Corinthian Capital

Corinthian Capital

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Capital (architecture)

In architecture the capital (from the Latin caput, or "head") or chapiter forms the topmost member of a column (or a pilaster). It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface. The capital, projecting on each side as it rises to support the abacus, joins the usually square abacus and the usually circular shaft of the column. The capital may be convex, as in the Doric order concave, as in the inverted bell of the Corinthian order or scrolling out, as in the Ionic order. These form the three principal types on which all capitals in the classical tradition are based. The Composite order established in the 16th century on a hint from the Arch of Titus, adds Ionic volutes to Corinthian acanthus leaves.

From the highly visible position it occupies in all colonnaded monumental buildings, the capital is often selected for ornamentation and is often the clearest indicator of the architectural order. The treatment of its detail may be an indication of the building's date.

Corinthian Capital - History

With growth now concentrated in outlying areas, there was understandably less temple building in mainland Greece in this period than there had been in the 5th century, but the Doric temples at Tegea and Nemea in the Peloponnese were important, the former for admitting Corinthian capitals to columns engaged on its interior walls. In eastern Greece, on the other hand, there began a series of new temple constructions rivaling those of the Archaic period that consciously copied the Archaic in their plan and elaboration of detail. Some are simply replacements, such as that at Ephesus replacing an earlier temple destroyed by fire, or the rather later one at Didyma. Similarly, the town of Priene in Ionia , although built on a new foundation after the mid-4th century , was laid out as a grid of streets on a principle developed by the 5th-century architect Hippodamus , who had applied the same scheme to his home city, Miletus, and to the port of Athens, Piraeus. The new Athena Temple at Priene is the best example of classic Ionic known, with no eccentricity of plan or detail.

What is the history and significance of the church in Corinth?

The city of Corinth was prominent in the first century. It is located in Greece on an isthmus between the Aegean and Ionian Seas, which guaranteed its importance both militarily and commercially. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province Achaia. It was a prosperous city but also known for its immorality. Because of Corinth’s sordid reputation, a new Greek word was coined, korinthiazomai, which meant “to live immorally like a Corinthian.”

Acts 18 tells of Paul’s ministry in Corinth during his second missionary journey. Paul came to Corinth from Athens, which was about 45 miles away. In Corinth he met Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them in the tentmaking trade. Paul used the income he earned to preach the gospel without relying upon support from others. Paul preached in the synagogue every Sabbath. When the Jews en masse would not respond, Paul decided to take the message to the Gentiles. His ministry resulted in the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, so the church in Corinth was made up of both. Paul ministered in Corinth for about a year and a half.

During Paul’s time in Corinth, opposition against him began to grow. The unbelieving Jews in the city brought charges against Paul before the Roman proconsul, but he refused to get involved in a Jewish religious dispute. Paul stayed a bit longer but eventually moved on to Ephesus. Paul remained in contact with the Corinthian church through letters and personal emissaries, sending them warnings and instruction. The books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are just two of the letters that he sent to them to address issues and concerns.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians make up his largest body of work directed to an individual congregation. These two letters address problem areas that are still often problems in churches today.

The church at Corinth had divided loyalty to different leaders. Paul rejects this disunity, telling the church members to focus on Christ. The individual leaders should only point them to Christ. In conjunction with this, some people were questioning Paul’s character and authority (1 Corinthians 1&mdash4).

There was gross immorality in the Corinthian church, and it was being tolerated. Paul tells the church they must exercise church discipline (1 Corinthians 5&mdash6). Also, believers were taking each other to court, and Paul says they should handle disagreements among themselves (1 Corinthians 6).

There was some confusion about whether or not it was better to be married or single, and how married people should relate to each other. Paul clarifies those issues for them and for the church today (1 Corinthians 7).

