By the simplest definition, architecture is the design of buildings, executed by architects. However, it is more. It is the expression of thought in building. It is not simply construction, the piling of stones or the spanning of spaces with steel girders. It is the intelligent creation of forms and spaces that in themselves express an idea.
Construction becomes intelligent and thus architectural when it is efficient and immediately appears so. If it is the simplest and most advanced type of structure, solving the task set for it, and conceivable in its age, construction will have the quality of perfect appropriateness and will also be the expression of the mechanical knowledge of a culture. It becomes intelligent also when it is made to emphasize its simplicity and to express its system of support so that both can be immediately understood.
Construction, however, only became a basic factor in architectural thought during the Roman era at the time of the birth of Christ. Before then architecture had been almost exclusively symbolic in form and decoration. The symbols that were materialized in the Egyptian pyramid, Sumerian ziggurat, Hindu stupa, and Japanese pagoda were the most powerful expression of each culture's religious beliefs. They were designed according to the most complex and all-embracing symbolic systems; their shape, decoration, dimensions, and orientation to the sun were the result of the most profound meditation. But they enclosed little or no internal space. They were works of architecture but not of construction.
When intelligent, permanent construction enclosing space replaced the symbolic architecture of primitive cultures, a new type of architectural art appeared. It became possible for a whole city to become a work of architecture with each contributing element--places of worship, government institutions, markets, houses--enclosed in an appropriate structure and decorated to express its individual character.
The cities of Rome, Ravenna, Constantinople, and Isfahan became possible with their colorful domes, cavernous markets, and decorated palaces. Their interior spaces also became symbolic in their shape and decoration as seen in the Islamic mosque and in Byzantine and Gothic churches.
With the Renaissance in Europe around 1400, there came a new sort of architecture in which mass and interior space were manipulated to produce aesthetically pleasing pictures like those in paintings and sculptures. The elaborate symbolism of primitive and medieval art disappeared. In its place was a purely human-centered handling of form and space to produce visual delight.
The demystification of architecture during the Renaissance prepared the way for modern design. In the 19th century the picturesque, the design of both buildings and their landscape surroundings as if they were pictures, evolved.
But the simultaneous evolution of society, science, and industry collided with this view of architecture, suggesting the very different idea that building could be an important instrument of social betterment if made healthy and efficient. Thus it has come about that next to the theater-set architecture of New York City's Fifth Avenue there is that of the hospital-like housing projects, which has left many architects with the difficult choice between working as decorative artists or as social planners.
Mankind first used indestructible materials to erect large structures not to live in but to worship their gods. From the beginning of settled habitation about 10,000 BC to the rise of the Roman Empire, houses were built of the flimsiest materials and were not expected to outlast the lives of their inhabitants. A few early civilizations--especially the Assyrians, Persians, and Minoans--erected monumental palaces, but these were the residences of priest-kings. Architecture originated in the religious impulse and thus was originally symbolic.
The earliest permanent constructions consist of huge stones, roughly shaped, arranged in lines or circles. The one at Stonehenge in England is the best known of these complexes. The stones were set up by several successive peoples inhabiting the region between 3000 and 1600 BC. They are grouped in four concentric circles, two of which are formed by paired uprights bearing huge capstones.
Because they are arranged to align with the sun at the summer and winter solstices, it is generally assumed that the complex served as a monumental calendar in which rites were performed on significant days of the year. Similar circles of stones were set up elsewhere in England, at Avebury most particularly, and in France at Carnac. Clusters of stones spanned by roof slabs, called dolmens, and single stones that stood on end, called menhirs, were also erected in large numbers, especially in Europe.
Egypt. The Egyptian pyramids were far more sophisticated and larger in size but similar symbolically: sacred stones. The fertile Nile Valley permitted civilization to develop there around 3000 BC ruled by god-kings, the pharaohs. The necessity of carrying out extensive irrigation projects meant that the Egyptians were organized to build on a large scale. Furthermore, the high limestone cliffs hemming in the valley provided an inexhaustible supply of fine building stone.
Royal tombs were built along the edges of cliffs, at first as low rectangular mastabas, then as tall four-sided pyramids. The earliest of the pyramids was that of the pharaoh Zoser erected at Saqqara about 2700-2600 BC. Three huge pyramids built at Giza, near Cairo, about 2500 BC were the culmination of the series (see Pyramids). The largest of these, the great pyramid of the pharaoh Cheops, measured 756 feet (230 meters) on a side at its base and was 481 feet (147 meters) high. In spite of its huge size, however, it enclosed no space other than a narrow passage leading to a small tomb chamber in its center. It was constructed of limestone blocks weighing between 3 and 15 tons that were simply piled on top of each other.
