Classical Comments: Notes On Moldings, The Change from Roman to Greek (by Calder Loth)

calder-loth

CLASSICAL COMMENTS
by Calder Loth

*Blog post courtesy of the Classicist Blog

Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

For this Classical Comments piece we will deal with some architectural minutiae—the transition from Roman-style moldings to Greek ones that took place in the late 18th century. Until the publication in 1762 of the first volume of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens virtually all 18th-century molding profiles in both Britain and America adhered strictly to ancient Roman versions as depicted in the Renaissance treatises of Palladio, Vignola, Scamozzi and others. For their sources these architects measured and published the examples close at hand, which were in abundance in the Roman ruins around them. High-style Greek ruins were all but inaccessible for study, Greece having succumbed to unwelcoming Ottoman rule with the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Figure 1. The Tuscan order. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture (1570) Tavernor and Schofield edition, 1997, Book 1, p. 28.

 

Using Palladio’s Four Books as a primary source, 18th-century British treatise and pattern book authors maintained the authority of Roman moldings except for their rare indulgences in Gothic and Chinese-style designs. Palladio’s plate of different versions of the Tuscan order clearly demonstrates his observation that Roman moldings were simple segments of circles, each curve having a single center point and a single radius. (Figure 1)

 

Figure 2. James Gibbs, Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture (1732), Plate XXIV.

Figure 2. James Gibbs, Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture (1732), Plate XXIV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture, a standard textbook for the Anglo-Palladian movement, James Gibbs presented a diagram defining the moldings appropriate for each of the five orders. Shown with a dotted line, his single radius for each segment is consistent with Palladio’s interpretation of Roman moldings as basic segments of circles. (Figure 2)
Figure 3. Abraham Swan, The British Architect (1745), Plate II.

Figure 3. Abraham Swan, The British Architect (1745), Plate II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with Palladio’s Tuscan, Abraham Swan’s plate of the Tuscan order reveals the straightforward character of typical Roman moldings. (Figure 3) Beginning with the cyma recta in the crown molding, each curve of the S-shaped molding has only a single radius. This pattern is followed in the bed moldings, consisting of the convex quarter-round ovolo and below it the concave, quarter-round cavetto. In the capital, the echinus takes on a quarter-round contour, and the astragal has a half-round profile. Likewise, in the base, the torus is a bold, half-round molding, providing visual support to the weight of the columns and entablature.

 

Figure 4. Second-floor mantel, Drayton Hall, Charleston, South Carolina.

Figure 4. Second-floor mantel, Drayton Hall, Charleston, South Carolina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5. William Salmon, Palladio Londinensis (Second edition, 1738), Plate XXIX (detail).

Figure 5. William Salmon, Palladio Londinensis (Second edition, 1738), Plate XXIX (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A detail of the moldings on a second-floor mantel in Drayton Hall (ca. 1750) reveals how closely its joiner adhered to the accepted rules for classical profiles. (Figure 4) Among the architectural books in John Drayton’s library, for whom Drayton Hall was built, were the Isaac Ware edition of Palladio’s The Four Books on Architecture (1738), William Salmon’s Palladio Londinensis (2nd edition, 1738), and Batty Langley’s The London Prices of Bricklayers Materials and Works (1749).[1] We can compare the mantel’s moldings with those shown on a plate in Palladio Londinensis containing similar standard Roman moldings, all likely based on moldings shown in Palladio’s Four Books. (Figure 5)
Figure 6. James Stuart & Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, Vol. 1, 1762, Chapter II, Plate VI (detail).

Figure 6. James Stuart & Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, Vol. 1, 1762, Chapter II, Plate VI (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Britons were introduced to the elegance and complexity of Greek moldings with the appearance in 1762 of the first volume of Stuart and Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens. This monumental undertaking, with its numerous engravings of plans, elevations, details, and conjectural restorations, made an indelible impression on the British architectural community and marked the birth of the Greek Revival movement. Pictured in the first volume were several plates pertaining to the Ionic temple on the Ilissus River in Athens.[2]  In a detail of the temple’s capital and entablature, the abacus has the profile of a quirked ovolo instead of the straight-sided slab typical of Roman orders. (Figure 6) A quirked ovolo is an ovolo that takes the form of an ellipse and turns inward towards the top, leaving a small space between it and the member above it. Since the curve of an ellipse is complex, requiring several radii to define it, it can take many different profiles from boldly curved to tightly compressed. Another quirked ovolo is seen supporting the taenia.