Because of the mixed background of the church in Corinth, food was an area of conflict and concern. Jews had strict dietary laws while Gentiles did not. How could they maintain table fellowship? Also, meat sold in the marketplace may have been sacrificed to an idol before being sold. Could a Christian eat that meat? And how should a Christian respond to a fellow believer who holds a different opinion? Paul says that the Christian is free to eat anything as long as he is not actively participating in idol worship. However, if one Christian’s freedom causes spiritual harm to another believer by enticing him to do something against his conscience, Paul says the Christian should voluntarily curtail his freedom for the sake of his fellow Christian (1 Corinthians 8&mdash10).

Paul also addresses the extent of women’s involvement in worship services and deals with problems the Corinthians were having in their gatherings, including abuses of the Lord’s Supper and their misuse of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 11&mdash14). In the midst of all the confusion, love should be the guiding principle (1 Corinthians 13).

The Corinthians were also confused about the future resurrection. It seems that some of them were questioning whether or not those who had died in Christ would be raised bodily. Paul affirms that, just as Jesus rose bodily, so also will all believers (1 Corinthians 15).

Paul also gives the Corinthian church instructions on giving money to support ministry, and he enjoins the principle of “grace giving” vs. an obligation based on a set percentage (1 Corinthians 16).

In 2 Corinthians, Paul has to cover much of the same territory again. False teachers had followed Paul and tried to convince the Corinthians that he was not a legitimate apostle or that they, the false teachers, were much better than Paul. In his second epistle, Paul has to defend his calling and reiterate and expand upon his previous instructions, as well as correct the church’s misapplication of his previous letter.

The New Testament does not give us any further information about the church at Corinth however, Clement of Rome wrote a letter to them, probably near the end of the first century (almost 50 years after Paul’s time ministering there), and he had to deal with some of the same issues again.

Over the years, the city of Corinth began to decline in size and influence. There is evidence of a continuing Christian presence in Corinth for centuries, but how biblical it was at any point in time is difficult to ascertain. In 1858, the ancient city of Corinth was completely destroyed by an earthquake. A new city was rebuilt. Today, the city of Corinth is officially under the Church of Greece (part of the Greek Orthodox Church) under the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. There is a small evangelical presence in Greece today, but it is often oppressed if not persecuted outright by the Greek Orthodox authorities.

In spite of all the problems the church at Corinth had, Paul refers to them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people” (1 Corinthians 1:2). It would be easy to read 1 and 2 Corinthians smugly, given the multitude of their problems, yet the same problems present in Corinth are found in the church today. The church in the 21st century still needs 1 and 2 Corinthians to know how to deal with today’s issues.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae and its Orders

Temple of Apollo Epicurius, from an 1812 drawing by John Foster

High on a mountaintop in the Peloponnese, the fifth-century B.C. Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is among the least known, least accessible, and most intriguing of all Greek temples.[1] (Fig. 1) It is the only Greek temple to have incorporated all three ancient orders in its design: Doric for the exterior, Ionic for the cella or naos, and a single Corinthian column marking the entrance to the adyton or inner sanctum. The 2 nd -century A.D. Greek traveler and geographer, Pausanias, stated that Iktinos, best-known as one of the Parthenon architects, designed the temple, but scholars have found no further evidence to document his attribution. The temple was unknown to James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, so it was not included in their pioneering and highly influential treatise The Antiquities of Athens (1762-1795). It finally received serious study in 1811-12 when the temple was the subject of an expedition that included British architect Charles R. Cockerell and German scholar Karl Haller von Hallerstein. They and their colleagues undertook detailed measurements and drawings, but also plundered the site for artifacts.

1. Temple of Apollo Epicurius before enclosure (Wikipedia images)

Exposure to the elements on Mount Kotilion has caused progressive deterioration of the temple&rsquos predominately limestone fabric. In 1987, the entire structure was covered with a canopy supported on a metal framework to provide temporary protection from damaging winds and rain while long-term conservation is undertaken. (Fig. 2) Although this huge tent hinders viewing the temple in context, it has a dramatic sculptural quality of its own. No schedule for the canopy&rsquos removal has been announced, and such protection may need to be permanent.