The Egyptians worshiped the sun as their chief god, often represented by a symbolic pyramidal stone, or ben-ben. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the sun was a triangle divided into three zones horizontally--red, white, and yellow. It would seem to represent the sun (the top, or yellow zone) spreading its rays upon the Earth (the bottom, or red zone). The pyramids at Giza were once faced in a smooth coating of white marble with a band of pink at the base and a pyramidal block of pure gold at the top.
It has been concluded that the pyramids themselves were huge ben-bens, symbols of the sun and its rays reaching down to Earth. When the pharaoh died he was said to ascend the sun's rays to join his father, the sun-god. Thus the pyramid would also seem to have been the symbolic staircase up which its occupant, the pharaoh, would climb to reach heaven. What breathtaking symbols these must have been lined up on the west rim of the Nile Valley!
To the east of Egypt another civilization appeared about 3000 BC, that of the Sumerians in the river valley of the Tigris and Euphrates called Mesopotamia, or the "land between the rivers." This too was a highly organized culture capable of carrying out large irrigation and construction projects. But it differed from Egypt in two respects: it had no stone with which to build, only river clay, so that its architecture is entirely in brick; and it had no single divine ruler but was divided into a number of independent city-states and worshiped unseen gods.
Sumeria. The Sumerian temple was a small brick house that the god was supposed to visit periodically. It was ornamented so as to recall the reed houses built by the earliest Sumerians in the valley. This house, however, was set on a brick platform, which became larger and taller as time progressed until the platform at Ur (built around 2100 BC) was 150 by 200 feet (45 by 60 meters) and 75 feet (23 meters) high. These Mesopotamian temple platforms are called ziggurats, a word derived from the Assyrian ziqquratu, meaning "high." They were symbols in themselves; the ziggurat at Ur was planted with trees to make it represent a mountain. There the god visited Earth, and the priests climbed to its top to worship.
The ziggurat continued as the essential temple form of Mesopotamia during the later Assyrian and Babylonian eras. In these later times it became taller and more towerlike, perhaps with a spiral path leading up to the temple at the top. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the main temple of Babylon, the famous Tower of Babel, was such a tower divided into seven diminishing stages, each a different color: white, black, purple, blue, orange, silver, and gold.
India. A third civilization emerged about 300 BC east of Mesopotamia, beyond the Iranian plateau, in the Indus River valley of India. From it evolved the Hindu culture of India that produced another characteristic temple form, the stupa. The earliest example surviving in its entirety is that at Sanchi, erected during the 1st century BC. More is known about the symbolism of the stupa because the Hindu religion has survived to the present day, while the religions of the ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians have not.
The Hindu stupa again symbolized a sacred mountain. It was an ovoid mass of stone blocks that became increasingly tall as time progressed. Here, however, the deity was placed deep inside a small, unlit womb chamber at its core, directly under the structure's highest peak. During ceremonies a statue of the god placed there was believed to be inhabited by the deity. These statues had originally been placed in rock-cut caves deep in the faces of cliffs, and it was only after many centuries that the Hindu place of worship emerged from the Earth and became a freestanding construction symbolizing the mountain in which it had formerly been excavated.
As in the case of the pyramid and the ziggurat, there is very little space inside a stupa. But its exterior was richly carved in decorative patterns derived from the wooden construction of palaces and covered with masses of statues and reliefs depicting religious scenes. These statues were placed to mark the hieratic system of the Hindu universe so that around the tiny womb chamber and its sacred image there spread a series of secondary blocks, courtyards, and avenues. At Angkor Wat, erected in Cambodia in the 12th century AD, these grew to huge size and complexity
Japan. Angkor Wat was a Buddhist rather than a Hindu shrine. In the early centuries of the Christian Era, Buddhism spread eastward from India across China, becoming established in Japan by AD 600. There the Indian stupa reappeared in the similar but greatly transformed pagoda. The earliest and most perfect surviving example of the pagoda is that in the monastery of Horyuji, which was erected in 607. Built in 711, the pagoda is in wood, the primary material of construction in Japan. Its basic form is that of a house, repeated five times vertically. The spreading roof of each tier displays the characteristic construction in posts and lintels joined by elaborate brackets perfected in the houses and palaces of China and Japan. There is little internal space. A relic of the Buddha is set in the stone base of the tall pole that rises the entire height of the pagoda, emerging at the peak as a finial. Located around the base of the pole are four statues that face the four cardinal points.
