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Title: The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Author: John Ruskin

Release Date: April 18, 2011 [EBook #35898]

Language: English

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Illustrated Cabinet Edition

The Seven Lamps of Architecture
Lectures on Architecture and Painting
The Study of

by John Ruskin

Dana Estes & Company







The Lamp of Sacrifice


The Lamp of Truth


The Lamp of Power


The Lamp of Beauty


The Lamp of Life


The Lamp of Memory


The Lamp of Obedience






Lecture I


Lecture II



to Lectures I. and II.270

Lecture III

. Turner and his Works287

Lecture IV

. Pre-Raphaelitism311


to Lecture IV.334

An Inquiry into the Study of Architecture




Ornaments from Rouen, St. Lo, and Venice


Part of the Cathedral of St. Lo, Normandy


Traceries from Caen, Bayeux, Rouen and Beavais


Intersectional Mouldings


Capital from the Lower Arcade of the Doge’s Palace, Venice


Arch from the Facade of the Church of San Michele at Lucca


Pierced Ornaments from Lisieux, Bayeux, Verona, and Padua


Window from the Ca’ Foscari, Venice


Tracery from the Campanile of Giotto, at Florence


Traceries and Mouldings from Rouen and Salisbury


Balcony in the Campo, St. Benedetto, Venice


Fragments from Abbeville, Lucca, Venice and Pisa


Portions of an Arcade on the South Side of the Cathedral of Ferrara


Sculptures from the Cathedral of Rouen




3 and 5. Illustrative Diagrams


Window in Oakham Castle


and 6. Spray of ash-tree, and improvement of the same on Greek Principles


Window in Dumblane Cathedral


Mediæval Turret




Lombardic Towers




Spires at Contances and Rouen




Illustrative Diagrams


Sculpture at Lyons


Niche at Amiens



18. Tig

er’s Head, and improvement of the same on Greek Principles


Garret Window in Hotel de Bourgtheroude




Trees, as drawn in the thirteenth century


Rocks, as drawn by the school of Leonardo Da Vinci


Boughs of Trees, after Titian



[Pg 5]


The memoranda which form the basis of the following
Essay have been thrown together during the preparation of
one of the sections of the third volume of “Modern Painters.”[A]
I once thought of giving them a more expanded form;
but their utility, such as it may be, would probably be diminished
by farther delay in their publication, more than it would
be increased by greater care in their arrangement. Obtained
in every case by personal observation, there may be among
them some details valuable even to the experienced architect;
but with respect to the opinions founded upon them I must
be prepared to bear the charge of impertinence which can
hardly but attach to the writer who assumes a dogmatical tone
in speaking of an art he has never practised. There are, however,
cases in which men feel too keenly to be silent, and perhaps
too strongly to be wrong; I have been forced into this
impertinence; and have suffered too much from the destruction
or neglect of the architecture I best loved, and from the
erection of that which I cannot love, to reason cautiously
[Pg 6]respecting the modesty of my opposition to the principles which
have induced the scorn of the one, or directed the design of
the other. And I have been the less careful to modify the
confidence of my statements of principles, because in the midst
of the opposition and uncertainty of our architectural systems,
it seems to me that there is something grateful in any
opinion, though in many points wrong, as even weeds are useful
that grow on a bank of sand.

Every apology is, however, due to the reader, for the hasty
and imperfect execution of the plates. Having much more
serious work in hand, and desiring merely to render them
illustrative of my meaning, I have sometimes very completely
failed even of that humble aim; and the text, being generally
written before the illustration was completed, sometimes
naïvely describes as sublime or beautiful, features which the
plate represents by a blot. I shall be grateful if the reader
will in such cases refer the expressions of praise to the Architecture,
and not to the illustration.

So far, however, as their coarseness and rudeness admit,
the plates are valuable; being either copies of memoranda
made upon the spot, or (Plates IX. and XI.) enlarged and
adapted from Daguerreotypes, taken under my own superintendence.
Unfortunately, the great distance from the ground
of the window which is the subject of Plate IX. renders even
the Daguerreotype indistinct; and I cannot answer for the
accuracy of any of the mosaic details, more especially of those
which surround the window, and which I rather imagine, in
the original, to be sculptured in relief. The general proportions
are, however, studiously preserved; the spirals of the
shafts are counted, and the effect of the whole is as near that
of the thing itself, as is necessary for the purposes of illustration
for which the plate is given. For the accuracy of the
rest I can answer, even to the cracks in the stones, and the
number of them; and though the looseness of the drawing,
and the picturesque character which is necessarily given by an
endeavor to draw old buildings as they actually appear, may
perhaps diminish their credit for architectural veracity, they
will do so unjustly.

[Pg 7]

The system of lettering adopted in the few instances in
which sections have been given, appears somewhat obscure in
the references, but it is convenient upon the whole. The line
which marks the direction of any section is noted, if the section
be symmetrical, by a single letter; and the section itself
by the same letter with a line over it, a.—ā. But if the section
be unsymmetrical, its direction is noted by two letters,
a. a. a2 at its extremities; and the actual section by the same
letters with lines over them, ā. ā. ā2, at the corresponding extremities.

The reader will perhaps be surprised by the small number
of buildings to which reference has been made. But it is to
be remembered that the following chapters pretend only to
be a statement of principles, illustrated each by one or two
examples, not an essay on European architecture; and those
examples I have generally taken either from the buildings
which I love best, or from the schools of architecture which, it
appeared to me, have been less carefully described than they
deserved. I could as fully, though not with the accuracy and
certainty derived from personal observation, have illustrated
the principles subsequently advanced, from the architecture
of Egypt, India, or Spain, as from that to which the reader will
find his attention chiefly directed, the Italian Romanesque
and Gothic. But my affections, as well as my experience, led
me to that line of richly varied and magnificently intellectual
schools, which reaches, like a high watershed of Christian
architecture, from the Adriatic to the Northumbrian seas,
bordered by the impure schools of Spain on the one hand,
and of Germany on the other: and as culminating points and
centres of this chain, I have considered, first, the cities of the
Val d’Arno, as representing the Italian Romanesque and pure
Italian Gothic; Venice and Verona as representing the Italian
Gothic colored by Byzantine elements; and Rouen, with the
associated Norman cities, Caen, Bayeux, and Coutances, as representing
the entire range of Northern architecture from the
Romanesque to Flamboyant.

I could have wished to have given more examples from our
early English Gothic; but I have always found it impossible
[Pg 8]to work in the cold interiors of our cathedrals, while the daily
services, lamps, and fumigation of those upon the Continent,
render them perfectly safe. In the course of last summer I
undertook a pilgrimage to the English Shrines, and began with
Salisbury, where the consequence of a few days’ work was a
state of weakened health, which I may be permitted to name
among the causes of the slightness and imperfection of the
present Essay.

[Pg 9]


Some years ago, in conversation with an artist whose works,
perhaps, alone, in the present day, unite perfection of drawing
with resplendence of color, the writer made some inquiry respecting
the general means by which this latter quality was
most easily to be attained. The reply was as concise as it
was comprehensive—”Know what you have to do, and do it”—comprehensive,
not only as regarded the branch of art to
which it temporarily applied, but as expressing the great
principle of success in every direction of human effort; for I
believe that failure is less frequently attributable to either insufficiency
of means or impatience of labor, than to a confused
understanding of the thing actually to be done; and therefore,
while it is properly a subject of ridicule, and sometimes of
blame, that men propose to themselves a perfection of any
kind, which reason, temperately consulted, might have shown
to be impossible with the means at their command, it is a
more dangerous error to permit the consideration of means to
interfere with our conception, or, as is not impossible, even
hinder our acknowledgment of goodness and perfection in
themselves. And this is the more cautiously to be remembered;
because, while a man’s sense and conscience, aided by
Revelation, are always enough, if earnestly directed, to enable
him to discover what is right, neither his sense, nor conscience,
nor feeling, are ever enough, because they are not intended,
to determine for him what is possible. He knows neither his
own strength nor that of his fellows, neither the exact dependence
to be placed on his allies nor resistance to be expected
from his opponents. These are questions respecting which
passion may warp his conclusions, and ignorance must limit[Pg 10]
them; but it is his own fault if either interfere with the apprehension
of duty, or the acknowledgment of right. And, as
far as I have taken cognizance of the causes of the many failures
to which the efforts of intelligent men are liable, more
especially in matters political, they seem to me more largely
to spring from this single error than from all others, that the
inquiry into the doubtful, and in some sort inexplicable, relations
of capability, chance, resistance, and inconvenience, invariably
precedes, even if it do not altogether supersede, the
determination of what is absolutely desirable and just. Nor
is it any wonder that sometimes the too cold calculation of
our powers should reconcile us too easily to our shortcomings,
and even lead us into the fatal error of supposing that our
conjectural utmost is in itself well, or, in other words, that
the necessity of offences renders them inoffensive.

What is true of human polity seems to me not less so of the
distinctively political art of Architecture. I have long felt convinced
of the necessity, in order to its progress, of some determined
effort to extricate from the confused mass of partial
traditions and dogmata with which it has become encumbered
during imperfect or restricted practice, those large principles
of right which are applicable to every stage and style of it.
Uniting the technical and imaginative elements as essentially
as humanity does soul and body, it shows the same infirmly
balanced liability to the prevalence of the lower part over the
higher, to the interference of the constructive, with the purity
and simplicity of the reflective, element. This tendency, like
every other form of materialism, is increasing with the advance
of the age; and the only laws which resist it, based upon
partial precedents, and already regarded with disrespect as
decrepit, if not with defiance as tyrannical, are evidently inapplicable
to the new forms and functions of the art, which
the necessities of the day demand. How many these necessities
may become, cannot be conjectured; they rise, strange and
impatient, out of every modern shadow of change. How far
it may be possible to meet them without a sacrifice of the essential
characters of architectural art, cannot be determined
by specific calculation or observance. There is no law, no[Pg 11]
principle, based on past practice, which may not be overthrown
in a moment, by the arising of a new condition, or the invention
of a new material; and the most rational, if not the only,
mode of averting the danger of an utter dissolution of all that
is systematic and consistent in our practice, or of ancient authority
in our judgment, is to cease for a little while, our endeavors
to deal with the multiplying host of particular abuses,
restraints, or requirements; and endeavor to determine, as
the guides of every effort, some constant, general, and irrefragable
laws of right—laws, which based upon man’s nature,
not upon his knowledge, may possess so far the unchangeableness
of the one, as that neither the increase nor imperfection
of the other may be able to assault or invalidate them.

There are, perhaps, no such laws peculiar to any one art.
Their range necessarily includes the entire horizon of man’s
action. But they have modified forms and operations belonging
to each of his pursuits, and the extent of their authority
cannot surely be considered as a diminution of its weight.
Those peculiar aspects of them which belong to the first of the
arts, I have endeavored to trace in the following pages; and
since, if truly stated, they must necessarily be, not only safeguards
against every form of error, but sources of every measure
of success, I do not think that I claim too much for them
in calling them the Lamps of Architecture, nor that it is indolence,
in endeavoring to ascertain the true nature and nobility
of their fire, to refuse to enter into any curious or special questioning
of the innumerable hindrances by which their light
has been too often distorted or overpowered.

Had this farther examination been attempted, the work
would have become certainly more invidious, and perhaps less
useful, as liable to errors which are avoided by the present
simplicity of its plan. Simple though it be, its extent is too
great to admit of any adequate accomplishment, unless by a
devotion of time which the writer did not feel justified in withdrawing
from branches of inquiry in which the prosecution of
works already undertaken has engaged him. Both arrangements
and nomenclature are those of convenience rather than
of system; the one is arbitrary and the other illogical: nor is[Pg 12]
it pretended that all, or even the greater number of, the principles
necessary to the well-being of the art, are included in
the inquiry. Many, however, of considerable importance will
be found to develope themselves incidentally from those more
specially brought forward.

Graver apology is necessary for an apparently graver fault.
It has been just said, that there is no branch of human work
whose constant laws have not close analogy with those which
govern every other mode of man’s exertion. But, more than
this, exactly as we reduce to greater simplicity and surety any
one group of these practical laws, we shall find them passing
the mere condition of connection or analogy, and becoming
the actual expression of some ultimate nerve or fibre of the
mighty laws which govern the moral world. However mean
or inconsiderable the act, there is something in the well doing
of it, which has fellowship with the noblest forms of manly
virtue; and the truth, decision, and temperance, which we
reverently regard as honorable conditions of the spiritual
being, have a representative or derivative influence over the
works of the hand, the movements of the frame, and the action
of the intellect.

And as thus every action, down even to the drawing of a
line or utterance of a syllable, is capable of a peculiar dignity
in the manner of it, which we sometimes express by saying it
is truly done (as a line or tone is true), so also it is capable of
dignity still higher in the motive of it. For there is no action
so slight, nor so mean, but it may be done to a great purpose,
and ennobled therefore; nor is any purpose so great but that
slight actions may help it, and may be so done as to help it
much, most especially that chief of all purposes, the pleasing
of God. Hence George Herbert—

“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.”