2. Temple of Apollo Epicurius with canopy enclosure (Loth)

Despite the canopy, it is possible to walk the temple&rsquos perimeter within. Most of the thirty-eight Doric columns of the exterior peristyle have survived in situ. (Fig. 3) Two of the columns and sections of the naos walls were reassembled in a program of anastylosis undertaken in 1902-08. Antiseismic scaffolding erected in 1985 included wooden braces clasping the tops of the Doric columns just under the capitals. Although attributed to Iktinos, earthquake damage and settlement have made it difficult to determine whether the temple incorporated the visual refinements found in the Parthenon. Nonetheless, seeing the temple moved Pausanias to write, &ldquoOf all the temples in Peloponnese, next to the one at Tega, this may be placed first for the beauty of the stone and the symmetry of its proportions.&rdquo[2]

3. Temple of Apollo Epicurius west colonnade (Loth)

The temple plan illustrates the unique arrangement of the interior, which for clarity I will describe in the present tense. (Fig. 4) Passing through the north portico columns, the pronaos, or vestibule, is entered between two free-standing Doric columns. The pronaos precedes the naos or temple sanctuary. Defining the naos are five spurs or fins projecting from each of the side walls, forming recesses possibly used for shrines. Clasping each spur end is a fluted Ionic column topped by a distinctive capital. On axis at the far end of the naos is a single Corinthian column. Beyond the column is the adyton or inner sanctum where the most sacred ceremonies were performed. The central position of the Corinthian column has led some scholars to conclude that the image of the deity, probably a statue of Apollo, was positioned off axis. A tall opening in the adyton&rsquos left side allowed daylight to illuminate the statue and back-light the column, creating a singularly dramatic effect.

4. Temple of Apollo Epicurius plan (Napoleon Vir @ ni.wikipedia)

A somewhat romanticized view of the temple interior made by Charles Cockerell in 1860, displays the axial placement of the Corinthian column and the flanking Ionic columns that terminated the projecting spurs. (Fig. 5) Also depicted is the richly sculpted frieze that topped the naos walls. The surviving sections of the frieze were extracted from the ruins by Cockerell and his colleagues during in their 1811-12 expedition and sold to the British Museum in 1814, where they are displayed today. The concave abacuses of the Ionic capitals are conjectural since none of the capitals remained in situ. The vaulted ceiling is conjectural as well. Shown also in the image is the off-center statue of a deity, which appears to be a female figure rather than Apollo.[3] Cockerell&rsquos view, however, captures the striking quality of the adyton&rsquos indirect lighting, pouring in from the side opening shown on the plan.

5. Temple of Apollo Epicurius interior, Charles Cockerell, 1860 (Wikimedia Commons)

Possibly the earliest published image of the distinctive Bassae Ionic capital and its base appeared in a German edition of Charles Pierre Joseph Normand&rsquos Nouvelle Parallèle des Ordres d&rsquoArchitecture, published in three parts in 1830-36. (Fig. 6) Normand accurately depicted the capital&rsquos arched top, a conspicuous departure from the flattened volute tops found in nearly all other ancient versions of the Ionic capital. He shows no abacus since, as his narrative states, it was not in existence in its original form. Normand admits, however, that the central anthemion or honeysuckle ornament was his own conjecture.[4] The capital had no evidence of any ornaments either there or in the echinus. Normand&rsquos illustration of the base accurately records its strong curved projection (an exaggerated scotia). Several of these unusual bases remain in place in the temple today.

6. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Ionic order [detail] (Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture/Acanthus Press, 1998)

The British Museum holds what is believed to be the only known original fragment of the temple&rsquos Ionic capitals. (Fig. 7) Charles Cockerell salvaged it from the ruin during his 1811-12 expedition and later presented it to the museum.[5] While the fragment is only a portion of a volute, enough is intact to appreciate the bold curve of the top edge. We are not told whether Cockerell and his colleagues found more Ionic capital fragments during their venture. Indeed, Haller von Hallerstein&rsquos ca. 1812 drawings, the earliest reliable depictions of the temple, show none of the capitals in place. Consequently, this rare artifact remains the one tangible clue to the singular shape of the Bassae Ionic.[6]

7. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Ionic capital fragment, The British Museum (Loth)

The Bassae Ionic has inspired numerous modern versions. Appropriately, Charles Cockerell was perhaps the first to use the order when he applied it to the columns of the portico and side elevations of Oxford University&rsquos Ashmolean Museum and Taylorian Institute, built 1841-45. (Fig. 8) Its use for an exterior was considered somewhat daring since the order was originally an interior order. Cockerell was faithful to the original by avoiding ornaments on the volutes as shown in Normand&rsquos Parallèle. However, he added discreet ornamentation to the abacus and echinus and topped it with an abacus employing concave sides and sharp tips. We can only speculate that he was basing the sharp tips on fragments that he may have seen in the ruin. Alternatively, he may have derived the abacus design from the abacus of the temple&rsquos Corinthian capital. In any case, the architectural details of the pediment are entirely Cockerell&rsquos, including the plaited decoration of the pulvinated frieze, an arresting treatment of an exterior frieze having no ancient precedent.

8. Ashmolean Museum portico, Oxford University, England (Remi Mathis, Creative Commons Attribution&mdashShare Alike)

Daniel Burnham devoted as much attention to the decorative details of Washington&rsquos Union Station as he did to the functionality and engineering of this great classical landmark, completed in 1908. This is evident in the terminal&rsquos original main dining room (now a gift shop), which is a festival of Grecian decorations. The room&rsquos walls are divided into a series of bays with recessed panels framed by fluted columns in the Bassae Ionic order. (Fig. 9) The capitals are picked out in gold, green, and red, a color pallet repeated in the entablature and other decorations. Burnham also employed the Bassae Ionic for the columns supporting the canopies on the lower track platforms.[7] (Fig. 10) In both places, the capitals are decorated with enlarged anthemion ornaments and egg-and-dart echinuses, details shown in Normand&rsquos Parallèle but not found on the originals.

9. Ionic capital, Union Station Gift Shop, Washington, D.C. (Loth)
10. Ionic capital, Union Station train canopy, Washington, D.C. (Loth)

The architectural firm of Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary applied a modified version of the Bassae Ionic for the corner pavilions of the 1931-34 Department of Justice in Washington&rsquos Federal Triangle. (Fig. 11) The capitals are true to the Bassae precedent with their arched tops, but are expressed with parallel volutes rather than volutes having the forward curvature of the originals. Other departures from the original model are the egg-and-dart echinuses and the concave abacuses with their chamfered tips. As noted above, the form or even the existence of original abacuses is uncertain. However, following Normand&rsquos conjecture, the capitals have an anthemion ornament in their centers.

11. Department of Justice portico, Washington, D.C. (Loth)

It is gratifying when one can discover a creative use of a rare and beautiful classical feature in one&rsquos hometown. Such a find occurs on a small but elegant bank in Richmond&rsquos historic Church Hill neighborhood. (Fig. 12) Appropriately named The Church Hill Bank, the building was designed by local architect Bascom J. Rowlett and opened 1914. The main entrance is framed by two engaged columns in the Bassae Ionic order with each topped by a seated eagle holding wings aloft. (Fig. 13) As with other modern versions, the volutes are flat-faced rather than gently curved forward. While Rowlett&rsquos source for the order is not documented, a likely candidate is William R. Ware&rsquos The American Vignola (1903), which illustrates the Bassae capital with a similar thick block for the abacus. The American Vignola was a standard textbook for American architects in the early 20 th century.

