The invention of the Christian church was one of the brilliant--perhaps
the most brilliant--solutions in architectural history. This was achieved
by a process of assimilating and rejecting various precedents, such as
the Greek temple, the Roman public building, the private Roman house, and
the synagogue. The Early Christian period saw the growth of Christianity,
effectively an underground Eastern mystery cult during the first three
centuries AD. It was established as the state religion of the Empire under
the successors of Constantine. Ecclesiastical administration set up within
the framework of the Roman Empire. Little change in social and economic
order. Gradual split between Eastern and Western Empire in state and church.
Political and economic breakdown of the West, ending in barbarian invasions.
Early Christian Architecture: basilical church developed from Roman
secular basilica; centralized type from Roman tombs. Basilical plan modified
for liturgical requirements; congregation and clergy segregated in nave
and aisles vs. transept and apse. Different variants in East and West.
In Rome, classical marble wall membering and vocabulary, and emphasis
on massive wall, gradually replaced by broad, flat surfaces, evenly lighted;
plain brick exteriors; mosaic bands of interiors. Long planes with little
articulation, either horizontal or vertical.
1) King Herod's temple, Jerusalem, Israel: successor to King Solomon's
temple: reconstruction before destruction in 70 AD; same site with the
Dome of the Rock (fig. 334) on same terrace; Jews continue to worship at
the Western Wall of the temple terrace today.
2) Synagogue, Dura Europos, Syria, about 230 AD: plan; west wall with
Torah (Bible) niche and frescoes, today in National Museum, Damascus.
3) Christian house-church, Dura Europos, Syria, 230 AD: cutaway reconstruction;
the baptistery: compare this house with the House of the Vettii at Pompeii,
ca. 70 AD, on the lines of fig. 207.
4) [Old] St. Peter's basilica, Rome, c. 324--possibly 319--to 335:
exterior reconstruction; reconstructed cutaway of basilica and atrium;
interior reconstruction; reconstructed plans; recostructed interior view,
painted while some of St. Peter's was still standing; figs. 225--226.
5) Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel, ca. 335: reconstructed
plan in fourth century; reconstructed interior perspective of the basilica;
reconstructed plan of basilica and Anastasis rotunda in fourth century;
exterior today, much rebuilt; figs. 228--230.