Robert Adam was among the first British architects to incorporate Greek moldings and other Grecian details in his designs. In Volume I of The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires (1778) Adam stated his partiality for Greek moldings.

The mouldings in the remaining structures of antient Rome are considerably less curvelineal than those of antient monuments of Greece. We have always given preference to the latter, and have even thought it adviseable to bend them still more in many cases, particularly in interior furnishings, where objects are near, and ought to be softened to the eye. . . [3]

Figure 7. Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires, Vol. 1, plate 59 (detail).

Figure 7. Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires, Vol. 1, plate 59 (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam employed a personalized Greek Ionic order for the exterior of London’s Lansdowne House. The detail of the order shown here is dated 1765 and was published in Adam’s Works in 1778. (Figure 7) While the abacus follows Greek precedent by being an ovolo rather than a straight-edged slab, its profile is a Roman-style ovolo. The moldings separating the frieze from  the architrave, however, incorporate what is definitely a Greek quirked ovolo supporting a fillet. The source for Adam’s Greek details was likely The Antiquities of Athens.  He also derived Greek details from engravings by Giovanni Piranesi, who published prints of Greek Ionic capitals copied from Julien-David Le Roy’s Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (1758). Piranesi worked with Adam for a time, executing some of the engravings for Works.
Figure 8. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (1806) plate 15.

Figure 8. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (1806) plate 15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston architect Asher Benjamin can be credited with being America’s earliest and most energetic promoter of Greek classicism. In the 1806 first edition of The American Builder’s Companion, Benjamin offered an interestingly curious illustration to demonstrate the visual superiority of a cornice of Greek moldings over Roman moldings. (Figure 8) He elucidates as follows:

A is a Tuscan cornice copied from Langley, [A is the dotted line] and seen at an angle of forty five degrees from the horizon, (Fig. 2) which is the angle cornices are commonly seen at. B is a modern cornice, which is only two thirds of the height. This experiment proves, that a cornice, when seen at the angle of forty five degrees, may be diminished one third of its height, and appear to the spectator to be diminished only two elevenths; and when seen at an angle of fifty degrees, (Fig. 3) which is a little nearer to the building, it may be diminished one third, and appear to be diminished one sixth . . . which will make a saving of at least one fourth of the expense, beside having so much of the height of the wall of the whole building, and at the same time have a lighter and better appearance.[4]

 Referring to Fig. 4 on that same plate, Benjamin writes:

A [the solid-line molding] is an ovolo, or quarter round, which is commonly used in the orders. The figure shows the advantage of quirked mouldings. Beside looking better, their size may be increased one third without increasing their height, as seen by B [left dotted line] ; or their height may be diminished one third, without appearing much less, as seen by C.[right dotted line][5]

Figure 9. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (Sixth edition, 1827), Plate I I [eleven] (detail).

Figure 9. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (Sixth edition, 1827), Plate I I [eleven] (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Plate eleven of the 1827 edition of The American Builder’s Companion, Benjamin illustrated several examples of quirked ovolos. (Figure 9) He noted that the molding can be part of an ellipse or a parabola. Benjamin praised Greek design ingenuity, stating:

In the Roman ovolo there is no turning inward, at the top; therefore, when the sun shines on its surface, it will not be so bright, on its upper edge, as the Grecian ovolo; nor will it cause so beautiful a line of distinction from the other moldings, with which it is combined, when it is in shadow, and when lighted by reflection.[6]

The various radii making up each molding in Benjamin’s plate are seen in the dotted lines and reveal the complex sophistication of Greek moldings.

Figure 10. Greek moldings, Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville (Loth).

Figure 10. Greek moldings, Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville (Loth).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Strickland made use of quirked ovolos on the interior of the Tennessee State Capitol (completed 1859), one of the nation’s premiere examples of Greek Revival architecture. The stone piers supporting the vaults in one of the ground-floor committee rooms are topped with sharp, finely cut ovolos. The quirk forms the dark line above the ovolos and lends definition to the composition. (Figure 10)
Figure 11. The Rules of Work of the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia (1786) Plate XVI.