12. Church Hill Bank, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

13. Church Hill Bank Ionic capitals, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

Most scholars contend that the temple&rsquos Corinthian capital is the earliest known use of the Corinthian order. The illustration shown here was drawn by J. M. von Mauch for the 1830-36 German edition of Normand&rsquos Parallèle, and is based on field notes and sketches by Haller von Hallerstein of fragments found during his 1811-12 expedition to the site. (Fig. 14) Regrettably, only a few of the fragments survive, preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Even so, several parts of the illustration in the Parallèle are conjectural, such the flaring of the tops of the shaft flutes since the upper part of the shaft did not survive. The tips of the abacus were missing too, so it is uncertain whether they were pointed or chamfered. Nevertheless, Mauch&rsquos restoration has a distinctive beauty and it is lamentable that it has inspired so few modern replications.

14. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Corinthian capital [detail] (Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture/Acanthus Press, 1998)

A rare (possibly unique) use of the Bassae Corinthian for an American house appears on the porch of the 1850 Hackerman house, an Italianate mansion on Baltimore&rsquos prestigious Mount Vernon Place. (Fig. 15) The order is employed for both the forward and recessed porch columns as well as for the hall columns of the lavish interior. Designed by the Baltimore architectural partnership of Niernsee and Neilson for Dr. John Hanson Thomas, the house became part of the Walters Art Museum complex in 1985. (Fig. 16) A native of Vienna, Austria, architect John Rudolph Niernsee studied in Prague and settled in Baltimore in 1839. His source for the order was likely the German edition of Normand&rsquos Nouvelle Parallèle des Ordres d&rsquoArchitecture,(1830-36), which included J. M. von Mauch&rsquos plate 78 showing the Bassae Corinthian.

15. Front porch capital, Hackerman House, Baltimore, Maryland (Loth)

16. Hackerman House, ca. 1890, Baltimore, Maryland (The Walters Art Museum)

Undoubtedly, the most ingenious and informed modern-day reference to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is the Fellows&rsquo Dining Hall of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. (Fig. 17) Designed by John Simpson and opened in 1998, the room is a reduced version of the temple&rsquos naos, complete with the spurs fronted by their Ionic order, and the single Corinthian column on axis. All of the elements in the room are richly decorated with Grecian-style polychrome ornamentation that sets off the custom-designed Grecian-style furnishings. The Ionic capitals are true to the originals by lacking the anthemion ornaments added by Normand. Simpson employs a square abacus for the capitals with detailing echoing that on the Corinthian capital abacus. (Fig. 18)

17. Fellows&rsquo Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, England (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

18. Ionic capital, Fellows&rsquo Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

The focal point of Simpson&rsquos Fellows&rsquo Dining Hall is the single Corinthian column following the precedent of the original. The polychromy and gilding emphasize the special beauty of this elegant order. (Fig. 19) The only liberty taken with known features of the capital is the insertion of a double row of compressed acanthus leaves at its base in place of the single row of leaves shown in Haller von Hallerstein&rsquos drawing. Since Haller was working from fragments, it&rsquos possible that an extra row was missing and therefore he didn&rsquot draw one.

19. Corinthian capital, Fellows&rsquo Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

John Simpson&rsquos strikingly handsome room is clear demonstration that the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae yet offers design resources appropriate for adaptation in contemporary classical projects. It is important for such notable works of the past to continue to inform designs of today.

The author is grateful to Dr. George Skarmeas and his wife Dominique Hawkins for generously taking me to the temple in 2007.

Johann Matthaus von Mauch & Charles Pierre Joseph Normand, Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Compiled and edited by Donald M. Rattner (Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture, Acanthus Press, 1998).

Alexander Tzonis & Phoebe Giannisi, Classical Greek Architecture: The Construction of the Modern, (Flammarion, Paris 2004).

Kali Tzortzi, The Temple of Apollo Epikourios: A Journey through Time and Space, (Ministry of Culture, Committee for the Preservation of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai, 2001).

Corinthian Capital - History

The British Museum is one of the most famous buildings in the world. But have you ever thought about why it looks the way it does?

Grand designs

Let’s start at the beginning. When you walk into the Museum from Great Russell Street (that’s the Main entrance), most of the building you can see today was designed in 1823 by the architect Sir Robert Smirke (1780–1867).