Therefore, in the pressing or recommending of any act or
manner of acting, we have choice of two separate lines of ar[Pg 13]gument:
one based on representation of the expediency or
inherent value of the work, which is often small, and always
disputable; the other based on proofs of its relations to the
higher orders of human virtue, and of its acceptableness, so
far as it goes, to Him who is the origin of virtue. The former
is commonly the more persuasive method, the latter assuredly
the more conclusive; only it is liable to give offence, as if
there were irreverence in adducing considerations so weighty
in treating subjects of small temporal importance. I believe,
however, that no error is more thoughtless than this. We
treat God with irreverence by banishing Him from our
thoughts, not by referring to His will on slight occasions.
His is not the finite authority or intelligence which cannot be
troubled with small things. There is nothing so small but
that we may honor God by asking His guidance of it, or insult
Him by taking it into our own hands; and what is true
of the Deity is equally true of His Revelation. We use it
most reverently when most habitually: our insolence is in
ever acting without reference to it, our true honoring of it is
in its universal application. I have been blamed for the
familiar introduction of its sacred words. I am grieved to
have given pain by so doing; but my excuse must be my wish
that those words were made the ground of every argument
and the test of every action. We have them not often enough
on our lips, nor deeply enough in our memories, nor loyally
enough in our lives. The snow, the vapor, and the stormy
wind fulfil His word. Are our acts and thoughts lighter and
wilder than these—that we should forget it?

I have therefore ventured, at the risk of giving to some
passages the appearance of irreverence, to take the higher
line of argument wherever it appeared clearly traceable: and
this, I would ask the reader especially to observe, not merely
because I think it the best mode of reaching ultimate truth,
still less because I think the subject of more importance than
many others; but because every subject should surely, at a
period like the present, be taken up in this spirit, or not at
all. The aspect of the years that approach us is as solemn as
it is full of mystery; and the weight of evil against which we[Pg 14]
have to contend, is increasing like the letting out of water.
It is no time for the idleness of metaphysics, or the entertainment
of the arts. The blasphemies of the earth are sounding
louder, and its miseries heaped heavier every day; and if, in
the midst of the exertion which every good man is called upon
to put forth for their repression or relief, it is lawful to ask
for a thought, for a moment, for a lifting of the finger, in any
direction but that of the immediate and overwhelming need,
it is at least incumbent upon us to approach the questions in
which we would engage him, in the spirit which has become
the habit of his mind, and in the hope that neither his zeal
nor his usefulness may be checked by the withdrawal of an
hour which has shown him how even those things which
seemed mechanical, indifferent, or contemptible, depend for
their perfection upon the acknowledgment of the sacred principles
of faith, truth, and obedience, for which it has become
the occupation of his life to contend.


[Pg 15]



I. Architecture is the art which so disposes and adorns the
edifices raised by man for whatsoever uses, that the sight of
them contributes to his mental health, power and pleasure.

It is very necessary, in the outset of all inquiry, to distinguish
carefully between Architecture and Building.

To build, literally to confirm, is by common understanding
to put together and adjust the several pieces of any edifice or
receptacle of a considerable size. Thus we have church building,
house building, ship building, and coach building. That
one edifice stands, another floats, and another is suspended
on iron springs, makes no difference in the nature of the art,
if so it may be called, of building or edification. The persons
who profess that art, are severally builders, ecclesiastical,
naval, or of whatever other name their work may justify; but
building does not become architecture merely by the stability
of what it erects; and it is no more architecture which raises
a church, or which fits it to receive and contain with comfort
a required number of persons occupied in certain religious
offices, than it is architecture which makes a carriage commodious
or a ship swift. I do not, of course, mean that the
word is not often, or even may not be legitimately, applied in
such a sense (as we speak of naval architecture); but in that
sense architecture ceases to be one of the fine arts, and it is
therefore better not to run the risk, by loose nomenclature, of
the confusion which would arise, and has often arisen, from[Pg 16]
extending principles which belong altogether to building, into
the sphere of architecture proper.

Let us, therefore, at once confine the name to that art
which, taking up and admitting, as conditions of its working,
the necessities and common uses of the building, impresses on
its form certain characters venerable or beautiful, but otherwise
unnecessary. Thus, I suppose, no one would call the
laws architectural which determine the height of a breastwork
or the position of a bastion. But if to the stone facing of that
bastion be added an unnecessary feature, as a cable moulding,
is Architecture. It would be similarly unreasonable to
call battlements or machicolations architectural features, so
long as they consist only of an advanced gallery supported on
projecting masses, with open intervals beneath for offence.
But if these projecting masses be carved beneath into rounded
courses, which are useless, and if the headings of the intervals
be arched and trefoiled, which is useless, is Architecture.
It may not be always easy to draw the line so sharply and
simply, because there are few buildings which have not some
pretence or color of being architectural; neither can there be
any architecture which is not based on building, nor any
good architecture which is not based on good building; but
it is perfectly easy and very necessary to keep the ideas distinct,
and to understand fully that Architecture concerns itself
only with those characters of an edifice which are above and
beyond its common use. I say common; because a building
raised to the honor of God, or in memory of men, has surely a
use to which its architectural adornment fits it; but not a use
which limits, by any inevitable necessities, its plan or details.

II. Architecture proper, then, naturally arranges itself under
five heads:—

Devotional; including all buildings raised for God’s service or honor.
Memorial; including both monuments and tombs.
Civil; including every edifice raised by nations or societies, for purposes of common business or pleasure.
Military; including all private and public architecture of defence.
[Pg 17]
Domestic; including every rank and kind of dwelling-place.

Now, of the principles which I would endeavor to develope,
while all must be, as I have said, applicable to every stage and
style of the art, some, and especially those which are exciting
rather than directing, have necessarily fuller reference to one
kind of building than another; and among these I would place
first that spirit which, having influence in all, has nevertheless
such especial reference to devotional and memorial architecture—the
spirit which offers for such work precious things simply
because they are precious; not as being necessary to the
building, but as an offering, surrendering, and sacrifice of
what is to ourselves desirable. It seems to me, not only that
this feeling is in most cases wholly wanting in those who forward
the devotional buildings of the present day; but that it
would even be regarded as an ignorant, dangerous, or perhaps
criminal principle by many among us. I have not space to
enter into dispute of all the various objections which may be
urged against it—they are many and spacious; but I may,
perhaps, ask the reader’s patience while I set down those simple
reasons which cause me to believe it a good and just feeling,
and as well-pleasing to God and honorable in men, as it
is beyond all dispute necessary to the production of any great
work in the kind with which we are at present concerned.

III. Now, first, to define this Lamp, or Spirit of Sacrifice,
clearly. I have said that it prompts us to the offering of
precious things merely because they are precious, not because
they are useful or necessary. It is a spirit, for instance, which
of two marbles, equally beautiful, applicable and durable,
would choose the more costly because it was so, and of two
kinds of decoration, equally effective, would choose the more
elaborate because it was so, in order that it might in the same
compass present more cost and more thought. It is therefore
most unreasoning and enthusiastic, and perhaps best negatively
defined, as the opposite of the prevalent feeling of
modern times, which desires to produce the largest results at
the least cost.

Of this feeling, then, there are two distinct forms: the first,
the wish to exercise self-denial for the sake of self-discipline[Pg 18]
merely, a wish acted upon in the abandonment of things
loved or desired, there being no direct call or purpose to be
answered by so doing; and the second, the desire to honor or
please some one else by the costliness of the sacrifice. The
practice is, in the first case, either private or public; but most
frequently, and perhaps most properly, private; while, in the
latter case, the act is commonly, and with greatest advantage,
public. Now, it cannot but at first appear futile to assert the
expediency of self-denial for its own sake, when, for so many
sakes, it is every day necessary to a far greater degree than
any of us practise it. But I believe it is just because we do
not enough acknowledge or contemplate it as a good in itself,
that we are apt to fail in its duties when they become imperative,
and to calculate, with some partiality, whether the good
proposed to others measures or warrants the amount of grievance
to ourselves, instead of accepting with gladness the opportunity
of sacrifice as a personal advantage. Be this as it
may, it is not necessary to insist upon the matter here; since
there are always higher and more useful channels of self-sacrifice,
for those who choose to practise it, than any connected
with the arts.

While in its second branch, that which is especially concerned
with the arts, the justice of the feeling is still more
doubtful; it depends on our answer to the broad question,
Can the Deity be indeed honored by the presentation to Him
of any material objects of value, or by any direction of zeal
or wisdom which is not immediately beneficial to men?

For, observe, it is not now the question whether the fairness
and majesty of a building may or may not answer any
moral purpose; it is not the of labor in any sort of
which we are speaking, but the bare and mere costliness—the
substance and labor and time themselves: are these, we ask,
independently of their result, acceptable offerings to God, and
considered by Him as doing Him honor? So long as we refer
this question to the decision of feeling, or of conscience,
or of reason merely, it will be contradictorily or imperfectly
answered; it admits of entire answer only when we have met
another and a far different question, whether the Bible be[Pg 19]
indeed one book or two, and whether the character of God
revealed in the Old Testament be other than His character
revealed in the New.

IV. Now, it is a most secure truth, that, although the particular
ordinances divinely appointed for special purposes at
any given period of man’s history, may be by the same divine
authority abrogated at another, it is impossible that any character
of God, appealed to or described in any ordinance past
or present, can ever be changed, or understood as changed,
by the abrogation of that ordinance. God is one and the
same, and is pleased or displeased by the same things for ever,
although one part of His pleasure may be expressed at one
time rather than another, and although the mode in which
His pleasure is to be consulted may be by Him graciously
modified to the circumstances of men. Thus, for instance, it
was necessary that, in order to the understanding by man of
the scheme of Redemption, that scheme should be foreshown
from the beginning by the type of bloody sacrifice. But God
had no more pleasure in such sacrifice in the time of Moses
than He has now; He never accepted as a propitiation for sin
any sacrifice but the single one in prospective; and that we
may not entertain any shadow of doubt on this subject, the
worthlessness of all other sacrifice than this is proclaimed at
the very time when typical sacrifice was most imperatively demanded.
God was a spirit, and could be worshipped only in
spirit and in truth, as singly and exclusively when every day
brought its claim of typical and material service or offering,
as now when He asks for none but that of the heart.

So, therefore, it is a most safe and sure principle that, if in
the manner of performing any rite at any time, circumstances
can be traced which we are either told, or may legitimately
conclude, God at that time, those same circumstances
will please Him at all times, in the performance of all rites or
offices to which they may be attached in like manner; unless
it has been afterwards revealed that, for some special purpose,
it is now His will that such circumstances should be withdrawn.
And this argument will have all the more force if it
can be shown that such conditions were not essential to the[Pg 20]
completeness of the rite in its human uses and bearings, and
only were added to it as being in pleasing to God.

V. Now, was it necessary to the completeness, as a type, of
the Levitical sacrifice, or to its utility as an explanation of
divine purposes, that it should cost anything to the person in
whose behalf it was offered? On the contrary, the sacrifice
which it foreshowed was to be God’s free gift; and the cost
of, or difficulty of obtaining, the sacrificial type, could only
render that type in a measure obscure, and less expressive of
the offering which God would in the end provide for all men.
Yet this costliness was a condition of the acceptableness
of the sacrifice. “Neither will I offer unto the Lord
my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”[B] That costliness,
therefore, must be an acceptable condition in all human
offerings at all times; for if it was pleasing to God once, it
must please Him always, unless directly forbidden by Him
afterwards, which it has never been.

Again, was it necessary to the typical perfection of the
Levitical offering, that it should be the best of the flock?
Doubtless the spotlessness of the sacrifice renders it more expressive
to the Christian mind; but was it because so expressive
that it was actually, and in so many words, demanded by
God? Not at all. It was demanded by Him expressly on the
same grounds on which an earthly governor would demand it,
as a testimony of respect. “Offer it now unto thy governor.”[C]
And the less valuable offering was rejected, not because it did
not image Christ, nor fulfil the purposes of sacrifice, but because
it indicated a feeling that would grudge the best of its
possessions to Him who gave them; and because it was a bold
dishonoring of God in the sight of man. Whence it may be
infallibly concluded, that in whatever offerings we may now
see reason to present unto God (I say not what these may
be), a condition of their acceptableness will be now, as it was
then, that they should be the best of their kind.