Figure 11. The Rules of Work of the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia (1786) Plate XVI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 12. James Newlands, The Carpenter’s Assistant (London, undated: ca. 1850) plate LXV (detail).

Figure 12. James Newlands, The Carpenter’s Assistant (London, undated: ca. 1850) plate LXV (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can see the change in treatment of panel moldings from the 18th century to the 19th century by comparing a plate in the in the 1786 Philadelphia Carpenters’ Company Rule Book with one in James Newlands’ The Carpenter’s Assistant, (Figures 11 & 12) Though Newlands’ work is British, his illustrations are consistent with American practice starting in the early 19th century. In the Carpenters’ Company illustration, we see how typical Roman-style panel moldings are cut from the rails and stiles and that the fielded panels are sharply beveled on one face or both. Newlands’ moldings employ Greek quirked ovolos. Instead of being part of the rails and stiles, his moldings are separate members applied over the junction of the panels with the rails and stiles. Note too, the panels are not beveled. This change in panel treatment, employing applied moldings, became almost universal throughout the country in the 19th century.
Figure 13. Door jamb panel, Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, Staunton, Virginia (Loth).

Figure 13. Door jamb panel, Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, Staunton, Virginia (Loth).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of applied panel moldings is seen in a door jamb at the 1846 Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, designed by Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. Here, however, the panel moldings are a simple flattened Greek cavetto. Note the lack of beveling in the border of the panel field. (Figure 13)
Figure 14. Mantel detail, Annandale, Buckingham County, Virginia (Virginia Department of Historic Resources).

Figure 14. Mantel detail, Annandale, Buckingham County, Virginia (Virginia Department of Historic Resources).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The vigorous beauty of Greek moldings is evident in the mantel shelf of Annandale, an 1840s farmhouse in central Virginia.  The sharp edges of the quirked ovolos in the shelf board and bed moldings are typical of the period. Such profiles required carpenters to acquire special blades for their planes. (Figure 14)
Figure 15. Mantel detail, Glen Maury, Buena Vista, Virginia (Loth).

Figure 15. Mantel detail, Glen Maury, Buena Vista, Virginia (Loth).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 16. Minard Lafever, The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833) Plate 53.

Figure 16. Minard Lafever, The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833) Plate 53.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some rural Greek Revival houses it is not unusual to see an assertive series of sharply projecting quirked ovolos forming a mantel’s bed moldings. A characteristic example of this ambitious treatment is found in Glen Maury, an 1831 plantation house in Buena Vista, Virginia. (Figure 15) Although it’s tempting to assume this is the product of a craftsman’s overzealous imagination, it’s more likely that these moldings were inspired by illustrations of arrises found below the echinus on the typical Greek Doric capital. We see these arrises on a detail of the Doric order published by the New York architect Minard Lafever in The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833), one of many American design books promoting the Grecian style. (Figure 16) In his preface, Lafever acknowledged his source: “Messrs. Stuart and Revett of London; from whose highly valuable and popular work entitled ‘The Antiquities of Athens,’ I have borrowed the article relating to the ancient Orders of Architecture.”[7]

Although Greek moldings continued in use into the third quarter of the 19th century, they soon passed out of fashion in favor of more complex Italianate and Gothic-style moldings. They all but disappeared from use in the early 20th century with the widespread popularity of the Colonial Revival movement, which brought about a resurgence of Roman moldings imitating 18th-century practice. Nevertheless, following Asher Benjamin’s observations, we should not discount the value of Greek moldings for adding a distinctive aesthetic quality to contemporary classical design.


[1] Partricia Ann Lowe, Volumes that Speak: The Architectural Books of Drayton Library Catalog and the Design of Drayton Hall (Clemson University and the College of Charleston Master’s Thesis. May, 2010).
[2]
The tiny temple has since been destroyed.
[3]
Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam; (Dover Publications, 2006) p. 6.
[4]
Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (Boston, 1806) p. 29.
[5]
Benjamin, p. 29.
[6]
Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (sixth edition; Boston, 1827) p. 20.
[7]
Minard Lafever, The Modern Builder’s Guide, p. 3-4.