The British Museum’s façade was designed by Sir Robert Smirke.

Smirke designed the building in a style known as the Greek Revival. He used this popular style because historians and travellers had rediscovered ancient sites from the 1750s onwards. They returned to their home countries, including Britain, with sketchbooks packed full of drawings and measurements of the monuments they saw. The Museum’s building was particularly inspired by ancient Greek temples, the most famous of which is the Parthenon in Athens.

Here’s a quick introduction to some of the architectural features you can see on the British Museum’s building.

A portico is like a modern porch, and was usually the entrance to ancient Greek temples, just like in the Museum. It is made up of columns, which support the roof.

Columns are very important tall structures that support the roof. They come in all shapes and sizes, but ancient Greek ones come in three main types (or orders) called Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Roman architect Vitruvius wrote a few stories to explain why they’re called that (but it’s quite likely he just made them up!):

  • Doric
    Dorus, mythical King of the Peloponnesus, built a temple so great that all temples in the surrounding area copied it. When the Athenians invaded and saw them, they began to build temples in the same style, calling them ‘Doric’ as they were originally built by the Dorians. The Athenians wanted to make theirs better, so they used the length of a man’s foot and height to get the perfect proportions. The Parthenon’s columns are Doric.
  • Ionic
    The Athenians wanted to build a temple to the goddess Artemis. They thought the Doric columns were too masculine, so they measured the foot and height of a woman. The big curling scrolls at the top (volutes) are like curly hair, and flutes (grooves carved into the column) are like folds in Greek clothing. The Museum’s columns are Ionic.
  • Corinthian
    Vitruvius said this column is based on a tragic story. A young girl from Corinth died and was buried, and her nurse put her things in a basket on top of her tomb. Her tomb rested on the root of an acanthus plant, and when spring came, the stalks and leaves grew up over the basket. An architect spotted it was inspired to create a new capital design.

Doric, Ionic and Corinthian capital types.

The capital is the top section of the column. It is wider than the rest of the column to support the weight of the roof, but is often the most interesting part to look at, as they can be highly decorative.

The Museum’s colonnade and columns.

A colonnade is a long row of columns which sometimes, but don’t always, support a roof. These are usually covered walkways, and are sometimes extensions of the portico. The Museum has 44 columns in the colonnade.

The frieze is a long section between the pediment and the columns that is purely for decoration. Usually it has lots of sculptural details. The Museum’s frieze doesn’t have any sculptures though. Here’s one of the friezes in the Museum from the temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai. The sculptures on this frieze depict a mythical battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths.

The frieze from the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai, Greece, on display in Room 16.

The pediment is a large triangle, usually found on top of temples. The Museum’s pediment was built in the 1850s, designed by Sir Richard Westmacott. The figures in it were supposed to represent ‘The Progress of Civilisation’ – now a very old-fashioned idea. If you look closely, on the far left you can see an uneducated man emerging from behind a rock. He learns things like sculpture, music and poetry, thus becoming ‘civilised’. These subjects are personified – they are represented by human figures. From left to right, they are Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Science, Geometry, Drama, Music and Poetry. The original pediment was designed with a blue background and the statues were all painted white.

Original design of the British Museum’s pediment by Sir Richard Westmacott. Drawing, c. 1847.

It took many years for Smirke’s Museum building to be completed. The new entrance hall opened in 1847 and the building has been added to many times over the years. The façade has become world famous, and remains an iconic symbol of all museums today.

For more about the British Museum’s architectural history, have a look at Archivist Francesca Hillier’s post on Montagu House, the building that preceded Smirke’s Greek Revival masterpiece.


Roman Corinthian order

Proportion is a defining characteristic of the Corinthian order: the "coherent integration of dimensions and ratios in accordance with the principles of symmetria" are noted by Mark Wilson Jones, who finds that the ratio of total column height to column-shaft height is in a 6:5 ratio, so that, secondarily, the full height of column with capital is often a multiple of 6 Roman feet while the column height itself is a multiple of 5. In its proportions, the Corinthian column is similar to the Ionic column, though it may be made more slender, but it stands apart by its distinctive carved capital. The abacus upon the capital has concave sides to conform to the outscrolling corners of the capital, and it may have a rosette at the center of each side.