VI. But farther, was it necessary to the carrying out of the
Mosaical system, that there should be either art or splendor
in the form or services of the tabernacle or temple? Was it
[Pg 21]necessary to the perfection of any one of their typical offices,
that there should be that hanging of blue, and purple, and
scarlet? those taches of brass and sockets of silver? that
working in cedar and overlaying with gold? One thing at
least is evident: there was a deep and awful danger in it; a
danger that the God whom they so worshipped, might be associated
in the minds of the serfs of Egypt with the gods to
whom they had seen similar gifts offered and similar honors
paid. The probability, in our times, of fellowship with the
feelings of the idolatrous Romanist is absolutely as nothing
compared with the danger to the Israelite of a sympathy with
the idolatrous Egyptian;1 no speculative, no unproved danger;
but proved fatally by their fall during a month’s abandonment
to their own will; a fall into the most servile idolatry;
yet marked by such offerings to their idol as their
leader was, in the close sequel, instructed to bid them offer to
God. This danger was imminent, perpetual, and of the most
awful kind: it was the one against which God made provision,
not only by commandments, by threatenings, by promises,
the most urgent, repeated, and impressive; but by temporary
ordinances of a severity so terrible as almost to dim for a
time, in the eyes of His people, His attribute of mercy. The
principal object of every instituted law of that Theocracy, of
every judgment sent forth in its vindication, was to mark to
the people His hatred of idolatry; a hatred written under
their advancing steps, in the blood of the Canaanite, and
more sternly still in the darkness of their own desolation,
when the children and the sucklings swooned in the streets
of Jerusalem, and the lion tracked his prey in the dust of
Samaria.[D] Yet against this mortal danger provision was not
made in one way (to man’s thoughts the simplest, the most
natural, the most effective), by withdrawing from the worship
of the Divine Being whatever could delight the sense, or
shape the imagination, or limit the idea of Deity to place.
This one way God refused, demanding for Himself such
honors, and accepting for Himself such local dwelling, as had
been paid and dedicated to idol gods by heathen worshippers;
[Pg 22]and for what reason? Was the glory of the tabernacle necessary
to set forth or image His divine glory to the minds of
His people? What! purple or scarlet necessary to the people
who had seen the great river of Egypt run scarlet to the
sea, under His condemnation? What! golden lamp and
cherub necessary for those who had seen the fires of heaven
falling like a mantle on Mount Sinai, and its golden courts
opened to receive their mortal lawgiver? What! silver clasp
and fillet necessary when they had seen the silver waves of the
Red Sea clasp in their arched hollows the corpses of the
horse and his rider? Nay—not so. There was but one reason,
and that an eternal one; that as the covenant that He
made with men was accompanied with some external sign of
its continuance, and of His remembrance of it, so the acceptance
of that covenant might be marked and signified by use,
in some external sign of their love and obedience, and surrender
of themselves and theirs to His will; and that their gratitude
to Him, and continual remembrance of Him, might
have at once their expression and their enduring testimony in
the presentation to Him, not only of the firstlings of the herd
and fold, not only of the fruits of the earth and the tithe of
time, but of all treasures of wisdom and beauty; of the
thought that invents, and the hand that labors; of wealth of
wood, and weight of stone; of the strength of iron, and of the
light of gold.

And let us not now lose sight of this broad and unabrogated
principle—I might say, incapable of being abrogated, so long
as men shall receive earthly gifts from God. Of all that they
have His tithe must be rendered to Him, or in so far and in
so much He is forgotten: of the skill and of the treasure, of
the strength and of the mind, of the time and of the toil, offering
must be made reverently; and if there be any difference
between the Levitical and the Christian offering, it is
that the latter may be just so much the wider in its range as
it is less typical in its meaning, as it is thankful instead of
sacrificial. There can be no excuse accepted because the
Deity does not now visibly dwell in His temple; if He is invisible
it is only through our failing faith: nor any excuse[Pg 23]
because other calls are more immediate or more sacred; this
ought to be done, and not the other left undone. Yet this
objection, as frequent as feeble, must be more specifically answered.

VII. It has been said—it ought always to be said, for it is
true—that a better and more honorable offering is made to
our Master in ministry to the poor, in extending the knowledge
of His name, in the practice of the virtues by which that name
is hallowed, than in material presents to His temple. Assuredly
it is so: woe to all who think that any other kind or manner
of offering may in any wise take the place of these! Do
the people need place to pray, and calls to hear His word?
Then it is no time for smoothing pillars or carving pulpits;
let us have enough first of walls and roofs. Do the people
need teaching from house to house, and bread from day to
day? Then they are deacons and ministers we want, not
architects. I insist on this, I plead for this; but let us examine
ourselves, and see if this be indeed the reason for our
backwardness in the lesser work. The question is not between
God’s house and His poor: it is not between God’s house and
His Gospel. It is between God’s house and ours. Have we
no tesselated colors on our floors? no frescoed fancies on our
roofs? no niched statuary in our corridors? no gilded furniture
in our chambers? no costly stones in our cabinets? Has
even the tithe of these been offered? They are, or they ought
to be, the signs that enough has been devoted to the great
purposes of human stewardship, and that there remains to us
what we can spend in luxury; but there is a greater and
prouder luxury than this selfish one—that of bringing a portion
of such things as these into sacred service, and presenting
them for a memorial[E] that our pleasure as well as our toil
has been hallowed by the remembrance of Him who gave both
the strength and the reward. And until this has been done,
I do not see how such possessions can be retained in happiness.
I do not understand the feeling which would arch our own
gates and pave our own thresholds, and leave the church with
its narrow door and foot-worn sill; the feeling which enriches
[Pg 24]our own chambers with all manner of costliness, and endures
the bare wall and mean compass of the temple. There is seldom
even so severe a choice to be made, seldom so much self-denial
to be exercised. There are isolated cases, in which
men’s happiness and mental activity depend upon a certain
degree of luxury in their houses; but then this is true luxury,
felt and tasted, and profited by. In the plurality of instances
nothing of the kind is attempted, nor can be enjoyed; men’s
average resources cannot reach it; and that which they
reach, gives them no pleasure, and might be spared. It will
be seen, in the course of the following chapters, that I am no
advocate for meanness of private habitation. I would fain introduce
into it all magnificence, care, and beauty, where they
are possible; but I would not have that useless expense in unnoticed
fineries or formalities; cornicings of ceilings and graining
of doors, and fringing of curtains, and thousands such;
things which have become foolishly and apathetically habitual—things
on whose common appliance hang whole trades, to
which there never yet belonged the blessing of giving one ray
of real pleasure, or becoming of the remotest or most contemptible
use—things which cause half the expense of life, and
destroy more than half its comfort, manliness, respectability,
freshness, and facility. I speak from experience: I know
what it is to live in a cottage with a deal floor and roof, and
a hearth of mica slate; and I know it to be in many respects
healthier and happier than living between a Turkey carpet
and gilded ceiling, beside a steel grate and polished fender.
I do not say that such things have not their place and propriety;
but I say this, emphatically, that the tenth part of
the expense which is sacrificed in domestic vanities, if not
absolutely and meaninglessly lost in domestic discomforts, and
incumbrances, would, if collectively offered and wisely employed,
build a marble church for every town in England;
such a church as it should be a joy and a blessing even to
pass near in our daily ways and walks, and as it would bring
the light into the eyes to see from afar, lifting its fair height
above the purple crowd of humble roofs.

VIII. I have said for every town: I do not want a marble[Pg 25]
church for every village; nay, I do not want marble churches
at all for their own sake, but for the sake of the spirit that
would build them. The church has no need of any visible
splendors; her power is independent of them, her purity is in
some degree opposed to them. The simplicity of a pastoral
sanctuary is lovelier than the majesty of an urban temple;
and it may be more than questioned whether, to the people,
such majesty has ever been the source of any increase of effective
piety; but to the builders it has been, and must ever be.
It is not the church we want, but the sacrifice; not the emotion
of admiration, but the act of adoration: not the gift, but
the giving.2 And see how much more charity the full understanding
of this might admit, among classes of men of
naturally opposite feelings; and how much more nobleness in
the work. There is no need to offend by importunate, self-proclaiming
splendor. Your gift may be given in an unpresuming
way. Cut one or two shafts out of a porphyry whose
preciousness those only would know who would desire it to be
so used; add another month’s labor to the undercutting of a
few capitals, whose delicacy will not be seen nor loved by one
beholder of ten thousand; see that the simplest masonry of
the edifice be perfect and substantial; and to those who regard
such things, their witness will be clear and impressive;
to those who regard them not, all will at least be inoffensive.
But do not think the feeling itself a folly, or the act itself useless.
Of what use was that dearly-bought water of the well
of Bethlehem with which the King of Israel slaked the dust
of Adullam?—yet was not thus better than if he had drunk
it? Of what use was that passionate act of Christian sacrifice,
against which, first uttered by the false tongue, the very objection
we would now conquer took a sullen tone for ever?[F]
So also let us not ask of what use our offering is to the church:
it is at least better for than if it had been retained for ourselves.
It may be better for others also: there is, at any rate,
a chance of this; though we must always fearfully and widely
shun the thought that the magnificence of the temple can
materially add to the efficiency of the worship or to the power
[Pg 26]of the ministry. Whatever we do, or whatever we offer, let it
not interfere with the simplicity of the one, or abate, as if replacing,
the zeal of the other. That is the abuse and fallacy
of Romanism, by which the true spirit of Christian offering is
directly contradicted. The treatment of the Papists’ temple is
eminently exhibitory; it is surface work throughout; and the
danger and evil of their church decoration lie, not in its reality—not
in the true wealth and art of it, of which the lower people
are never cognizant—but in its tinsel and glitter, in the
gilding of the shrine and painting of the image, in embroidery
of dingy robes and crowding of imitated gems; all this being
frequently thrust forward to the concealment of what is really
good or great in their buildings.3 Of an offering of gratitude
which is neither to be exhibited nor rewarded, which is neither
to win praise nor purchase salvation, the Romanist (as such)
has no conception.

IX. While, however, I would especially deprecate the imputation
of any other acceptableness or usefulness to the gift
itself than that which it receives from the spirit of its presentation,
it may be well to observe, that there is a lower advantage
which never fails to accompany a dutiful observance of
any right abstract principle. While the first fruits of his possessions
were required from the Israelite as a testimony of
fidelity, the payment of those first fruits was nevertheless rewarded,
and that connectedly and specifically, by the increase
of those possessions. Wealth, and length of days, and peace,
were the promised and experienced rewards of his offering,
though they were not to be the objects of it. The tithe paid
into the storehouse was the expressed condition of the blessing
which there should not be room enough to receive. And
it will be thus always: God never forgets any work or labor
of love; and whatever it may be of which the first and best
proportions or powers have been presented to Him, he will
multiply and increase sevenfold. Therefore, though it may
not be necessarily the interest of religion to admit the service
of the arts, the arts will never flourish until they have been
primarily devoted to that service—devoted, both by architect
and employer; by the one in scrupulous, earnest, affectionate[Pg 27]
design; by the other in expenditure at least more frank, at
least less calculating, than that which he would admit in the
indulgence of his own private feelings. Let this principle be
but once fairly acknowledged among us; and however it may
be chilled and repressed in practice, however feeble may be
its real influence, however the sacredness of it may be diminished
by counter-workings of vanity and self-interest, yet its
mere acknowledgment would bring a reward; and with our
present accumulation of means and of intellect, there would
be such an impulse and vitality given to art as it has not felt
since the thirteenth century. And I do not assert this as
other than a national consequence: I should, indeed, expect
a larger measure of every great and spiritual faculty to be
always given where those faculties had been wisely and religiously
employed; but the impulse to which I refer, would
be, humanly speaking, certain; and would naturally result
from obedience to the two great conditions enforced by the
Spirit of Sacrifice, first, that we should in everything do our
best; and, secondly, that we should consider increase of apparent
labor as an increase of beauty in the building. A few
practical deductions from these two conditions, and I have

X. For the first: it is alone enough to secure success, and
it is for want of observing it that we continually fail. We
are none of us so good architects as to be able to work habitually
beneath our strength; and yet there is not a building
that I know of, lately raised, wherein it is not sufficiently
evident that neither architect nor builder has done his best.
It is the especial characteristic of modern work. All old
work nearly has been hard work. It may be the hard work
of children, of barbarians, of rustics; but it is always their
utmost. Ours has as constantly the look of money’s worth,
of a stopping short wherever and whenever we can, of a lazy
compliance with low conditions; never of a fair putting forth
of our strength. Let us have done with this kind of work at
once: cast off every temptation to it: do not let us degrade
ourselves voluntarily, and then mutter and mourn over our
short comings; let us confess our poverty or our parsimony[Pg 28],
but not belie our human intellect. It is not even a question
of how we are to do, but of how it is to be done; it is
not a question of doing more, but of doing better. Do not
let us boss our roofs with wretched, half-worked, blunt-edged
rosettes; do not let us flank our gates with rigid imitations
of mediæval statuary. Such things are mere insults to
common sense, and only unfit us for feeling the nobility of
their prototypes. We have so much, suppose, to be spent in
decoration; let us go to the Flaxman of his time, whoever
he may be, and bid him carve for us a single statue, frieze or
capital, or as many as we can afford, compelling upon him the
one condition, that they shall be the best he can do; place
them where they will be of the most value, and be content.
Our other capitals may be mere blocks, and our other niches
empty. No matter: better our work unfinished than all bad.
It may be that we do not desire ornament of so high an
order; choose, then, a less developed style, also, if you will,
rougher material; the law which we are enforcing requires
only that what we pretend to do and to give, shall both be
the best of their kind; choose, therefore, the Norman hatchet
work, instead of the Flaxman frieze and statue, but let it be
the best hatchet work; and if you cannot afford marble, use
Caen stone, but from the best bed; and if not stone, brick,
but the best brick; preferring always what is good of a lower
order of work or material, to what is bad of a higher; for this
is not only the way to improve every kind of work, and to put
every kind of material to better use; but it is more honest
and unpretending, and is in harmony with other just, upright,
and manly principles, whose range we shall have presently to
take into consideration.