 

 

 

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Classical Comments: Monumental Church (By Calder Loth – ICAA)

calder-loth-imgBy Calder Loth
Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and a member of the
Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

Courtesy of: the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art  blog.classicist.org/

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Figure 1. Monumental Church, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

For this month’s Classical Comments essay, I am departing from the usual pattern of discussing a specific architectural feature or type and am devoting the space to a single building. I have selected Richmond’s Monumental Church not to promote an important historic landmark, but to explore the circumstances that can affect a building’s form and character. Monumental Church is also an excellent example for illustrating the use of symbolism to make a work of architecture meaningful. Too often we fail to appreciate the existence of the amazing repertoire of traditional symbols that we can draw from to lend expression and instruction to a design.

Monumental Church owes its existence to a tragedy. On the evening of December 26, 1811, many members of Richmond’s society were attending a performance in a theater originally on the site. A fire broke out in the second act, destroying the theater and killing seventy-two of the audience, including the Governor. Shock at the loss of life moved Richmond citizens to plan a suitable memorial. Following two days of mourning, the citizens of Richmond and the state resolved to erect a church on the theater site as a permanent functioning monument to the calamity. The competition for the design was won by the thirty-one-year-old Robert Mills, who was then employed in the Philadelphia office of Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

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Figure 2. Monumental Church, William Goodacre engraving, 1812 (Virginia Historical Society)

Prior to working for Latrobe, Mills’ architectural proficiency had been shaped by two mentors: James Hoban and Thomas Jefferson. Mills became an apprentice to Hoban while Hoban was overseeing the construction of the White House. More significantly, Mills served as a draftsman for Jefferson, producing ink-and-watercolor drawings of Monticello and a rotunda house for him around 1803. During that time, Mills had access to Jefferson’s extensive architectural library. Unfortunately, Mills’ drawings for Monumental Church do not survive, but we have a record of the ambitious original concept in an 1812 engraving by William Goodacre. (Figure 2) The Goodacre image shows a domed auditorium church fronted by a porch-like portico surmounted by a sculpted figure of mourning. An elaborate, multi-tier steeple rises from the rear of the church. The steeple and the portico sculpture were eliminated from the final design.

As built, the church, nevertheless, can only be described as Avant-guard—a structure unlike anything ever before seen in Virginia, much less the rest of the country. In many ways, it is a synthesis of ideas learned from both Jefferson and Latrobe. From Jefferson, Mills gained an appreciation for domes and octagons, forms that intrigued Jefferson and informed many of his designs. Monumental Church’s saucer dome employs the de L’Orme construction method, which consists of laminated wooden ribs, a system that Jefferson used on both Monticello and the Rotunda at University of Virginia.[i] From Latrobe, Mills was introduced to the use of the newly fashionable Greek orders and details, as well as to non-canonical interpretations of classical moldings, primarily thin Grecian-type moldings in the inventive style of Sir John Soane.

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Figure 3. Monumental Church portico (Loth)

Completed in 1814, the building has two distinct sections: the memorial and the church. The memorial is the front portico, expressed as a square shrine-like porch or reliquary sheltering the marble monument to those lost in the fire. The building’s main portion, the domed octagon, is the church, with side entrances framed by diastyle porticos.[ii] Instead of the sculpture shown in the Goodacre engraving, Mills applied a simple pediment defined by thin moldings on the raking angles and acroteria or “ears” at the ends. A long shallow panel is the only decoration in the tympanum. (Figure 3) With its ears, the pediment (and also the window lintels), echoes the form of the lids of Roman and Greek cinerary boxes, or containers for cremated remains. This form is more explicitly used on the interior as we shall see.

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Figure 4. Doric of the Temple of Apollo at Delos, The Antiquities of Athens, Vol. III: Chapter X, Plate 1

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Figure 5. Portico columns, Monumental Church (Loth)

The order used for the columns of the front and side porticos is based on the Doric of the Temple of Apollo on the Island of Delos as shown in Volume III of Stuart and Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens (1795).[iii] This order’s distinguishing feature is the column’s smooth shaft, with fluting employed in short sections at top and bottom. Stuart and Revett conjectured that the main part of the shaft was left plain because it was covered with tapestry during ceremonies. (Figures 4 & 5) Most authorities now believe that the columns were simply unfinished, and that full fluting of the shaft was intended but never accomplished. Nevertheless, the distinctive appearance of the columns has inspired countless imitations on Greek Revival buildings.[iv] We might speculate that the unfinished character of the columns on Monumental Church may have been an intended reference to the unfinished lives of those who perished in the fire.