Gandharan capitals

Indo-Corinthian capitals are capitals crowning columns or pilasters, which can be found in the northwestern Indian subcontinent, and usually combine Hellenistic and Indian elements. These capitals are typically dated to the first centuries of our era, and constitute important elements of Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.

The classical design was often adapted, usually taking a more elongated form, and sometimes being combined with scrolls, generally within the context of Buddhist stupas and temples. Indo-Corinthian capitals also incorporated figures of the Buddha or Bodhisattvas, usually as central figures surrounded, and often in the shade, of the luxurious foliage of Corinthian designs.

Renaissance Corinthian order

During the first flush of the Italian Renaissance, the Florentine architectural theorist Francesco di Giorgio expressed the human analogies that writers who followed Vitruvius often associated with the human form, in squared drawings he made of the Corinthian capital overlaid with human heads, to show the proportions common to both. [ 3 ]

The Corinthian architrave is divided in two or three sections, which may be equal, or they may bear interesting proportional relationships, one with another. Above the plain, unadorned architrave lies the frieze, which may be richly carved with a continuous design or left plain, as at the U.S. Capitol extension (illustration, left). At the Capitol the proportions of architrave to frieze are exactly 1:1. Above that, the profiles of the cornice moldings are like those of the Ionic order. If the cornice is very deep, it may be supported by brackets or modillions, which are ornamental brackets used in a series under a cornice.

The Corinthian column is almost always fluted. If it is not, it is often worth pausing to unravel the reason why (sometimes simply a tight budget). Even the flutes of a Corinthian column may be enriched. They may be filleted, with rods nestled within the hollow flutes, or stop-fluted, with the rods rising a third of the way, to where the entasis begins. The French like to call these chandelles and sometimes they end them literally with carved wisps of flame, or with bellflowers. Alternatively, beading or chains of husks may take the place of the fillets in the fluting, for Corinthian is the most playful and flexible of the orders. Its atmosphere is rich and festive, with more opportunities for variation than the other orders.

Elaborating upon an offhand remark when Vitruvius accounted for the origin of its acanthus capital, it became a commonplace to identify the Corinthian column with the slender figure of a young girl in this mode the classicizing French painter Nicolas Poussin wrote to his friend Fréart de Chantelou in 1642

The beautiful girls whom you will have seen in Nîmes will not, I am sure, have delighted your spirit any less than the beautiful columns of Maison Carrée for the one is no more than an old copy of the other". [ 4 ]

Sir William Chambers expressed the conventional comparison with the Doric order:

The proportions of the orders were by the ancients formed on those of the human body, and consequently, it could not be their intention to make a Corithian column, which, as Vitruvius observes, is to represent the delicacy of a young girl, as thick and much taller than a Doric one, which is designed to represent the bulk and vigour of a muscular full grown man. [ 5 ]

History and Construction

In 1921, William Howard Taft, who had served as the nation's 27th president, was appointed Chief Justice of the United States. For some time, he had an idea of moving the Court into its own building and began pushing the idea as soon as he assumed his new duties. He wrote letters to members of Congress complaining about the inadequacy of the Court's quarters in the U.S. Capitol and pointed out that most lower courts were far better accommodated than the Supreme Court. There were no rooms for lawyers to review their cases or hang their coats. The law library was overflowing with books and most associate justices found it necessary to work from home. He did not tell the politicians that he had informally asked Cass Gilbert, the famous New York architect, to begin studies for a new building. (When president, Taft had appointed Gilbert to the Commission on Fine Arts.)

In December 1928, Congress responded to Taft's initiative by creating the United States Supreme Court Building Commission. Taft was designated chairman and was joined by Associate Justice Willis Van Devanter and the chairmen and ranking members of the Committees on Public Buildings of the House and Senate, and the Architect of the Capitol. In April 1929, Gilbert was formally hired by the commission to design the Supreme Court building.