XI. The other condition which we had to notice, was the
value of the appearance of labor upon architecture. I have
spoken of this before;[G] and it is, indeed, one of the most
frequent sources of pleasure which belong to the art, always,
however, within certain somewhat remarkable limits. For it
does not at first appear easily to be explained why labor, as
represented by materials of value, should, without sense of
[Pg 29]wrong or error, bear being wasted; while the waste of actual
workmanship is always painful, so soon as it is apparent.
But so it is, that, while precious materials may, with a certain
profusion and negligence, be employed for the magnificence
of what is seldom seen, the work of man cannot be carelessly
and idly bestowed, without an immediate sense of wrong; as
if the strength of the living creature were never intended by
its Maker to be sacrificed in vain, though it is well for us
sometimes to part with what we esteem precious of substance,
as showing that in such a service it becomes but dross
and dust. And in the nice balance between the straitening
of effort or enthusiasm on the one hand, and vainly casting it
away upon the other, there are more questions than can be
met by any but very just and watchful feeling. In general it
is less the mere loss of labor that offends us, than the lack
of judgment implied by such loss; so that if men confessedly
work for work’s sake, and it does not appear that they are ignorant
where or how to make their labor tell, we shall not be
grossly offended. On the contrary, we shall be pleased if the
work be lost in carrying out a principle, or in avoiding a deception.
It, indeed, is a law properly belonging to another
part of our subject, but it may be allowably stated here, that,
whenever, by the construction of a building, some parts of it
are hidden from the eye which are the continuation of others
bearing some consistent ornament, it is not well that the ornament
should cease in the parts concealed; credit is given
for it, and it should not be deceptively withdrawn: as, for instance,
in the sculpture of the backs of the statues of a temple
pediment; never, perhaps, to be seen, but yet not lawfully to
be left unfinished. And so in the working out of ornaments
in dark concealed places, in which it is best to err on the side
of completion; and in the carrying round of string courses,
and other such continuous work; not but that they may stop
sometimes, on the point of going into some palpably impenetrable
recess, but then let them stop boldly and markedly, on
some distinct terminal ornament, and never be supposed to
exist where they do not. The arches of the towers which
flank the transepts of Rouen Cathedral have rosette orna[Pg 30]ments
on their spandrils, on the three visible sides; none on
the side towards the roof. The right of this is rather a nice
point for question.

XII. Visibility, however, we must remember, depends, not
only on situation, but on distance; and there is no way in
which work is more painfully and unwisely lost than in its
over delicacy on parts distant from the eye. Here, again, the
principle of honesty must govern our treatment: we must
not work any kind of ornament which is, perhaps, to cover
the whole building (or at least to occur on all parts of it) delicately
where it is near the eye, and rudely where it is removed
from it. That is trickery and dishonesty. Consider, first,
what kinds of ornaments will tell in the distance and what
near, and so distribute them, keeping such as by their nature
are delicate, down near the eye, and throwing the bold and
rough kinds of work to the top; and if there be any kind
which is to be both near and far off, take care that it be as
boldly and rudely wrought where it is well seen as where it
is distant, so that the spectator may know exactly what it is,
and what it is worth. Thus chequered patterns, and in general
such ornaments as common workmen can execute, may
extend over the whole building; but bas-reliefs, and fine
niches and capitals, should be kept down, and the common
sense of this will always give a building dignity, even though
there be some abruptness or awkwardness, in the resulting
arrangements. Thus at San Zeno at Verona, the bas-reliefs,
full of incident and interest are confined to a parallelogram
of the front, reaching to the height of the capitals of the columns
of the porch. Above these, we find a simple though
most lovely, little arcade; and above that, only blank wall,
with square face shafts. The whole effect is tenfold grander
and better than if the entire façade had been covered with bad
work, and may serve for an example of the way to place little
where we cannot afford much. So, again, the transept gates
of Rouen[H] are covered with delicate bas-reliefs (of which I
[Pg 31]shall speak at greater length presently) up to about once
and a half a man’s height; and above that come the usual
and more visible statues and niches. So in the campanile at
Florence, the circuit of bas-reliefs is on its lowest story;
above that come its statues; and above them all its pattern
mosaic, and twisted columns, exquisitely finished, like all
Italian work of the time, but still, in the eye of the Florentine,
rough and commonplace by comparison with the bas-reliefs.
So generally the most delicate niche work and best
mouldings of the French Gothic are in gates and low windows
well within sight; although, it being the very spirit of
that style to trust to its exuberance for effect, there is occasionally
a burst upwards and blossoming unrestrainably to
the sky, as in the pediment of the west front of Rouen, and
in the recess of the rose window behind it, where there are
some most elaborate flower-mouldings, all but invisible from
below, and only adding a general enrichment to the deep
shadows that relieve the shafts of the advanced pediment. It
is observable, however, that this very work is bad flamboyant,
and has corrupt renaissance characters in its detail as well as
use; while in the earlier and grander north and south gates,
there is a very noble proportioning of the work to the distance,
the niches and statues which crown the northern one,
at a height of about one hundred feet from the ground, being
alike colossal and simple; visibly so from below, so as to induce
no deception, and yet honestly and well-finished above,
and all that they are expected to be; the features very beautiful,
full of expression, and as delicately wrought as any
work of the period.

XIII. It is to be remembered, however, that while the ornaments
in every fine ancient building, without exception so far
as I am aware, are most delicate at the base, they are often
in greater effective on the upper parts. In high
towers this is perfectly natural and right, the solidity of the
foundation being as necessary as the division and penetration
of the superstructure; hence the lighter work and richly
pierced crowns of late Gothic towers. The campanile of
Giotto at Florence, already alluded to, is an exquisite instance[Pg 32]
of the union of the two principles, delicate bas-reliefs adorning
its massy foundation, while the open tracery of the upper
windows attracts the eye by its slender intricacy, and a rich
cornice crowns the whole. In such truly fine cases of this
disposition the upper work is effective by its quantity and intricacy
only, as the lower portions by delicacy; so also in the
Tour de Beurre at Rouen, where, however, the detail is massy
throughout, subdividing into rich meshes as it ascends. In
the bodies of buildings the principle is less safe, but its discussion
is not connected with our present subject.

XIV. Finally, work may be wasted by being too good for
its material, or too fine to bear exposure; and this, generally a
characteristic of late, especially of renaissance, work, is perhaps
the worst fault of all. I do not know anything more
painful or pitiful than the kind of ivory carving with which
the Certosa of Pavia, and part of the Colleone sepulchral
chapel at Bergamo, and other such buildings, are incrusted,
of which it is not possible so much as to think without exhaustion;
and a heavy sense of the misery it would be, to be
forced to look at it at all. And this is not from the quantity
of it, nor because it is bad work—much of it is inventive and
able; but because it looks as if it were only fit to be put in
inlaid cabinets and velveted caskets, and as if it could not
bear one drifting shower or gnawing frost. We are afraid for
it, anxious about it, and tormented by it; and we feel that a
massy shaft and a bold shadow would be worth it all. Nevertheless,
even in cases like these, much depends on the accomplishment
of the great ends of decoration. If the ornament
does its duty—if it ornament, and its points of shade and
light tell in the general effect, we shall not be offended by
finding that the sculptor in his fulness of fancy has chosen to
give much more than these mere points of light, and has
composed them of groups of figures. But if the ornament
does not answer its purpose, if it have no distant, no truly
decorative power; if generally seen it be a mere incrustation
and meaningless roughness, we shall only be chagrined by
finding when we look close, that the incrustation has cost
years of labor and has millions of figures and histories in it
[Pg 33]
and would be the better of being seen through a Stanhope
lens. Hence the greatness of the northern Gothic as contrasted
with the latest Italian. It reaches nearly the same
extreme of detail; but it never loses sight of its architectural
purpose, never fails in its decorative power; not a leaflet in it
but speaks, and speaks far off, too; and so long as this be
the case, there is no limit to the luxuriance in which such
work may legitimately and nobly be bestowed.


XV. No limit: it is one of the affectations of architects to
speak of overcharged ornament. Ornament cannot be overcharged
if it be good, and is always overcharged when it is
bad. I have given, on the opposite page (fig. 1), one of the
smallest niches of the central gate of Rouen. That gate I
suppose to be the most exquisite piece of pure flamboyant
work existing; for though I have spoken of the upper portions,
especially the receding window, as degenerate, the gate
itself is of a purer period, and has hardly any renaissance
taint. There are four strings of these niches (each with two
figures beneath it) round the porch, from the ground to the
top of the arch, with three intermediate rows of larger niches,
far more elaborate; besides the six principal canopies of each
outer pier. The total number of the subordinate niches alone,
each worked like that in the plate, and each with a different
pattern of traceries in each compartment, is one hundred and
seventy-six.4 Yet in all this ornament there is not one cusp,
one finial that is useless—not a stroke of the chisel is in vain;
the grace and luxuriance of it all are visible—sensible rather—even
to the uninquiring eye; and all its minuteness does
not diminish the majesty, while it increases the mystery, of
the noble and unbroken vault. It is not less the boast of
some styles that they can bear ornament, than of others that
they can do without it; but we do not often enough reflect
that those very styles, of so haughty simplicity, owe part of
their pleasurableness to contrast, and would be wearisome if
universal. They are but the rests and monotones of the art;
it is to its far happier, far higher, exaltation that we owe
those fair fronts of variegated mosaic, charged with wild fancies
and dark hosts of imagery, thicker and quainter than[Pg 34]
ever filled the depth of midsummer dream; those vaulted
gates, trellised with close leaves; those window-labyrinths of
twisted tracery and starry light; those misty masses of multitudinous
pinnacle and diademed tower; the only witnesses,
perhaps that remain to us of the faith and fear of nations.
All else for which the builders sacrificed, has passed away—all
their living interests, and aims, and achievements. We
know not for what they labored, and we see no evidence of
their reward. Victory, wealth, authority, happiness—all have
departed, though bought by many a bitter sacrifice. But of
them, and their life, and their toil upon the earth, one reward,
one evidence, is left to us in those gray heaps of deep-wrought
stone. They have taken with them to the grave
their powers, their honors, and their errors; but they have
left us their adoration.



I. There is a marked likeness between the virtues of man
and the enlightenment of the globe he inhabits—the same
diminishing gradation in vigor up to the limits of their domains,
the same essential separation from their contraries—the
same twilight at the meeting of the two: a something
wider belt than the line where the world rolls into night, that
strange twilight of the virtues; that dusky debateable land,
wherein zeal becomes impatience, and temperance becomes
severity, and justice becomes cruelty, and faith superstition,
and each and all vanish into gloom.

Nevertheless, with the greater number of them, though
their dimness increases gradually, we may mark the moment
of their sunset; and, happily, may turn the shadow back by
the way by which it had gone down: but for one, the line of
the horizon is irregular and undefined; and this, too, the very
equator and girdle of them all—Truth; that only one of
which there are no degrees, but breaks and rents continually;
that pillar of the earth, yet a cloudy pillar; that golden and
narrow line, which the very powers and virtues that lean upon[Pg 35]
it bend, which policy and prudence conceal, which kindness
and courtesy modify, which courage overshadows with his
shield, imagination covers with her wings, and charity dims
with her tears. How difficult must the maintenance of that
authority be, which, while it has to restrain the hostility of
all the worst principles of man, has also to restrain the disorders
of his best—which is continually assaulted by the one,
and betrayed by the other, and which regards with the same
severity the lightest and the boldest violations of its law!
There are some faults slight in the sight of love, some errors
slight in the estimate of wisdom; but truth forgives no
insult, and endures no stain.

We do not enough consider this; nor enough dread the
slight and continual occasions of offence against her. We
are too much in the habit of looking at falsehood in its darkest
associations, and through the color of its worst purposes.
That indignation which we profess to feel at deceit absolute,
is indeed only at deceit malicious. We resent calumny, hypocrisy
and treachery, because they harm us, not because they
are untrue. Take the detraction and the mischief from the
untruth, and we are little offended by it; turn it into praise,
and we may be pleased with it. And yet it is not calumny
nor treachery that does the largest sum of mischief in the
world; they are continually crushed, and are felt only in
being conquered. But it is the glistening and softly spoken
lie; the amiable fallacy; the patriotic lie of the historian, the
provident lie of the politician, the zealous lie of the partizan,
the merciful lie of the friend, and the careless lie of each man
to himself, that cast that black mystery over humanity,
through which any man who pierces, we thank as we would
thank one who dug a well in a desert; happy in that the
thirst for truth still remains with us, even when we have wilfully
left the fountains of it.

It would be well if moralists less frequently confused the
greatness of a sin with its unpardonableness. The two characters
are altogether distinct. The greatness of a fault depends
partly on the nature of the person against whom it is committed,
partly upon the extent of its consequences. Its par[Pg 36]donableness
depends, humanly speaking, on the degree of
temptation to it. One class of circumstances determines the
weight of the attaching punishment; the other, the claim to
remission of punishment: and since it is not easy for men to
estimate the relative weight, nor possible for them to know
the relative consequences, of crime, it is usually wise in them
to quit the care of such nice measurements, and to look to
the other and clearer condition of culpability; esteeming
those faults worst which are committed under least temptation.
I do not mean to diminish the blame of the injurious
and malicious sin, of the selfish and deliberate falsity; yet it
seems to me, that the shortest way to check the darker forms
of deceit is to set watch more scrupulous against those which
have mingled, unregarded and unchastised, with the current
of our life. Do not let us lie at all. Do not think of one
falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended.
Cast them all aside: they may be light and accidental;
but they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit,
for all that; and it is better that our hearts should be swept
clean of them, without over care as to which is largest or
blackest. Speaking truth is like writing fair, and comes only
by practice; it is less a matter of will than of habit, and I
doubt if any occasion can be trivial which permits the practice
and formation of such a habit. To speak and act truth with
constancy and precision is nearly as difficult, and perhaps as
meritorious, as to speak it under intimidation or penalty;
and it is a strange thought how many men there are, as I
trust, who would hold to it at the cost of fortune or life, for
one who would hold to it at the cost of a little daily trouble.
And seeing that of all sin there is, perhaps, no one more flatly
opposite to the Almighty, no one more “wanting the good of
virtue and of being,” than this of lying, it is surely a strange
insolence to fall into the foulness of it on light or on no temptation,
and surely becoming an honorable man to resolve that,
whatever semblances or fallacies the necessary course of his
life may compel him to bear or to believe, none shall disturb
the serenity of his voluntary actions, nor diminish the reality
of his chosen delights.[Pg 37]

II. If this be just and wise for truth’s sake, much more is
it necessary for the sake of the delights over which she has influence.
For, as I advocated the expression of the Spirit of
Sacrifice in the acts and pleasures of men, not as if thereby
those acts could further the cause of religion, but because
most assuredly they might therein be infinitely ennobled themselves,
so I would have the Spirit or Lamp of Truth clear in
the hearts of our artists and handicraftsmen, not as if the
truthful practice of handicrafts could far advance the cause of
truth, but because I would fain see the handicrafts themselves
urged by the spurs of chivalry: and it is, indeed, marvellous
to see what power and universality there is in this single principle,
and how in the consulting or forgetting of it lies half
the dignity or decline of every art and act of man. I have before
endeavored to show its range and power in painting; and
I believe a volume, instead of a chapter, might be written on
its authority over all that is great in architecture. But I must
be content with the force of instances few and familiar, believing
that the occasions of its manifestation may be more easily
discovered by a desire to be true, than embraced by an analysis
of truth.

