49. Santa Sabina

CONTEXT
  1. Rome, Italy atop a hill 

  2. Late Antique Europe, 422-432 CE
  3. On site of Saint Sabina (300s in Rome,) who was stoned to death for converting to Christianity
  4. The building was originally a classical Roman administrative building
    1. Ordered interior served to manage large numbers of visitors and to impose the government's authority 
    2. Thick columns and classical decor create structural stability 
  5. Example of an ancient Constantinian basilica
    1. A pilgrim who visited a Constantinian basilica in the 300s said this about the effect of the space: "The decorations are too marvelous for words. All you can see is gold, jewels and silk...You simply cannot imagine the number and sheer weight of the candles, tapers, lamps and everything else they use for the services." 
  6. Constantinian architects were the first Roman Christians; they chose the ancient Roman basilica to serve as the basis of their new churches
    1. Spolia: recycling old buildings or architectural materials for another purpose
    2. The architects reinvented a formerly governmental space into a religious one
      1. Manipulated the light from the windows so that the space became well-lit
      2. Added mosaics on the walls

FORM
  1. Massive, spacious longitudinal nave 
    1. Faces the altar 
    2. Illuminated by natural light from windows
    3. Creates a feeling of transcendence
  2. Light from the windows was manipulated by the architect to create a spiritual effect
    1. Would've illuminated the mosaics on the nave walls (that no longer exist)
    2. Light = Christ, heaven
    3. Nave; looking at the side aisle
    4. Imagine the walls glimmering with mosaics
      1. Over the columns: wine cups and bread: first symbolization of Eucharist 
CONTENT
  1. Windows made of celenite, not glass
  2. Wooden coffered ceiling
  3. Recalls the (domed) coffered ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome, circa 125 CE. 
  4. Original paneled, wooden doors are still on the church


    1. Depict Biblical scenes, possibly the first Crucifixion depiction in the upper left panel
  5. Colonnade with a side aisle on each side
    1. Corinthian columns
  6. Like the Pantheon: walls are broken up into entablatures
    1. Columns and pilasters create verticals that tie the horizontal entablatures together
    2. Visualizes the building's weight and solidity
  7. Nave wall has little visual weight 
  8. Simple architecture underlies a strong, empowered foundation
  9. Clerestory windows line the upper entablatures of the nave 
  10. Walls don't have traditional classical orders 
    1. Instead of organized columns and entablatures, they were covered in mosaics
    2. Walls show a shift from a focus on Man's architecture to religious imagery 
FUNCTION
  1. Early Christian church 
  2. To respect Sabina, who supposedly died on the location
    1. Roman Emperor from the 300s and Christian convert
    2. Martyr for Christianity
  3. To impress the viewer and inspire them to follow Christianity
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