposited. The Column of Antoninus Pius is higher than the preceding, but inferior in point of workmanship. The emperor's statue, which originally adorned the summit, has been succeeded by one of St Paul. The ornaments on the outside are of the same nature as those on Trajan's Pillar ; and amongst them there is one representing Jupiter Pluvius sending down rain on Antoninus's fainting army, and thunderbolts on his enemies. Of the Roman obelisks now remaining, the most beautiful is that which stands in the piazza before St Peter's, whither it was brought from the circus of Nero, after it had lain buried in ruins for many centuries. It is of one entire block of Egyptian marble, 72 feet high, 12 feet square at the base, and 8 feet at the top. Notwithstanding its immense weight (calculated at four hundred and seventy tons), it was erected on a pedestal, 30 feet high, by the celebrated architect Dominico Fontanæ, in the pontificate of Sixtus V., with vast expense and labour.


Under this head we class the more remarkable structures

which have been erected in Europe subsequent to the decay of the Roman empire. Among the earliest of these may be justly noticed the cathedral and leaning-tower of Pisa, in Italy. This cathedral is one of the most regular, beautiful, and lightsome pieces of Gothic architecture to be seen in Europe. The choir is of the finest marble, and the roof is supported by eighty columns of the same stone, each of one solid piece. The pavement is of tesselated marble; and the gates, which are of brass, are exquisitely wrought with the history of our Saviour's birth, life, and passion. The most celebrated portion, however, is the campanile or leaning-tower, which stands detached. This erection is of a round

form, and 190 feet high, entirely built of white marble. It was begun in 1174, but was not completed till about the middle of the fourteenth century. It is ascended by 230 steps, has several galleries on the outside, and is open in the interior. It stands not less than 15 feet out of the perpendicular. Some conceive this reclining position, which produces a very singular effect on the traveller, to be occasioned by a sinking of the foundation on one side, and others, to the ancient builders aiming at eccentricity in erecting this remarkable tower;


but as the observatory and baptistery, which stand in the same square, have also a slight inclination, there can be little doubt that the former is the correct opinion. The only other lofty structure known to incline so much from a perpendicular position is the leaning-tower of Saragossa, in Spain, which was erected in 1503. It is built entirely of brick, and stands in the centre of the square of San Felippo, in solitary grandeur, insulated and lofty, being ascended by a stair of 284 steps.

Among the numerous cathedrals which have been considered remarkable for their dimensions, their architecture, the richness of their decorations, and the like, that of St Peter's at Rome is, beyond all comparison, the most magnificent. The first stone was laid by Pope Julius II. in 1506, the main body of the edifice was completed in 1614, and the colonnade added in 1667. The extreme inside length of the building, which is in the form of a Greek cross, is 607 feet; the length of the transepts 445 feet; and the height from the floor to the cross, which surmounts the cupola, 458 feet. “So vast are its dimensions,” says Maclaren, “ that colossal statues and monumental groups of figures are stowed away in its aisles and recesses, without impairing the unity and simplicity of the plan, as they are in the St Paul's of London. Comparing it with the British cathedral, which, though longo intervallo, may well claim to be the second in the world, the floor of St Peter's covers about five English acres (nearly the size of the Colosseum), while that of St Paul's occupies only two acres; and the actual bulk, or entire contents of the former as compared to the latter, are as four to one. And taking into account the number and splendour of the decorations of St Peter's, we need not wonder that it is supposed to have cost, with its monuments, gilding, and embellishments, from twelve to sixteen millions sterling, whereas the cost of St Paul's did not exceed £750,000! In the interior of these two noble buildings, the difference is scarcely less striking than between one of our old barn-like meeting-houses and the most elegant of our modern Episcopal churches; but as regards the exterior, all admit that in symmetry, purity of design, and true architectural beauty, the English is superior to the Roman temple.” The extreme inside length of St Paul's is 510 feet, the length of the transepts 283, and the height to the cross 362 feet-an altitude which is greatly exceeded by the plain brick-and-mortar chimney-stalk of St Rollox chemical works at Glasgow. This very recent erection, which, with the exception of the Strasburg spire, is the highest in Europe, is a circular tower, having a diameter of 40 feet at the base, and 13) feet at top-its height to the cope-stone being 450 feet!

Of the other remarkable religious edifices of Europe, we can merely mention the following. The cathedral of Milan, next to St Peter's, the most magnificent structure in Italy, being 493 feet long, and 356 feet high to the top of the spire, and so overladen


with fretwork, carving, and statues, that in this respect it excels all other churches in the world. The number of its statues are said to be 4400. The cathedral or Duomo of Florence, begun in 1296 and finished in 1426, is about 500 feet in length, and 384 in height to the top of the cross; its cupola is said to have furnished Michael Angelo with the first idea of that of St Peter's. The well-known cathedral of Strasburg has an interior length of 378 feet, and the height of its spire 474 feet-being, if the dimensions be accurate, little less than that of the great Pyramid of Egypt. This spire is open work, and combines, with the most perfect solidity, extraordinary lightness and elegance. To these may be added the cathedrals of Sienna, Seville, Lyons, St Petersburg, York, and Westminster—the latter of which is more celebrated, perhaps, for its uses than for its architectural grandeur.

Of edifices other than religious, modern Europe can boast of none that can be compared with the palaces, labyrinths, amphitheatres, and circuses of the ancients. We are not, however, without some which may be justly regarded as curiosities in architecture. Under this head the Escurial, a celebrated palace, convent, church, and mausoleum of the kings of Spain, deserves a prominent place. It is situated about twenty-five miles northwest from Madrid, in the province of Segovia, and near to a little village of the same name. Including the monastery, church, college, library, and other buildings, it is the most magnificent structure in the kingdom, and is reckoned by the Spaniards as the eighth wonder of the world. As examples of magnificence in modern architecture, we may also mention the mosque of St Sophia at Constantinople; the royal palace at Mafra, in Portugal, erected by King John V. with a view of outrivalling the Escurial ; the kremlin of Moscow; and the palace of Versailles, which is undoubtedly the finest erection of the kind in France. With these, however, and many others, though of vast dimensions, and of great splendour, we are now too familiar to regard them as wonders or curiosities.

In imitation of the ancients, the moderns have likewise erected monuments, trophies, statues, and the like; but these, though often of exquisite workmanship, are generally of inferior dimensions. Of this class, the London Monument is one of the most remarkable. It is a column of the Doric order, erected to perpetuate the memory of the fire of London in 1666, which broke out near the place where it stands; and was begun, according to a design of Sir Christopher Wren, in 1671, and finished in 1676. It is 15 feet in diameter, and 202 feet high from the ground, and stands upon a pedestal 40 feet high, and 21 feet square. On the cap of the pedestal are four dragons, the supporters of the city arms, and between them trophies, with symbols of regality, arts, sciences, and commerce. Within is a spiral staircase of black marble, containing 345 steps, with iron rails leading to a balcony, which encompasses a cone 32

« AnteriorContinuar »