Only it is very necessary in the outset to mark clearly
wherein consists the essence of fallacy as distinguished from

III. For it might be at first thought that the whole kingdom
of imagination was one of deception also. Not so: the
action of the imagination is a voluntary summoning of the
conceptions of things absent or impossible; and the pleasure
and nobility of the imagination partly consist in its knowledge
and contemplation of them as such, i.e. in the knowledge of
their actual absence or impossibility at the moment of their
apparent presence or reality. When the imagination deceives
it becomes madness. It is a noble faculty so long as it confesses
its own ideality; when it ceases to confess this, it is
insanity. All the difference lies in the fact of the confession,
in there being deception. It is necessary to our rank as
spiritual creatures, that we should be able to invent and to
behold what is not; and to our rank as moral creatures[Pg 38]
that we should know and confess at the same time that it is

IV. Again, it might be thought, and has been thought, that
the whole art of painting is nothing else than an endeavor to
deceive. Not so: it is, on the contrary, a statement of certain
facts, in the clearest possible way. For instance: I desire to
give an account of a mountain or of a rock; I begin by telling
its shape. But words will not do this distinctly, and I draw
its shape, and say, “This was its shape.” Next: I would fain
represent its color; but words will not do this either, and I
dye the paper, and say, “This was its color.” Such a process
may be carried on until the scene appears to exist, and a high
pleasure may be taken in its apparent existence. This is a
communicated act of imagination, but no lie. The lie can
consist only in an of its existence (which is never for
one instant made, implied, or believed), or else in false statements
of forms and colors (which are, indeed, made and believed
to our great loss, continually). And observe, also, that
so degrading a thing is deception in even the approach and
appearance of it, that all painting which even reaches the
mark of apparent realization, is degraded in so doing. I have
enough insisted on this point in another place.

V. The violations of truth, which dishonor poetry and
painting, are thus for the most part confined to the treatment
of their subjects. But in architecture another and a less subtle,
more contemptible, violation of truth is possible; a direct
falsity of assertion respecting the nature of material, or the
quantity of labor. And this is, in the full sense of the word,
wrong; it is as truly deserving of reprobation as any other
moral delinquency; it is unworthy alike of architects and of
nations; and it has been a sign, wherever it has widely and
with toleration existed, of a singular debasement of the arts;
that it is not a sign of worse than this, of a general want of
severe probity, can be accounted for only by our knowledge
of the strange separation which has for some centuries existed
between the arts and all other subjects of human intellect, as
matters of conscience. This withdrawal of conscientiousness
from among the faculties concerned with art, while it has[Pg 39]
destroyed the arts themselves, has also rendered in a measure
nugatory the evidence which otherwise they might have presented
respecting the character of the respective nations among
whom they have been cultivated; otherwise, it might appear
more than strange that a nation so distinguished for its general
uprightness and faith as the English, should admit in
their architecture more of pretence, concealment, and deceit,
than any other of this or of past time.

They are admitted in thoughtlessness, but with fatal effect
upon the art in which they are practised. If there were no
other causes for the failures which of late have marked every
great occasion for architectural exertion, these petty dishonesties
would be enough to account for all. It is the first step
and not the least, towards greatness to do away with these;
the first, because so evidently and easily in our power. We
may not be able to command good, or beautiful, or inventive
architecture; but we command an honest architecture:
the meagreness of poverty may be pardoned, the sternness
of utility respected; but what is there but scorn for the meanness
of deception?

VI. Architectural Deceits are broadly to be considered under
three heads:—

1st. The suggestion of a mode of structure or support,
other than the true one; as in pendants of late Gothic roofs.

2d. The painting of surfaces to represent some other material
than that of which they actually consist (as in the marbling
of wood), or the deceptive representation of sculptured
ornament upon them.

3d. The use of cast or machine-made ornaments of any kind.

Now, it may be broadly stated, that architecture will be
noble exactly in the degree in which all these false expedients
are avoided. Nevertheless, there are certain degrees of them,
which, owing to their frequent usage, or to other causes, have
so far lost the nature of deceit as to be admissible; as, for
instance, gilding, which is in architecture no deceit, because
it is therein not understood for gold; while in jewellery it is
a deceit, because it is so understood, and therefore altogether
to be reprehended. So that there arise, in the application of[Pg 40]
the strict rules of right, many exceptions and niceties of conscience;
which let us as briefly as possible examine.

VII. 1st. Structural Deceits. I have limited these to the
determined and purposed suggestion of a mode of support
other than the true one. The architect is not to exhibit
structure; nor are we to complain of him for concealing
it, any more than we should regret that the outer surfaces of
the human frame conceal much of its anatomy; nevertheless,
that building will generally be the noblest, which to an intelligent
eye discovers the great secrets of its structure, as an
animal form does, although from a careless observer they
may be concealed. In the vaulting of a Gothic roof it is no
deceit to throw the strength into the ribs of it, and make the
intermediate vault a mere shell. Such a structure would be
presumed by an intelligent observer, the first time he saw
such a roof; and the beauty of its traceries would be enhanced
to him if they confessed and followed the lines of its main
strength. If, however, the intermediate shell were made of
wood instead of stone, and whitewashed to look like the rest,—this
would, of course, be direct deceit, and altogether unpardonable.

There is, however, a certain deception necessarily occurring
in Gothic architecture, which relates, not to the points,
but to the manner, of support. The resemblance in its shafts
and ribs to the external relations of stems and branches,
which has been the ground of so much foolish speculation,
necessarily induces in the mind of the spectator a sense or
belief of a correspondent internal structure; that is to say,
of a fibrous and continuous strength from the root into the
limbs, and an elasticity communicated sufficient for
the support of the ramified portions. The idea of the real
conditions, of a great weight of ceiling thrown upon certain
narrow, jointed lines, which have a tendency partly to be
crushed, and partly to separate and be pushed outwards, is
with difficulty received; and the more so when the pillars
would be, if unassisted, too slight for the weight, and are supported
by external flying buttresses, as in the apse of Beauvais,
and other such achievements of the bolder Gothic. Now,[Pg 41]
there is a nice question of conscience in this, which we shall
hardly settle but by considering that, when the mind is informed
beyond the possibility of mistake as to the true nature
of things, the affecting it with a contrary impression, however
distinct, is no dishonesty, but on the contrary, a legitimate
appeal to the imagination. For instance, the greater part of
the happiness which we have in contemplating clouds, results
from the impression of their having massive, luminous, warm,
and mountain-like surfaces; and our delight in the sky frequently
depends upon our considering it as a blue vault.
But we know the contrary, in both instances; we know the
cloud to be a damp fog, or a drift of snow flakes; and
the sky to be a lightless abyss. There is, therefore, no
dishonesty, while there is much delight, in the irresistibly
contrary impression. In the same way, so long as we see the
stones and joints, and are not deceived as to the points of
support in any piece of architecture, we may rather praise
than regret the dextrous artifices which compel us to feel as
if there were fibre in its shafts and life in its branches. Nor
is even the concealment of the support of the external buttress
reprehensible, so long as the pillars are not sensibly inadequate
to their duty. For the weight of a roof is a circumstance
of which the spectator generally has no idea, and the
provisions for it, consequently, circumstances whose necessity
or adaptation he could not understand. It is no deceit,
therefore, when the weight to be borne is necessarily unknown,
to conceal also the means of bearing it, leaving only
to be perceived so much of the support as is indeed adequate
to the weight supposed. For the shafts do, indeed, bear as
much as they are ever imagined to bear, and the system of
added support is no more, as a matter of conscience, to be
exhibited, than, in the human or any other form, mechanical
provisions for those functions which are themselves unperceived.

But the moment that the conditions of weight are comprehended,
both truth and feeling require that the conditions
of support should be also comprehended. Nothing can be
worse, either as judged by the taste or the conscience, than[Pg 42]
affectedly inadequate supports—suspensions in air, and other
such tricks and vanities. Mr. Hope wisely reprehends, for
this reason, the arrangement of the main piers of St. Sophia
at Constantinople. King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, is a
piece of architectural juggling, if possible still more to be
condemned, because less sublime.

VIII. With deceptive concealments of structure are to be
classed, though still more blameable, deceptive assumptions of
it—the introduction of members which should have, or profess
to have, a duty, and have none. One of the most general instances
of this will be found in the form of the flying buttress
in late Gothic. The use of that member is, of course, to convey
support from one pier to another when the plan of the
building renders it necessary or desirable that the supporting
masses should be divided into groups, the most frequent necessity
of this kind arising from the intermediate range of chapels
or aisles between the nave or choir walls and their supporting
piers. The natural, healthy, and beautiful arrangement is that
of a steeply sloping bar of stone, sustained by an arch with its
spandril carried farthest down on the lowest side, and dying
into the vertical of the outer pier; that pier being, of course,
not square, but rather a piece of wall set at right angles to the
supported walls, and, if need be, crowned by a pinnacle to give
it greater weight. The whole arrangement is exquisitely carried
out in the choir of Beauvais. In later Gothic the pinnacle
became gradually a decorative member, and was used in all
places merely for the sake of its beauty. There is no objection
to this; it is just as lawful to build a pinnacle for its beauty as
a tower; but also the buttress became a decorative member;
and was used, first, where it was not wanted, and, secondly, in
forms in which it could be of no use, becoming a mere tie, not
between the pier and wall, but between the wall and the top
of the decorative pinnacle, thus attaching itself to the very
point where its thrust, if it made any, could not be resisted.
The most flagrant instance of this barbarism that I remember
(though it prevails partially in all the spires of the Netherlands),
is the lantern of St. Ouen at Rouen, where the pierced
buttress, having an ogee curve, looks about as much calculated[Pg 43]
to bear a thrust as a switch of willow; and the pinnacles, huge
and richly decorated, have evidently no work to do whatsoever,
but stand round the central tower, like four idle servants, as
they are—heraldic supporters, that central tower being merely
a hollow crown, which needs no more buttressing than a
basket does. In fact, I do not know anything more strange or
unwise than the praise lavished upon this lantern; it is one of
the basest pieces of Gothic in Europe; its flamboyant traceries
of the last and most degraded forms;5 and its entire plan and
decoration resembling, and deserving little more credit than,
the burnt sugar ornaments of elaborate confectionery. There
are hardly any of the magnificent and serene constructions of
the early Gothic which have not, in the course of time, been
gradually thinned and pared away into these skeletons, which
sometimes indeed, when their lines truly follow the structure
of the original masses, have an interest like that of the fibrous
framework of leaves from which the substance has been dissolved,
but which are usually distorted as well as emaciated, and
remain but the sickly phantoms and mockeries of things that
were; they are to true architecture what the Greek ghost was
to the armed and living frame; and the very winds that whistle
through the threads of them, are to the diapasoned echoes
of the ancient walls, as to the voice of the man was the pining
of the spectre.6

IX. Perhaps the most fruitful source of these kinds of corruption
which we have to guard against in recent times, is one
which, nevertheless, comes in a “questionable shape,” and of
which it is not easy to determine the proper laws and limits;
I mean the use of iron. The definition of the art of architecture,
given in the first chapter, is independent of its materials:
nevertheless, that art having been, up to the beginning of the
present century, practised for the most part in clay, stone, or
wood, it has resulted that the sense of proportion and the laws
of structure have been based, the one altogether, the other in
great part, on the necessities consequent on the employment
of those materials; and that the entire or principal employment
of metallic framework would, therefore, be generally felt
as a departure from the first principles of the art. Abstract[Pg 44]edly
there appears no reason why iron should not be used as
well as wood; and the time is probably near when a new system
of architectural laws will be developed, adapted entirely
to metallic construction. But I believe that the tendency of
all present sympathy and association is to limit the idea of
architecture to non-metallic work; and that not without reason.
For architecture being in its perfection the earliest, as in its
elements it is necessarily the first, of arts, will always precede,
in any barbarous nation, the possession of the science necessary
either for the obtaining or the management of iron. Its first
existence and its earliest laws must, therefore, depend upon the
use of materials accessible in quantity, and on the surface of
the earth; that is to say, clay, wood, or stone: and as I think
it cannot but be generally felt that one of the chief dignities of
architecture is its historical use; and since the latter is partly
dependent on consistency of style, it will be felt right to retain
as far as may be, even in periods of more advanced science,
the materials and principles of earlier ages.