Buddhism in Japan also emphasized other, newer architectural forms, most particularly the image hall. At Horyuji this is called the golden hall and is set beside the pagoda in the monastic courtyard to share its ritual emphasis. The golden hall encloses a large space, like a palace hall, but is occupied principally by cult statues and painted screens. Religious ceremonies took place chiefly out-of-doors in the courtyard. The wooden palace construction of the pagoda is repeated in the golden hall and in all the monastic buildings, producing a lighter and more habitable environment than the stone masses of Sanchi and Angkor Wat.
Greece. The greatest of the early religious types is the Greek temple, which evolved during the thousand years before the birth of Jesus. Until the age of Alexander the Great, the Greeks erected permanent stone buildings almost exclusively for religious monuments, like the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Hindus. Their temples were not large enclosures of space but statue chambers containing a god's sacred image. These chambers were accessible only to priests. Yet the Greek temple has always been seen as fundamentally distinct from and superior to most other early religious types, partly because of the simplicity of its form, partly because of the exquisite refinement of the best examples (especially the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens), and partly because it is seen to reflect the emergence in Greece of a rational, philosophical approach to art that replaced earlier belief systems.
There are two types of Greek temple: the Ionic, evolved in Ionia on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea, and the Doric, evolved on the western shore. The two systems are called orders because their parts and proportions are ordered and coordinated. Their forms must originally have had symbolic meaning. Both show the same basic plan: a central windowless statue chamber, the cella; a porch, usually with two columns in front; and a ring of columns, the peristyle, around the four sides. The cella and porch seem to have been the original elements of the temple. They reproduce the primitive Greek house so that the god is symbolically depicted as living like a chief. The temple is usually set on a natural hill, or acropolis, but has no artificial platform beyond a three-step foundation, or stylobate. The peristyle was a later addition, apparently borrowed from the Egyptians, evidently to enlarge and ornament the symbolic god-house inside. A low, sloping roof tops the building with gables, called pediments, on the short sides.
The Ionic and Doric temples differ in their details. The Doric temple is simple in plan, the Ionic larger with a double peristyle. The columns differ: the Doric has a dish-shaped top, or capital, and no base, while the Ionic has paired volutes at its capital and carved rings at its base. The lintels, or entablatures, spanning the columns are also distinct, the Doric having a row of projecting blocks, or triglyphs, between sculpted metopes. The Ionic elements are smaller and taller, the Doric forms shorter and broader.
What is remarkable and unique about the Greek temple is the conscious adjustment of these orders by Greek architects for purely aesthetic effect. For the first time in history, architects, not priests, directed these building projects. Many of their names are known, and several wrote books about their aesthetic experiments. A book that has survived to the present is 'De Architectura' (On Architecture) by the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, who was active at the time of the birth of Christ. It is an authoritative source of information on much of Greek architectural theory and practice.
Greek designers sought perfect orderliness in their rendition of the temple form. They adjusted the number of columns across the ends in relation to those down the sides. They aligned all the accents along the elevations so that each unit defined by one column (in the Doric order) was divided in the entablature into two triglyphs and metopes, four mutules under the cornice, four water spouts along the roof edge, and eight roof tiles. The most perfect example of this, the Parthenon in Athens, was built in 447-438 BC by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates for the political leader Pericles.
Within this strictly ordered framework, the Greek architect worked to endow every part with interest and life in the carving of its surface. The spiral of the Ionic volute, the curve of the Doric capital, the depth and breadth of the flutes were varied endlessly for effect. The translucence and fine grain of the marble used in the most important buildings were an important help in making these refinements perceptible. Most amazing was the application of this work of adjustment to the temple as a whole, particularly in the case of the Parthenon. Here the stylobate and entablature are very slightly curved so that they rise in the center of each side, while the columns are made to lean slightly inward--the angle increasing as they approach the corners--and the distance between the shafts varied. Nor are the column shafts themselves straight but bulge slightly toward their middles in entasis. Thus the whole building was treated with the subtlety and delicacy of the marble sculptures that filled its metopes and pediment. Callicrates and Ictinus' attitude toward religious architecture ceased to be that of the superstitious priest-architect held subject to unvaryingly precise (and often hypnotically elaborate) repetition of prescribed forms and became instead that of the artist rationalist--adjusting, refining, and simplifying forms to make them quietly effective and satisfying to the eye.