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Figure 6. Portico frieze detail, Monumental Church (Loth)

The church’s theme of mourning is continued in the portico frieze through the series of bas-reliefs of lachrymatory urns. (Figure 6) These are representations of the small glass vessels usually found in ancient Greek and Roman tombs, vessels into which mourners dropped their tears. The term derives from licrima, the Latin word for tear. Lachrymatory urns are normally in the shape of a small flask with a narrow neck and wide mouth for catching the tears.

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Figure 7. Monumental Church monument (Loth)

Sheltered by the portico is the marble monument inscribed with the names of the seventy-two Richmonders who perished in the fire. With its sharply sloping sides and deep cove cornice, the monument is one of the nation’s earliest structures to exhibit an Egyptian influence. (Figure 7) The Egyptian reference is heightened by the bas-relief of the winged sun disk in the cove cornice. In Egyptian mythology, the winged sun disk is a symbol of Ra, the sun god, believed by the Egyptians to be the Sun of Righteousness having healing in his wings, a title later adapted and modified by the Christians. [v]

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Figure 8. Monument urn (Loth)

Symbolism abounds on the urn topping the monument. (Figure 8) The urn is in the form of an ancient cinerary urn, also a receptacle for human ashes. The flame issuing from the lid denotes the renewal of life. The downturned flaming torches on either side are ancient symbols of death, denoting the snuffing out of the flame of life. On the face of the urn we see a winged hourglass, a reminder that life is of limited time and speeds by quickly. It is encircled by a wreath of cypress branches, also a symbol of mourning. The theme of grief is reinforced by the two sculpted draped heads with their downcast eyes. The original marble monument and urn suffered extensive deterioration over the years resulting in serious loss of aesthetic and structural integrity. With the use of laser scans, an exact replica was crafted by the firm of S. McConnell & Sons of Lilkeel, Ireland and installed in place of the original in 2004.

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Figure 9. Monumental Church interior, view to apse (Loth)

Entering the church through the front portico, we are struck by the horseshoe-shaped galleries enveloping the space and focusing on the apse. (Figure 9) The apse is an acoustical as well as architectural feature meant to project the sound from the pulpit. The arrangement of the room is defined as an auditory or auditorium-form church, which is a pulpit-centered unified space. This form was favored by 19th-century Protestant denominations since the high point of the service was the sermon. Hence, it was important for the congregation to see and hear the preacher clearly. Monumental’s original wineglass-shaped pulpit that towered above the reading desk was removed in a late 19th-century alteration.

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Figure 10. Monumental Church interior, view to entrance (Loth)

Looking from the apse towards the entrance, we see an intriguing optical illusion, created by placing the saucer dome on an octagonal base. The thin moldings of the dome’s base glide over the octagon’s reentrant angles forming shadow pendentives. In addition, the effect of the sweeping curved shadows makes the flat walls of the octagon appear as convex curves. (Figure 10) The interior receives additional light from the ring of shallow windows in the dome’s lantern.

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Figure 11. Monumental Church, apse column capital (Loth)

More symbols of death and mourning are displayed in the capitals of the two Ionic columns flanking the apse. (Figure 11) Instead of the normal channels between the volutes, Mills placed carved drapery swags, a motif recalling the drapery swags used to ornament catafalques and hearses. As noted above, the downturned torches, seen in the capital’s neck are ancient symbols of death. The stars, on the other hand, are symbols of heaven and eternity, reminding us of the Christian belief of the promise of eternal life after death. The leaves and buds in the balusters (sides of the volutes) are stylized versions of the Mediterranean laurel, an ancient symbol of victory and sometime symbol of eternity. Topping the capital is a modified cinerary box lid with anthemions ornamenting the triangle

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Figure 12. Monumental Church, gallery detail (Loth)