X. But whether this be granted me or not, the fact is, that
every idea respecting size, proportion, decoration, or construction,
on which we are at present in the habit of acting or judging,
depends on presupposition of such materials: and as I
both feel myself unable to escape the influence of these prejudices,
and believe that my readers will be equally so, it may
be perhaps permitted to me to assume that true architecture
does not admit iron as a constructive material,7 and that such
works as the cast-iron central spire of Rouen Cathedral, or the
iron roofs and pillars of our railway stations, and of some of
our churches, are not architecture at all. Yet it is evident
that metals may, and sometimes must, enter into the construction
to a certain extent, as nails in wooden architecture, and
therefore as legitimately rivets and solderings in stone; neither
can we well deny to the Gothic architect the power of supporting
statues, pinnacles, or traceries by iron bars; and if we
grant this I do not see how we can help allowing Brunelleschi
his iron chain around the dome of Florence, or the builders
of Salisbury their elaborate iron binding of the central tower.8
If, however, we would not fall into the old sophistry of the[Pg 45]
grains of corn and the heap, we must find a rule which may
enable us to stop somewhere. This rule is, I think, that
metals may be used as a but not as a . For as
cements of other kinds are often so strong that the stones may
easier be broken than separated, and the wall becomes a solid
mass without for that reason losing the character of architecture,
there is no reason why, when a nation has obtained the
knowledge and practice of iron work, metal rods or rivets
should not be used in the place of cement, and establish the
same or a greater strength and adherence, without in any wise
inducing departure from the types and system of architecture
before established; nor does it make any difference except as
to sightliness, whether the metal bands or rods so employed,
be in the body of the wall or on its exterior, or set as stays
and cross-bands; so only that the use of them be always and
distinctly one which might be superseded by mere strength
of cement; as for instance if a pinnacle or mullion be propped
or tied by an iron band, it is evident that the iron only prevents
the separation of the stones by lateral force, which the
cement would have done, had it been strong enough. But the
moment that the iron in the least degree takes the place of
the stone, and acts by its resistance to crushing, and bears
superincumbent weight, or if it acts by its own weight as a
counterpoise, and so supersedes the use of pinnacles or buttresses
in resisting a lateral thrust, or if, in the form of a rod
or girder, it is used to do what wooden beams would have
done as well, that instant the building ceases, so far as such
applications of metal extend, to be true architecture.

XI. The limit, however, thus determined, is an ultimate
one, and it is well in all things to be cautious how we approach
the utmost limit of lawfulness; so that, although the employment
of metal within this limit cannot be considered as destroying
the very being and nature of architecture, it will, if,
extravagant and frequent, derogate from the dignity of the
work, as well as (which is especially to our present point) from
its honesty. For although the spectator is not informed as to
the quantity or strength of the cement employed, he will generally
conceive the stones of the building to be separable[Pg 46]
and his estimate of the skill of the architect will be based in a
great measure on his supposition of this condition, and of the difficulties
attendant upon it: so that it is always more honorable,
and it has a tendency to render the style of architecture both
more masculine and more scientific, to employ stone and mortar
simply as such, and to do as much as possible with the weight
of the one and the strength of the other, and rather sometimes
to forego a grace, or to confess a weakness, than attain the one,
or conceal the other, by means verging upon dishonesty.

Nevertheless, where the design is of such delicacy and
slightness as, in some parts of very fair and finished edifices,
it is desirable that it should be; and where both its completion
and security are in a measure dependent on the use
of metal, let not such use be reprehended; so only that as
much is done as may be, by good mortar and good masonry;
and no slovenly workmanship admitted through confidence
in the iron helps; for it is in this license as in that of wine,
a man may use it for his infirmities, but not for his nourishment.

XII. And, in order to avoid an over use of this liberty, it
would be well to consider what application may be conveniently
made of the dovetailing and various adjusting of stones;
for when any artifice is necessary to help the mortar, certainly
this ought to come before the use of metal, for it is both
safer and more honest. I cannot see that any objection can
be made to the fitting of the stones in any shapes the architect
pleases: for although it would not be desirable to see
buildings put together like Chinese puzzles, there must always
be a check upon such an abuse of the practice in its
difficulty; nor is it necessary that it should be always exhibited,
so that it be understood by the spectator as an admitted
help, and that no principal stones are introduced in
positions apparently impossible for them to retain, although
a riddle here and there, in unimportant features, may sometimes
serve to draw the eye to the masonry, and make it interesting,
as well as to give a delightful sense of a kind of
necromantic power in the architect. There is a pretty one
in the lintel of the lateral door of the cathedral of Prato[Pg 47]
(Plate IV. fig. 4.); where the maintenance of the visibly
separate stones, alternate marble and serpentine, cannot be
understood until their cross-cutting is seen below. Each
block is, of course, of the form given in fig. 5.

XIII. Lastly, before leaving the subject of structural deceits,
I would remind the architect who thinks that I am unnecessarily
and narrowly limiting his resources or his art,
that the highest greatness and the highest wisdom are shown,
the first by a noble submission to, the second by a thoughtful
providence for, certain voluntarily admitted restraints. Nothing
is more evident than this, in that supreme government
which is the example, as it is the centre, of all others. The
Divine Wisdom is, and can be, shown to us only in its meeting
and contending with the difficulties which are voluntarily, and
, admitted by the Divine Omnipotence:
and these difficulties, observe, occur in the form of
natural laws or ordinances, which might, at many times and
in countless ways, be infringed with apparent advantage, but
which are never infringed, whatever costly arrangements or
adaptations their observance may necessitate for the accomplishment
of given purposes. The example most apposite to
our present subject is the structure of the bones of animals.
No reason can be given, I believe, why the system of the
higher animals should not have been made capable, as that of
the is, of secreting flint, instead of phosphate of
lime, or more naturally still, carbon; so framing the bones of
adamant at once. The elephant or rhinoceros, had the earthy
part of their bones been made of diamond, might have been
as agile and light as grasshoppers, and other animals might
have been framed far more magnificently colossal than any
that walk the earth. In other worlds we may, perhaps, see
such creations; a creation for every element, and elements infinite.
But the architecture of animals , is appointed by
God to be a marble architecture, not a flint nor adamant
architecture; and all manner of expedients are adopted to attain
the utmost degree of strength and size possible under
that great limitation. The jaw of the ichthyosaurus is pieced
and riveted, the leg of the megatherium is a foot thick, and[Pg 48]
the head of the myodon has a double skull; we, in our wisdom,
should, doubtless, have given the lizard a steel jaw, and
the myodon a cast-iron headpiece, and forgotten the great
principle to which all creation bears witness, that order and
system are nobler things than power. But God shows us in
Himself, strange as it may seem, not only authoritative perfection,
but even the perfection of Obedience—an obedience
to His own laws: and in the cumbrous movement of those
unwieldiest of His creatures we are reminded, even in His
divine essence, of that attribute of uprightness in the human
creature “that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth

XIV. 2d. Surface Deceits. These may be generally defined
as the inducing the supposition of some form or material
which does not actually exist; as commonly in the painting
of wood to represent marble, or in the painting of ornaments
in deceptive relief, &c. But we must be careful to observe,
that the evil of them consists always in definitely attempted
, and that it is a matter of some nicety to mark the
point where deception begins or ends.

Thus, for instance, the roof of Milan Cathedral is seemingly
covered with elaborate fan tracery, forcibly enough painted to
enable it, in its dark and removed position, to deceive a careless
observer. This is, of course, gross degradation; it destroys
much of the dignity even of the rest of the building,
and is in the very strongest terms to be reprehended.

The roof of the Sistine Chapel has much architectural design
in grissaille mingled with the figures of its frescoes; and
the effect is increase of dignity.

In what lies the distinctive character?

In two points, principally:—First. That the architecture
is so closely associated with the figures, and has so grand fellowship
with them in its forms and cast shadows, that both
are at once felt to be of a piece; and as the figures must necessarily
be painted, the architecture is known to be so too.
There is thus no deception.

Second. That so great a painter as Michael Angelo would
always stop short in such minor parts of his design, of the de[Pg 49]gree
of vulgar force which would be necessary to induce the
supposition of their reality; and, strangely as it may sound,
would never paint badly enough to deceive.

But though right and wrong are thus found broadly opposed
in works severally so mean and so mighty as the roof of Milan
and that of the Sistine, there are works neither so great nor so
mean, in which the limits of right are vaguely defined, and
will need some care to determine; care only, however, to apply
accurately the broad principle with which we set out, that
no form nor material is to be represented.

XV. Evidently, then, painting, confessedly such, is no deception:
it does not assert any material whatever. Whether
it be on wood or on stone, or, as will naturally be supposed,
on plaster, does not matter. Whatever the material, good
painting makes it more precious; nor can it ever be said to
deceive respecting the ground of which it gives us no information.
To cover brick with plaster, and this plaster with fresco,
is, therefore, perfectly legitimate; and as desirable a mode of
decoration as it is constant in the great periods. Verona and
Venice are now seen deprived of more than half their former
splendor; it depended far more on their frescoes than their
marbles. The plaster, in this case, is to be considered as the
gesso ground on panel or canvas. But to cover brick with
cement, and to divide this cement with joints that it may look
like stone, is to tell a falsehood; and is just as contemptible a
procedure as the other is noble.

It being lawful to paint then, is it lawful to paint everything?
So long as the painting is confessed—yes; but if,
even in the slightest degree, the sense of it be lost, and the
thing painted be supposed real—no. Let us take a few instances.
In the Campo Santo at Pisa, each fresco is surrounded
with a border composed of flat colored patterns of
great elegance—no part of it in attempted relief. The certainty
of flat surface being thus secured, the figures, though
the size of life, do not deceive, and the artist thenceforward is
at liberty to put forth his whole power, and to lead us through
fields and groves, and depths of pleasant landscape, and to
soothe us with the sweet clearness of far off sky, and yet[Pg 50]
never lose the severity of his primal purpose of architectural

In the Camera di Correggio of San Lodovico at Parma, the
trellises of vine shadow the walls, as if with an actual arbor;
and the troops of children, peeping through the oval openings,
luscious in color and faint in light, may well be expected
every instant to break through, or hide behind the
covert. The grace of their attitudes, and the evident greatness
of the whole work, mark that it is painting, and barely
redeem it from the charge of falsehood; but even so saved,
it is utterly unworthy to take a place among noble or legitimate
architectural decoration.

In the cupola of the duomo of Parma the same painter has
represented the Assumption with so much deceptive power,
that he has made a dome of some thirty feet diameter look
like a cloud-wrapt opening in the seventh heaven, crowded
with a rushing sea of angels. Is this wrong? Not so: for
the subject at once precludes the possibility of deception.
We might have taken the vines for a veritable pergoda, and
the children for its haunting ragazzi; but we know the stayed
clouds and moveless angels must be man’s work; let him put
his utmost strength to it and welcome, he can enchant us,
but cannot betray.

We may thus apply the rule to the highest, as well as the
art of daily occurrence, always remembering that more is to
be forgiven to the great painter than to the mere decorative
workman; and this especially, because the former, even in
deceptive portions, will not trick us so grossly; as we have
just seen in Correggio, where a worse painter would have
made the thing look like life at once. There is, however, in
room, villa, or garden decoration, some fitting admission of
trickeries of this kind, as of pictured landscapes at the extremities
of alleys and arcades, and ceilings like skies, or
painted with prolongations upwards of the architecture of the
walls, which things have sometimes a certain luxury and
pleasureableness in places meant for idleness, and are innocent
enough as long as they are regarded as mere toys.

XVI. Touching the false representation of material, the[Pg 51]
question is infinitely more simple, and the law more sweeping;
all such imitations are utterly base and inadmissible.
It is melancholy to think of the time and expense lost in
marbling the shop fronts of London alone, and of the waste
of our resources in absolute vanities, in things about which
no mortal cares, by which no eye is ever arrested, unless
painfully, and which do not add one whit to comfort or cleanliness,
or even to that great object of commercial art—conspicuousness.
But in architecture of a higher rank, how
much more is it to be condemned? I have made it a rule in
the present work not to blame specifically; but I may, perhaps,
be permitted, while I express my sincere admiration of
the very noble entrance and general architecture of the
British Museum, to express also my regret that the noble
granite foundation of the staircase should be mocked at its
landing by an imitation, the more blameable because tolerably
successful. The only effect of it is to cast a suspicion upon
the true stones below, and upon every bit of granite afterwards
encountered. One feels a doubt, after it, of the honesty
of Memnon himself. But even this, however derogatory to
the noble architecture around it, is less painful than the
want of feeling with which, in our cheap modern churches,
we suffer the wall decorator to erect about the altar frameworks
and pediments daubed with mottled color, and to dye
in the same fashions such skeletons or caricatures of columns
as may emerge above the pews; this is not merely bad taste;
it is no unimportant or excusable error which brings even
these shadows of vanity and falsehood into the house of
prayer. The first condition which just feeling requires in
church furniture is, that it should be simple and unaffected,
not fictitious nor tawdry. It may be in our power to make it
beautiful, but let it at least be pure; and if we cannot permit
much to the architect, do not let us permit anything to the
upholsterer; if we keep to solid stone and solid wood, whitewashed,
if we like, for cleanliness’ sake (for whitewash has so
often been used as the dress of noble things that it has thence
received a kind of nobility itself), it must be a bad design indeed
which is grossly offensive. I recollect no instance of a[Pg 52]
want of sacred character, or of any marked and painful ugliness,
in the simplest or the most awkwardly built village church,
where stone and wood were roughly and nakedly used, and the
windows latticed with white glass. But the smoothly stuccoed
walls, the flat roofs with ventilator ornaments, the
barred windows with jaundiced borders and dead ground
square panes, the gilded or bronzed wood, the painted iron,
the wretched upholstery of curtains and cushions, and pew
heads and altar railings, and Birmingham metal candlesticks,
and, above all, the green and yellow sickness of the false
marble—disguises all, observe; falsehoods all—who are they
who like these things? who defend them? who do them? I
have never spoken to any one who like them, though to
many who thought them matters of no consequence. Perhaps
not to religion (though I cannot but believe that there
are many to whom, as to myself, such things are serious obstacles
to the repose of mind and temper which should precede
devotional exercises); but to the general tone of our
judgment and feeling—yes; for assuredly we shall regard,
with tolerance, if not with affection, whatever forms of material
things we have been in the habit of associating with our
worship, and be little prepared to detect or blame hypocrisy,
meanness, and disguise in other kinds of decoration when we
suffer objects belonging to the most solemn of all services to
be tricked out in a fashion so fictitious and unseemly.