In the 5th century BC, the age of Pericles, Greece was still an assortment of independent city-states, many of them democracies. In 338 BC Philip II of Macedon forced them all together into a single empire. Between 334 and 323 his son, Alexander the Great, conquered Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and parts of India, transforming the whole into the most powerful state in the civilized world. Greek architecture suddenly became that of this rich, powerful Hellenic empire and was forced to break out of the fixed, small-scale vocabulary of forms that had been satisfactory for the Periclean temple. The orders were retained and a new one added, the Corinthian, a variation of the Ionic with realistic leaves of the acanthus plant on its capital. Construction was still in stone blocks--preferably marble--following the system of the column-post and entablature-lintel. But now this simple system was extended and multiplied to make monumental cities with colonnaded avenues and squares, palaces and public meeting halls, libraries and tombs. A series of great Hellenistic metropolises grew up, Alexandria in Egypt in particular (today completely buried underneath the modern city). At the royal city of Pergamum, which was built during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, one can see even today a series of colonnaded plazas stepping up a concave hillside, a single huge composition of architectural forms that are expressive of Hellenistic wealth and political power.
This was no longer an architecture of detail and refinement but one of massive (if simple) construction and political show. The vocabulary of the Periclean temple was no longer appropriate, and the Roman Empire that succeeded the Hellenistic adopted another, revolutionary solution.
Pagan Rome. The Roman Empire, founded by Augustus Caesar in 27 BC and lasting in Western Europe for 500 years, reorganized world politics and economics. Almost the entirety of the civilized world became a single centralized state. In place of Greek democracy, piety, and independence came Roman authoritarianism and practicality. Vast prosperity resulted. Europe and the Mediterranean bloomed with trading cities ten times the size of their predecessors with public amenities previously unheard of: basilicas (law courts), theaters, circuses, public baths. And these were now large permanent masonry buildings as were the habitations, tall apartment houses covering whole city blocks, or insulae.
This architectural revolution brought about by the Romans required two innovations: the invention of a new building method--concrete vaulting--and the organization of labor and capital on a large scale so that huge projects could be executed quickly after the plans of a single master architect.
Roman concrete was a fluid mixture of lime and small stones poured into the hollow centers of walls faced with brick or stone and over curved wooden molds, or forms, to span spaces as vaults. The Mediterranean is an active volcanic region, and a spongy, light, tightly adhering stone called pozzolana was used to produce a concrete that was both light and extremely strong.
The Romans had developed pozzolana concrete about 100 BC but at first used it only for terrace walls and foundations, as, for example, at the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia at Palestrina, erected about 80 BC. It apparently was the notorious emperor Nero who first used the material on a grand scale to rebuild a region of the city of Rome around his palace, the expansive Domus Aurea (Golden House), after the great fire of AD 64 (which he is erroneously said to have set). Here broad streets, regular blocks of masonry apartment houses, and continuous colonnaded porticoes were erected according to a single plan and partially at state expense. The Domus Aurea itself was a labyrinth of concrete vaulted rooms, many in complex geometric forms. An extensive garden with a lake and forest spread around it.
The architect Severus seems to have been in charge of this great project. Emperors and emperors' architects succeeding Nero and Severus continued and expanded their work of rebuilding and regularizing Rome. Vespasian (emperor AD 63-79) began the Colosseum. Domitian (81-96) rebuilt the Palatine Hill as a huge palace of vaulted concrete designed by his architect Rabirius. Trajan (97-117) erected the expansive forum that bears his name (designed by his architect Apollodorus) and a huge public bath. Hadrian (117-138)--proud to serve as his own architect--built the Pantheon as well as a villa the size of a small city for himself at Tivoli. Later Caracalla (211-217) and Diocletian (284-305) erected two mammoth baths that bear their names, and Maxentius (306-312) built a huge vaulted basilica, now called the Basilica of Constantine.
The Baths of Caracalla have long been accepted as a summation of Roman culture and engineering. It is a vast building, 360 by 702 feet (110 by 214 meters), set in 50 acres (20 hectares) of gardens. It was one of a dozen establishments of similar size in ancient Rome devoted to recreation and bathing. There were a 60- by 120-foot (18- by 36-meter) swimming pool, hot and cold baths (each not much smaller than the pool), gymnasia, a library, and game rooms. These rooms were of various geometric shapes. The walls were thick, with recesses, corridors, and staircases cut into them. The building was entirely constructed of concrete with barrel, groined, and domical vaults spanning as far as 60 feet (18 meters) in many places. Inside, all the walls were covered with thin slabs of colored marble or with painted stucco. The decorative forms of this coating, strangely enough, were derived from Greek architecture as though the Romans could build but could not ornament. Therefore, what is Roman about the Baths of Caracalla and the other great constructions of the Romans is merely the skeleton.