The United States Supreme Court Building Commission favored a site for the new Court building on First Street east, directly across from the Capitol between Maryland Avenue and East Capitol Street. Cass Gilbert did not like the site across from the Capitol because of it subordinate position and because Maryland Avenue, one of L'Enfant's diagonal streets, made it irregular. Nor did he like the idea of building next to the baronial Library of Congress. But Chief Justice Taft and other members of the building commission liked the location on First Street, particularly due to its close proximity to Union Station. The design was approved and, on May 25, 1929, the Speaker was informed that the new Supreme Court building would cost $9,740,000.

The funds were appropriated on December 20, and demolition of the residential structures on the site began soon thereafter. On February 3, 1930, with the funding secure and the project well under way, the ailing chief justice retired from the Court and from the commission. A month later Taft was dead.

President Herbert Hoover laid the building's cornerstone on October 13, 1932. Work progressed during the depths of the Great Depression and was nearing time to consider the furniture when Gilbert himself died. Finishing the great work was left to Gilbert's son, Cass, Jr., and his associate, John R. Rockart. Despite some labor strikes, the building was completed on April 4, 1935, at a final cost of $9,395,566.

Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks had a unique style of architecture that is still copied today in government buildings and major monuments throughout the world. Greek architecture is known for tall columns, intricate detail, symmetry, harmony, and balance. The Greeks built all sorts of buildings. The main examples of Greek architecture that survive today are the large temples that they built to their gods.

  • Doric - Doric columns were the most simple and the thickest of the Greek styles. They had no decoration at the base and a simple capital at the top. Doric columns tapered so they were wider on the bottom than at the top.
  • Ionic - Ionic columns were thinner than the Doric and had a base at the bottom. The capital at the top was decorated with scrolls on each side.
  • Corinthian - The most decorative of the three orders was the Corinthian. The capital was decorated with scrolls and the leaves of the acanthus plant. The Corinthian order became popular in the later era of Greece and also was heavily copied by the Romans.

Greek Orders by Pearson Scott Foremen

Greek temples were grand buildings with a fairly simple design. The outside was surrounded by a row of columns. Above the columns was a decorative panel of sculpture called the frieze. Above the frieze was a triangle shaped area with more sculptures called the pediment. Inside the temple was an inner chamber that housed the statue of the god or goddess of the temple.

The Parthenon
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most famous temple of Ancient Greece is the Parthenon located on the Acropolis in the city of Athens. It was built for the goddess Athena. The Parthenon was built in the Doric style of architecture. It had 46 outer columns each 6 feet in diameter and 34 feet tall. The inner chamber contained a large gold and ivory statue of Athena.

Besides temples, the Greeks built numerous other types of public buildings and structures. They built large theaters that could hold over 10,000 people. The theaters were usually built into the side of a hill and were designed with acoustics that allowed even the back rows to hear the actors. They also built covered walkways called "stoas" where merchants would sell goods and people held public meetings. Other public buildings included the gymnasium, court house, council building, and sports stadium.

Examples of Corinthian columns in Greek architecture

The Temple of Olympian Zeus

This photograph of 1865 by Constantinou Dimitrios shows above the last two columns of the main group, a small stone structure in which had lived an ascetic or Stylite. Image source

Also known as the Olympieion, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was an enormous temple built over several centuries, starting in 174 BCE and finally completed by Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. Its unusually tall columns and ambitious layout made the temple one of the largest ever built in the ancient world.

The temple&rsquos Corinthian columns measured 17.25 meters high with a diameter of 1.7 meters each with 20 flutes. Originally featuring 104 columns in total, each was capped with highly decorative Corinthian capitals carved from two massive blocks of marble.

Looking to create a new architectural style of your very own? Take part in one of our open architecture competitions.

Watch the video: How to Draw the Corinthian Column Capital


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