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Figure 13. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates cresting, Antiquities of Athens, Vol. 1: Chapter IV. Plate VI (1762) [detail]

Mills’ creativity is particularly evident in the gallery columns as well as in the entablature blocks and railing pedestals above each column. (Figure 12) The columns are thin versions of the Delos Doric seen on the exterior, with short sections of fluting at the bottoms and tops of the shafts. The capitals are a Mills invention, consisting of a series of bands below a flattened echinus and an abacus in the form of a cinerary box lid. The entablature block above the capital is a unique composition. A patera, representing the shallow dishes used in the ancient ceremonies of sacrifice, ornaments the frieze. Any symbolism inherent in the curved motif in the architrave is undetermined. Individual too are the three bold dentils and the complex series of compressed moldings forming the cornice. The shallow recessed Gothic panel in the pedestal may be a reference to Christianity. However, the anthemion motif in the ornament atop the pedestal is taken from the cresting of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates as illustrated in The Antiquities of Athens. (Figure 13)

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Figure 14. Monumental Church, west doorframe detail (Loth)

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Figure 15. Monumental Church, west stair vestibule (Loth)

Similar creativity and imagination is exhibited in the doorframes leading to the side vestibules and the gallery stairs. (Figure 14) Here the classical vocabulary has been abstracted to the degree that it resembles Art Deco ornament of the mid-20th century. With their sinewy lines the double stairs in each vestibule are masterpieces of design and construction. Each flight winds up the curved walls of the vestibule to a landing at the top. (Figure 15)

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Figure 16. Monumental Church, crypt vault (Loth)

We must venture in the crypt to see the final piece of Monumental Church’s poignant history. Towards the crypt’s southern end, but not quite beneath the portico, is a large brick vault containing the ashes of those who perished in the fire, whose remains could not be identified. (Figure 16) X-ray examination of the vault indicated that the ashes are interred in two large wooden boxes.

Monumental Church was originally intended to be a non-denominational shrine available for community use. Practicality, however, dictated that it be an Episcopal parish church instead, in which capacity it served until 1965. The church is now owned by the Historic Richmond Foundation and has been undergoing long-term restoration under the foundation’s direction.[vi] The architectural lesson of Monumental Church is that its design is an effective (and indeed early) demonstration of the Miesian dictum that form follows function. In this case, however, its architect utilized traditional forms—an octagon, a dome, and porticoes, to create a distinctive composition for accommodating a particular programmatic use and a special symbolic function. He gave expression to the composition by employing various ancient symbols to both convey and memorialize its tragic history. Finally, using a fertile imagination, he created unique compositions of details that provoke lasting reflection.


[i] Detailed illustrations of the rib construction were published in Philibert de l’Orme’s Nouvelles Inventions pour dien bastir et a petiz frais (1561).
[ii]
The portico is executed in Aquia Creek sandstone. The main body of the church is brick covered with stucco. The whole structure was originally covered with limewash for a uniform appearance. The portico stone was cleaned of later coatings in the mid-20th century, exposing the stone. The current limewash coating is a recent treatment and is part of the ongoing restoration.
[iii]
Stuart and Revett made their two engravings of this order from two columns and other fragments found among ruins of what was then an uninhabited Island. They speculated that the columns belonged to a temple dedicated to Apollo. Subsequent authorities have maintained that identity.
[iv]
It is uncertain whether Mills’ model for the order was Stuart and Revett’s depiction or a similar illustration published in Julien-David Le Roy’s Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grece (1758). Le Roy’s work was a primary source for Mills’ mentor Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and the work was also owned by Mills’s other mentor Thomas Jefferson. Mills could have had access to the book from either Latrobe or Jefferson. Jefferson owned volume 1 of Antiquities of Athens but not volume III.
[v]
Shira.net
[vi]
Like nearly all churches, Monumental Church evolved in appearance through alterations and additions over the years. In the late 19th-century, the original apse arrangement was changed to accommodate the more ceremonial Episcopal liturgy. Golden oak choir stalls, priest’s chairs and desks, and altar were installed. Stained-glass windows replaced the original clear glass panes. A Sunday school wing was added to east side. Following the church’s deconsecrated, it was determined that Mills’ original scheme was more important than the later changes, and the long-term restoration of its original design was begun.