The rebuilding of Rome set a pattern copied all over the empire. Nearby, the ruins of Ostia, Rome's port (principally constructed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD), reflect that model. Farther away it reappears at Trier in northwestern Germany, at Autun in central France, at Antioch in Syria, and at Timgad and Leptis Magna in North Africa. When political disintegration and barbarian invasions disrupted the western part of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD, new cities were founded and built in concrete during short construction campaigns: Ravenna, the capital of the Western Empire from 492-539, and Constantinople in Turkey, where the seat of the empire was moved by Constantine in 330 and which continued thereafter to be the capital of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire.
Christian Rome. One important thing had changed by the time of the founding of Ravenna and Constantinople; after 313 this was the Christian Roman Empire. The principal challenge to the imperial architects was now the construction of churches. These churches were large vaulted enclosures of interior space, unlike the temples of the Greeks and the pagan Romans that were mere statue-chambers set in open precincts. The earliest imperial churches in Rome, like the first church of St. Peter's erected by Constantine from 333, were vast barns with wooden roofs supported on lines of columns. They resembled basilicas, which had carried on the Hellenistic style of columnar architecture. Roman concrete vaulted construction was used in certain cases, for example, in the tomb church in Rome of Constantine's daughter, Santa Costanza, of about 350. In the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, erected in 526-547, this was expanded to the scale of a middle-sized church. Here a domed octagon 60 feet (18 meters) across is surrounded by a corridor, or aisle, and balcony 30 feet (9 meters) deep. On each side a semicircular projection from the central space pushes outward to blend these spaces together.
Byzantine Empire. An impressive series of domical churches was built about the same time as San Vitale, especially in the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople. Here in 532-537 the emperor Justinian had his architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus build Hagia Sophia. A low dome 107 feet (33 meters) in diameter is supported on four triangular vaults, or pendentives, so that two half-domes of the same dimension can open at either side. The central space measures 107 by 220 feet (33 by 67 meters). A deep aisle and balcony surround this, opening into it through arcades and blending with it across semicircular recesses. Externally the building is brought to a rectangle that is 220 by 320 feet (67 by 98 meters) on a side, terracing upward by stages to the dominant central dome.
The symbolic religious buildings of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Japan, and Greece stood apart from the surrounding cities and stated a religious belief in every detail. The Byzantine church, however, was buried in the new masonry city, another domical block like the baths and basilicas nearby. But symbolic expression found a new and powerful medium in the illusionistic decoration of the vast interior church spaces. The interiors of the Baths of Caracalla had been decorated with fragments of Greek architecture, and the walls of Nero's Domus Aurea had been painted in fantastic stage architecture and landscapes. Now the interior of the Byzantine church was covered with glass mosaic pieces. These depicted Biblical scenes and images of saints set against a continuous gold background. The mosaics at Hagia Sophia have been plastered over, but an impression of the original effect survives in the smaller, later churches at Daphni and Hosios Loukas and, especially, San Marco in Venice, begun in 1063. Here the walls of the space are made to disappear in a glow of mystical light, and the worshiper seems to be carried up into the court of Heaven with Christ and all the saints.
Islam. Roman concrete vaulted construction was paralleled and indeed preceded by brick vaulted techniques evolved in Mesopotamia during the thousand years before the birth of Christ. This tradition created a sophisticated type of palace design, seen, for example, in that at Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, built in AD 550. It was passed on to the Islamic dynasties after the foundation of that religion in 622. Islam, like Christianity, required large covered interior spaces. Also like Christianity, it first created such spaces by the erection of broad wooden roofed enclosures divided by lines of columns, as are seen in the Mosque of Cordoba, Spain, built between 786 and 987. Vaulting was restricted to palaces. In the 12th century, however, masonry vaulting was used in Persia to span the wide spaces of the "Friday" Mosque at Isfahan. Here four deep tunnel vaults open from each side of a courtyard with a dome extending the vault on the side facing toward Mecca. This became the model of the great Egyptian and Iranian mosques of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is seen expanded in scale and ornamented in glowing blue ceramic tile in the Royal Mosque (Masjid-i-Shah) at Isfahan. With their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottomans developed a type of mosque that combined the Persian type, especially its tile decoration, and the single domical space of the Byzantine church. The celebrated architect Sinan built a series of mosques in the 16th century that displayed a structural resourcefulness and decorative refinement equal to that of his European contemporaries of the High Renaissance. The Islamic tradition closed impressively with the Taj Mahal, erected in Agra, India, in 1630-48, during Muslim rule. It is a domical tomb monument covered in carved marble
Romanesque. For seven centuries, from 300 to 1000, Europe was a shambles of crude wooden houses and churches. This was in sharp contrast to the continuation of Roman building techniques in the Byzantine and Islamic empires in the East. There had been only one short break in these Dark Ages: the reign of Charlemagne (768-814) was marked by the erection of his palace and palace chapel (792-805) at Aachen (now in Germany), which is a copy of San Vitale in Ravenna. Shortly after 1000, however, a miraculous transformation occurred. Large masonry churches were simultaneously begun all over Europe. The 11th-century monk Raoul Glaber wrote that it was as if the continent was putting on "a white mantle of churches." This was religious architecture built by anonymous architects according to symbolic prescriptions.