XVII. Painting, however, is not the only mode in which
material may be concealed, or rather simulated; for merely
to conceal is, as we have seen, no wrong. Whitewash, for instance,
though often (by no means always) to be regretted as
a concealment, is not to be blamed as a falsity. It shows itself
for what it is, and asserts nothing of what is beneath it.
Gilding has become, from its frequent use, equally innocent.
It is understood for what it is, a film merely, and is, therefore,
allowable to any extent. I do not say expedient: it is one of
the most abused means of magnificence we possess, and I
much doubt whether any use we ever make of it, balances
that loss of pleasure, which, from the frequent sight and perpetual
suspicion of it, we suffer in the contemplation of any[Pg 53]thing
that is verily of gold. I think gold was meant to be seldom
seen and to be admired as a precious thing; and I sometimes
wish that truth should so far literally prevail as that all
should be gold that glittered, or rather that nothing should
glitter that was not gold. Nevertheless, nature herself does
not dispense with such semblance, but uses light for it; and
I have too great a love for old and saintly art to part with its
burnished field, or radiant nimbus; only it should be used
with respect, and to express magnificence, or sacredness, and
not in lavish vanity, or in sign painting. Of its expedience,
however, any more than of that of color, it is not here the place
to speak; we are endeavoring to determine what is lawful, not
what is desirable. Of other and less common modes of disguising
surface, as of powder of lapis lazuli, or mosaic imitations
of colored stones, I need hardly speak. The rule will
apply to all alike, that whatever is pretended, is wrong; commonly
enforced also by the exceeding ugliness and insufficient
appearance of such methods, as lately in the style of renovation
by which half the houses in Venice have been defaced,
the brick covered first with stucco, and this painted with
zigzag veins in imitation of alabaster. But there is one more
form of architectural fiction, which is so constant in the great
periods that it needs respectful judgment. I mean the facing
of brick with precious stone.

XVIII. It is well known, that what is meant by a church’s
being built of marble is, in nearly all cases, only that a veneering
of marble has been fastened on the rough brick wall, built
with certain projections to receive it; and that what appear
to be massy stones, are nothing more than external slabs.

Now, it is evident, that, in this case, the question of right
is on the same ground as in that of gilding. If it be clearly
understood that a marble facing does not pretend or imply a
marble wall, there is no harm in it; and as it is also evident
that, when very precious stones are used, as jaspers and serpentines,
it must become, not only an extravagant and vain
increase of expense, but sometimes an actual impossibility, to
obtain mass of them enough to build with, there is no resource
but this of veneering; nor is there anything to be alleged[Pg 54]
against it on the head of durability, such work having been
by experience found to last as long, and in as perfect condition,
as any kind of masonry. It is, therefore, to be considered
as simply an art of mosaic on a large scale, the ground being
of brick, or any other material; and when lovely stones are to
be obtained, it is a manner which should be thoroughly understood,
and often practised. Nevertheless, as we esteem the
shaft of a column more highly for its being of a single block,
and as we do not regret the loss of substance and value which
there is in things of solid gold, silver, agate, or ivory; so I
think the walls themselves may be regarded with a more just
complacency if they are known to be all of noble substance;
and that rightly weighing the demands of the two principles
of which we have hitherto spoken—Sacrifice and Truth, we
should sometimes rather spare external ornament than diminish
the unseen value and consistency of what we do; and I
believe that a better manner of design, and a more careful and
studious, if less abundant decoration would follow, upon the
consciousness of thoroughness in the substance. And, indeed,
this is to be remembered, with respect to all the points we
have examined; that while we have traced the limits of license,
we have not fixed those of that high rectitude which refuses
license. It is thus true that there is no falsity, and much
beauty in the use of external color, and that it is lawful to paint
either pictures or patterns on whatever surfaces may seem to
need enrichment. But it is not less true, that such practices
are essentially unarchitectural; and while we cannot say that
there is actual danger in an over use of them, seeing that they
have been used most lavishly in the times of most noble
art, yet they divide the work into two parts and kinds, one of
less durability than the other, which dies away from it in process
of ages, and leaves it, unless it have noble qualities of its
own, naked and bare. That enduring noblesse I should, therefore,
call truly architectural; and it is not until this has been
secured that the accessory power of painting may be called in,
for the delight of the immediate time; nor this, as I think,
until every resource of a more stable kind has been exhausted.
The true colors of architecture are those of natural stone, and
[Pg 55]
I would fain see these taken advantage of to the full. Every
variety of hue, from pale yellow to purple, passing through
orange, red, and brown, is entirely at our command; nearly
every kind of green and gray is also attainable: and with
these, and pure white, what harmonies might we not achieve?
Of stained and variegated stone, the quantity is unlimited, the
kinds innumerable; where brighter colors are required, let
glass, and gold protected by glass, be used in mosaic—a kind
of work as durable as the solid stone, and incapable of losing
its lustre by time—and let the painter’s work be reserved for
the shadowed and inner chamber. This is the true and
faithful way of building; where this cannot be, the device of
external coloring may, indeed, be employed without dishonor;
but it must be with the warning reflection, that a time will
come when such aids must pass away, and when the building
will be judged in its lifelessness, dying the death of the dolphin.
Better the less bright, more enduring fabric. The
transparent alabasters of San Miniato, and the mosaics of St.
Mark’s, are more warmly filled, and more brightly touched, by
every return of morning and evening rays; while the hues of
our cathedrals have died like the iris out of the cloud; and
the temples whose azure and purple once flamed above the
Grecian promontories, stand in their faded whiteness, like
snows which the sunset has left cold.


XIX. The last form of fallacy which it will be remembered
we had to deprecate, was the substitution of cast or machine
work for that of the hand, generally expressible as Operative

There are two reasons, both weighty, against this practice;
one, that all cast and machine work is bad, as work; the
other, that it is dishonest. Of its badness, I shall speak in
another place, that being evidently no efficient reason against
its use when other cannot be had. Its dishonesty, however,
which, to my mind, is of the grossest kind, is, I think, a sufficient
reason to determine absolute and unconditional rejection
of it.

Ornament, as I have often before observed, has two entirely
distinct sources of agreeableness: one, that of the ab[Pg 56]stract
beauty of its forms, which, for the present, we will
suppose to be the same whether they come from the hand or
the machine; the other, the sense of human labor and care
spent upon it. How great this latter influence we may perhaps
judge, by considering that there is not a cluster of weeds
growing in any cranny of ruin which has not a beauty in all
respects equal, and, in some, immeasurably superior, to
that of the most elaborate sculpture of its stones: and that
all our interest in the carved work, our sense of its richness,
though it is tenfold less rich than the knots of grass beside
it; of its delicacy, though it is a thousand fold less delicate;
of its admirableness, though a millionfold less admirable; results
from our consciousness of its being the work of poor,
clumsy, toilsome man. Its true delightfulness depends on
our discovering in it the record of thoughts, and intents, and
trials, and heart-breakings—of recoveries and joyfulnesses of
success: all this be traced by a practised eye; but, granting
it even obscure, it is presumed or understood; and in
that is the worth of the thing, just as much as the worth of
anything else we call precious. The worth of a diamond is
simply the understanding of the time it must take to look for
it before it can be cut. It has an intrinsic value besides,
which the diamond has not (for a diamond has no more real
beauty than a piece of glass); but I do not speak of that at
present; I place the two on the same ground; and I suppose
that hand-wrought ornament can no more be generally known
from machine work, than a diamond can be known from
paste; nay, that the latter may deceive, for a moment, the
mason’s, as the other the jeweller’s eye; and that it can be
detected only by the closest examination. Yet exactly as a
woman of feeling would not wear false jewels, so would a
builder of honor disdain false ornaments. The using of them
is just as downright and inexcusable a lie. You use that
which pretends to a worth which it has not; which pretends
to have cost, and to be, what it did not, and is not; it is an
imposition, a vulgarity, an impertinence, and a sin. Down
with it to the ground, grind it to powder, leave its ragged
place upon the wall, rather; you have not paid for it, you[Pg 57]
have no business with it, you do not want it. Nobody wants
ornaments in this world, but everybody wants integrity. All
the fair devices that ever were fancied, are not worth a lie.
Leave your walls as bare as a planed board, or build them of
baked mud and chopped straw, if need be; but do not
rough-cast them with falsehood.

This, then, being our general law, and I hold it for a more
imperative one than any other I have asserted; and this kind
of dishonesty the meanest, as the least necessary; for ornament
is an extravagant and inessential thing; and, therefore,
if fallacious, utterly base—this, I say, being our general law,
there are, nevertheless, certain exceptions respecting particular
substances and their uses.

XX. Thus in the use of brick; since that is known to be
originally moulded, there is no reason why it should not be
moulded into diverse forms. It will never be supposed to
have been cut, and therefore, will cause no deception; it will
have only the credit it deserves. In flat countries, far from
any quarry of stone, cast brick may be legitimately, and most
successfully, used in decoration, and that elaborate, and even
refined. The brick mouldings of the Palazzo Pepoli at
Bologna, and those which run round the market-place of Vercelli,
are among the richest in Italy. So also, tile and porcelain
work, of which the former is grotesquely, but successfully,
employed in the domestic architecture of France, colored
tiles being inserted in the diamond spaces between the
crossing timbers; and the latter admirably in Tuscany, in
external bas-reliefs, by the Robbia family, in which works,
while we cannot but sometimes regret the useless and ill-arranged
colors, we would by no means blame the employment
of a material which, whatever its defects, excels every other
in permanence, and, perhaps, requires even greater skill in its
management than marble. For it is not the material, but
the absence of the human labor, which makes the thing
worthless; and a piece of terra cotta, or of plaster of Paris,
which has been wrought by human hand, is worth all the
stone in Carrara, cut by machinery. It is, indeed, possible,
and even usual, for men to sink into machines themselves, so[Pg 58]
that even hand-work has all the characters of mechanism; of
the difference between living and dead hand-work I shall
speak presently; all that I ask at present is, what it is always
in our power to secure—the confession of what we have done,
and what we have given; so that when we use stone at all,
since all stone is naturally supposed to be carved by hand,
we must not carve it by machinery; neither must we use any
artificial stone cast into shape, nor any stucco ornaments of
the color of stone, or which might in anywise be mistaken for
it, as the stucco mouldings in the cortile of the Palazzo Vecchio
at Florence, which cast a shame and suspicion over every
part of the building. But for ductile and fusible materials,
as clay, iron, and bronze, since these will usually be supposed
to have been cast or stamped, it is at our pleasure to employ
them as we will; remembering that they become precious, or
otherwise, just in proportion to the hand-work upon them, or
to the clearness of their reception of the hand-work of their

But I believe no cause to have been more active in the
degradation of our natural feeling for beauty, than the constant
use of cast iron ornaments. The common iron work of
the middle ages was as simple as it was effective, composed of
leafage cut flat out of sheet iron, and twisted at the workman’s
will. No ornaments, on the contrary, are so cold,
clumsy, and vulgar, so essentially incapable of a fine line, or
shadow, as those of cast iron; and while, on the score of truth,
we can hardly allege anything against them, since they are
always distinguishable, at a glance, from wrought and hammered
work, and stand only for what they are, yet I feel very
strongly that there is no hope of the progress of the arts of
any nation which indulges in these vulgar and cheap substitutes
for real decoration. Their inefficiency and paltriness I
shall endeavor to show more conclusively in another place,
enforcing only, at present, the general conclusion that, if even
honest or allowable, they are things in which we can never
take just pride or pleasure, and must never be employed in
any place wherein they might either themselves obtain the
credit of being other and better than they are, or be asso[Pg 59]ciated
with the downright work to which it would be a disgrace
to be found in their company.

