Arches and Columns

by Courtney Meek
[student, Rome Sketchbook course, spring 2011]
Corinthian capital
Columns from Basilica of
Santa Maria Maggiore

The form of the triumphal arch is a roman invention, they were created as physical representations of a general's victory and used as part of a triumphal procession. With his face painted red, as a general passed through the arch, signifying the end of his military campaign, he was symbolically transformed from a soldier back into a citizen and man of peace. The arch acts as a doorway between one state of being and another. Columns decorate most arches, and seem to be an inherent part of the arch. They seem as though they are holding up it's ceiling, symbolically holding up the heavens represented by the semi-circular form of the arch.

Interior of the Basilica of
San Paolo Fuori le Mura
This form evolves into the apse of ancient Roman and Christian basilicas (the word 'apsis', comes from the greek, and means 'arch'). In this case the apse/arch is closed on one side, and usually has a depiction of heavenly paradise; this symbolizes the passage from the mortal world into the heavenly world with Christ and his saints. There are five different designs, or orders, of column capitals that can be seen both in churches and on arches, as well as in various other architectural settings. Of the five classical orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite) Doric capitals are the simplest. Corinthian capitals are frequently seen within churches and usually consist of carved leaves depicted in two bands, or ranks, around the capital.