A new period of architecture commenced, called Romanesque today because it was the reproduction of Roman vaulted style. The methods of construction were the same, although often very crudely carried out, but great originality was shown in interior spatial planning and in exterior massing and decoration. A new type of church evolved that is excellently represented in St. Sernin at Toulouse, built from about 1080 to 1120. The plan is cross-shaped instead of centralized as at Hagia Sophia. The longest of its four arms extends westward and is the nave. It is crossed by shorter transepts and is balanced by a short chevet, or head, where the altar is set in front of a semicircular end-wall roofed with a half dome. Each arm has an aisle on either side below a high balcony, or triforium. These arms are vaulted with simple half-cylindrical barrel vaults and are narrow so that the intersection, or crossing, is less important for the tiny dome inside than for the tall tower built in tiers above it on the exterior. In the chevet the aisles are carried around the curved end as an ambulatory from which open individual semicircular chapels.
Romanesque churches of this type are in France and northern Spain and Italy and have been called pilgrimage churches because they stand along the route of pilgrimage roads leading to San Juan Campostella. Relics were displayed for veneration in the chapels around the chevet, and sleeping space for pilgrims was provided in the triforium.
Other similar Romanesque church types developed all over Europe. Along the Rhine River large churches were built with narrow, vaulted naves, no transepts, and groups of tall towers at both ends. In northern France the Norman Romanesque evolved with skillful vaulting and pairs of tall towers at the west facades. This style was carried to England by William the Conqueror after 1066 and produced the Anglo-Norman Romanesque of Durham and Ely cathedrals. The Romanesque's most striking manifestation was probably in Italy, among the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire and near the continuing Byzantine culture. Here trading cities were experiencing new prosperity. The Venetians, beginning in 1063, built San Marco with five domes, an elaborate imitation of Byzantine architecture. In Pisa, beginning in 1053, a complex of structures was built--a cathedral, bell tower, baptistery, and monumental cemetery--of sparkling colored marbles covered with carved decoration, in part Roman, in part fantastic and barbarian.
Gothic. The prosperity and the building campaigns of the Romanesque period were slight, however, in comparison to the vast development of economic and building power of the Gothic period, which began in the late 12th century. In France, between 1140 and 1200, a new and more efficient type of masonry vaulted construction was invented. The Roman vault was a consistent mass of concrete that had been poured over a heavy wooden mold and left to harden. The new Gothic vault consisted of a network of separate stone arches, or ribs, spanning the space, between which were laid a thin webbing of small stones. This kind of vault was lighter and its thrusts were more clearly defined, since they passed down the ribs. This meant that the walls of the building supporting the vaults could be made thinner and opened with large windows. Furthermore, beginning in 1194 with the construction of Chartres cathedral, the weight of these vaults was supported on flying buttresses, light structures of stone piers and arches standing outside the mass of the building itself.
The plan of a Gothic church resembled that of the Romanesque but was more unified because the arms were shorter, the spaces broader, and the walls between the parts made thinner or entirely removed. Gothic interior spaces, however, did not look at all the same. The efficient vaulting system enabled these spaces to be much taller and to be entirely surrounded with windows that were filled with stained glass depicting Biblical scenes and saints. These figures, in deep red and blue colors, seemed to float above the worshiper like the figures depicted in Byzantine mosaics, but they glowed as daylight beamed through. To hold these great expanses of glass in place, thin stone ribs of tracery in decorative forms were built across the windows.