Such are, I believe, the three principal kinds of fallacy by
which architecture is liable to be corrupted; there are, however,
other and more subtle forms of it, against which it is less
easy to guard by definite law, than by the watchfulness of a
manly and unaffected spirit. For, as it has been above noticed,
there are certain kinds of deception which extend to
impressions and ideas only; of which some are, indeed, of a
noble use, as that above referred to, the arborescent look of
lofty Gothic aisles; but of which the most part have so much
of legerdemain and trickery about them, that they will lower
any style in which they considerably prevail; and they are
likely to prevail when once they are admitted, being apt to
catch the fancy alike of uninventive architects and feelingless
spectators; just as mean and shallow minds are, in other
matters, delighted with the sense of over-reaching, or tickled
with the conceit of detecting the intention to over-reach; and
when subtleties of this kind are accompanied by the display
of such dextrous stone-cutting, or architectural sleight of
hand, as may become, even by itself, a subject of admiration,
it is a great chance if the pursuit of them do not gradually
draw us away from all regard and care for the nobler character
of the art, and end in its total paralysis or extinction.
And against this there is no guarding, but by stern disdain
of all display of dexterity and ingenious device, and by putting
the whole force of our fancy into the arrangement of
masses and forms, caring no more how these masses and
forms are wrought out, than a great painter cares which
way his pencil strikes. It would be easy to give many instances
of the danger of these tricks and vanities; but I
shall confine myself to the examination of one which has, as
I think, been the cause of the fall of Gothic architecture
throughout Europe. I mean the system of intersectional
mouldings, which, on account of its great importance, and
for the sake of the general reader, I may, perhaps, be pardoned
for explaining elementarily.

XXI. I must, in the first place, however, refer to Professor[Pg 60]
Willis’s account of the origin of tracery, given in the sixth
chapter of his Architecture of the Middle Ages; since the
publication of which I have been not a little amazed to hear
of any attempts made to resuscitate the inexcusably absurd
theory of its derivation from imitated vegetable form—inexcusably,
I say, because the smallest acquaintance with early
Gothic architecture would have informed the supporters of
that theory of the simple fact, that, exactly in proportion to
the antiquity of the work, the imitation of such organic forms
is less, and in the earliest examples does not exist at all.
There cannot be the shadow of a question, in the mind of a
person familiarised with any single series of consecutive examples,
that tracery arose from the gradual enlargement of
the penetrations of the shield of stone which, usually supported
by a central pillar, occupied the head of early windows.
Professor Willis, perhaps, confines his observations somewhat
too absolutely to the double sub-arch. I have given, in Plate
VII. fig. 2, an interesting case of rude penetration of a high
and simply trefoiled shield, from the church of the Eremitani
at Padua. But the more frequent and typical form is that of
the double sub-arch, decorated with various piercings of the
space between it and the superior arch; with a simple trefoil
under a round arch, in the Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen9
(Plate III. fig. 1); with a very beautifully proportioned quatrefoil,
in the triforium of Eu, and that of the choir of Lisieux;
with quatrefoils, sixfoils, and septfoils, in the transept towers
of Rouen (Plate III. fig. 2); with a trefoil awkwardly, and very
small quatrefoil above, at Coutances, (Plate III. fig. 3); then,
with multiplications of the same figures, pointed or round, giving
very clumsy shapes of the intermediate stone (fig. 4, from
one of the nave chapels of Rouen, fig. 5, from one of the nave
chapels of Bayeaux), and finally, by thinning out the stony
ribs, reaching conditions like that of the glorious typical form
of the clerestory of the apse of Beauvais (fig. 6).


XXII. Now, it will be noticed that, during the whole of
this process, the attention is kept fixed on the forms of the
penetrations, that is to say, of the lights as seen from the interior,
not of the intermediate stone. All the grace of the
[Pg 61]
window is in the outline of its light; and I have drawn all
these traceries as seen from within, in order to show the effect
of the light thus treated, at first in far off and separate stars,
and then gradually enlarging, approaching, until they come
and stand over us, as it were, filling the whole space with their
effulgence. And it is in this pause of the star, that we have
the great, pure, and perfect form of French Gothic; it was
at the instant when the rudeness of the intermediate space
had been finally conquered, when the light had expanded to
its fullest, and yet had not lost its radiant unity, principality,
and visible first causing of the whole, that we have the most
exquisite feeling and most faultless judgments in the management
alike of the tracery and decorations. I have given, in
Plate X., an exquisite example of it, from a panel decoration
of the buttresses of the north door of Rouen; and in order
that the reader may understand what truly fine Gothic work
is, and how nobly it unites fantasy and law, as well as for our
immediate purpose, it will be well that he should examine its
sections and mouldings in detail (they are described in the
fourth Chapter, § xxvii.), and that the more carefully, because
this design belongs to a period in which the most important
change took place in the spirit of Gothic architecture, which,
perhaps, ever resulted from the natural progress of any art.
That tracery marks a pause between the laying aside of one
great ruling principle, and the taking up of another; a pause
as marked, as clear, as conspicuous to the distant view of
after times, as to the distant glance of the traveller is the
culminating ridge of the mountain chain over which he has
passed. It was the great watershed of Gothic art. Before it,
all had been ascent; after it, all was decline; both, indeed,
by winding paths and varied slopes; both interrupted, like
the gradual rise and fall of the passes of the Alps, by great
mountain outliers, isolated or branching from the central
chain, and by retrograde or parallel directions of the valleys
of access. But the track of the human mind is traceable up
to that glorious ridge, in a continuous line, and thence downwards.
Like a silver zone[Pg 62]

“Flung about carelessly, it shines afar,
Catching the eye in many a broken link,
In many a turn and traverse, as it glides.
And oft above, and oft below, appears—
* * * * to him who journeys up
As though it were another.”

And at that point, and that instant, reaching the place that
was nearest heaven, the builders looked back, for the last
time, to the way by which they had come, and the scenes
through which their early course had passed. They turned
away from them and their morning light, and descended towards
a new horizon, for a time in the warmth of western sun,
but plunging with every forward step into more cold and
melancholy shade.

XXIII. The change of which I speak, is inexpressible in
few words, but one more important, more radically influential,
could not be. It was the substitution of the for the ,
as the element of decoration.

We have seen the mode in which the openings or penetration
of the window expanded, until what were, at first, awkward
forms of intermediate stone, became delicate lines of
tracery: and I have been careful in pointing out the peculiar
attention bestowed on the proportion and decoration of the
mouldings of the window at Rouen, in Plate X., as compared
with earlier mouldings, because that beauty and care are singularly
significant. They mark that the traceries had of the architect. Up to that time, up to the very last
instant in which the reduction and thinning of the intervening
stone was consummated, his eye had been on the openings only,
on the stars of light. He did not care about the stone, a rude
border of moulding was all he needed, it was the penetrating
shape which he was watching. But when that shape had received
its last possible expansion, and when the stone-work
became an arrangement of graceful and parallel lines, that
arrangement, like some form in a picture, unseen and accidentally
developed, struck suddenly, inevitably, on the sight. It
had literally not been seen before. It flashed out in an instant
as an independent form. It became a feature of the[Pg 63]
work. The architect took it under his care, thought over it,
and distributed its members as we see.

Now, the great pause was at the moment when the space
and the dividing stone-work were both equally considered.
It did not last fifty years. The forms of the tracery were
seized with a childish delight in the novel source of beauty;
and the intervening space was cast aside, as an element of
decoration, for ever. I have confined myself, in following this
change, to the window, as the feature in which it is clearest.
But the transition is the same in every member of architecture;
and its importance can hardly be understood, unless we
take the pains to trace it in the universality, of which
illustrations, irrelevant to our present purpose, will be found in the
third Chapter. I pursue here the question of truth, relating
to the treatment of the mouldings.

XXIV. The reader will observe that, up to the last expansion
of the penetrations, the stone-work was necessarily considered,
as it actually is, , and unyielding. It was so, also,
during the pause of which I have spoken, when the forms of
the tracery were still severe and pure; delicate indeed, but
perfectly firm.

At the close of the period of pause, the first sign of serious
change was like a low breeze, passing through the emaciated
tracery, and making it tremble. It began to undulate like the
threads of a cobweb lifted by the wind. It lost its essence as
a structure of stone. Reduced to the slenderness of threads,
it began to be considered as possessing also their flexibility.
The architect was pleased with this his new fancy, and set himself
to carry it out; and in a little time, the bars of tracery
were caused to appear to the eye as if they had been woven
together like a net. This was a change which sacrificed a
great principle of truth; it sacrificed the expression of the
qualities of the material; and, however delightful its results
in their first developments, it was ultimately ruinous.

For, observe the difference between the supposition of ductility,
and that of elastic structure noticed above in the resemblance
to tree form. That resemblance was not sought, but
necessary; it resulted from the natural conditions of strength[Pg 64]
in the pier or trunk, and slenderness in the ribs or branches,
while many of the other suggested conditions of resemblance
were perfectly true. A tree branch, though in a certain sense
flexible, is not ductile; it is as firm in its own form as the rib
of stone; both of them will yield up to certain limits, both of
them breaking when those limits are exceeded; while the tree
trunk will bend no more than the stone pillar. But when the
tracery is assumed to be as yielding as a silken cord; when
the whole fragility, elasticity, and weight of the material are
to the eye, if not in terms, denied; when all the art of the
architect is applied to disprove the first conditions of his working,
and the first attributes of his materials; is a deliberate
treachery, only redeemed from the charge of direct falsehood
by the visibility of the stone surface, and degrading all
the traceries it affects exactly in the degree of its presence.

XXV. But the declining and morbid taste of the later architects,
was not satisfied with thus much deception. They
were delighted with the subtle charm they had created, and
thought only of increasing its power. The next step was to
consider and represent the tracery, as not only ductile, but
penetrable; and when two mouldings met each other, to
manage their intersection, so that one should appear to pass
through the other, retaining its independence; or when two
ran parallel to each other, to represent the one as partly contained
within the other, and partly apparent above it. This
form of falsity was that which crushed the art. The flexible
traceries were often beautiful, though they were ignoble; but
the penetrated traceries, rendered, as they finally were, merely
the means of exhibiting the dexterity of the stone-cutter, annihilated
both the beauty and dignity of the Gothic types.
A system so momentous in its consequences deserves some
detailed examination.

XXVI. In the drawing of the shafts of the door at Lisieux,
under the spandril, in Plate VII., the reader will see the mode
of managing the intersection of similar mouldings, which was
universal in the great periods. They melted into each other,
and became one at the point of crossing, or of contact; and
even the suggestion of so sharp intersection as this of Lisieux[Pg 65]
is usually avoided (this design being, of course, only a pointed
form of the earlier Norman arcade, in which the arches are
interlaced, and lie each over the preceding, and under the following,
one, as in Anselm’s tower at Canterbury), since, in the
plurality of designs, when mouldings meet each other, they
coincide through some considerable portion of their curves,
meeting by contact, rather than by intersection; and at the
point of coincidence the section of each separate moulding
becomes common to the two thus melted into each other.
Thus, in the junction of the circles of the window of the Palazzo
Foscari, Plate VIII., given accurately in fig. 8, Plate IV.,
the section across the line , is exactly the same as that across
any break of the separated moulding above, as s. It sometimes,
however, happens, that two different mouldings meet
each other. This was seldom permitted in the great periods,
and, when it took place, was most awkwardly managed. Fig.
1, Plate IV. gives the junction of the mouldings of the gable
and vertical, in the window of the of Salisbury. That
of the gable is composed of a single, and that of the vertical
of a double cavetto, decorated with ball-flowers; and the
larger single moulding swallows up one of the double ones,
and pushes forward among the smaller balls with the most
blundering and clumsy simplicity. In comparing the sections
it is to be observed that, in the upper one, the line represents
an actual vertical in the plane of the window; while, in
the lower one, the line represents the horizontal, in the
plane of the window, indicated by the perspective line .

XXVII. The very awkwardness with which such occurrences
of difficulty are met by the earlier builder, marks his
dislike of the system, and unwillingness to attract the eye to
such arrangements. There is another very clumsy one, in the
junction of the upper and sub-arches of the triforium of
Salisbury; but it is kept in the shade, and all the prominent
junctions are of mouldings like each other, and managed with
perfect simplicity. But so soon as the attention of the builders
became, as we have just seen, fixed upon the lines of mouldings
instead of the enclosed spaces, those lines began to preserve an
independent existence wherever they met; and different mould[Pg 66]ings
were studiously associated, in order to obtain variety of
intersectional line. We must, however, do the late builders
the justice to note that, in one case, the habit grew out of a
feeling of proportion, more refined than that of earlier workmen.
It shows itself first in the bases of divided pillars, or
arch mouldings, whose smaller shafts had originally bases
formed by the continued base of the central, or other larger,
columns with which they were grouped; but it being felt, when
the eye of the architect became fastidious, that the dimension
of moulding which was right for the base of a large shaft, was
wrong for that of a small one, each shaft had an independent
base; at first, those of the smaller died simply down on that
of the larger; but when the vertical sections of both became
complicated, the bases of the smaller shafts were considered to
exist within those of the larger, and the places of their emergence,
on this supposition, were calculated with the utmost
nicety, and cut with singular precision; so that an elaborate
late base of a divided column, as, for instance, of those in the
nave of Abbeville, looks exactly as if its smaller shafts had all
been finished to the ground first, each with its complete and
intricate base, and then the comprehending base of the central
pier had been moulded over them in clay, leaving their points
and angles sticking out here and there, like the edges of sharp
crystals out of a nodule of earth. The exhibition of technical
dexterity in work of this kind is often marvellous, the strangest
possible shapes of sections being calculated to a hair’s-breadth,
and the occurrence of the under and emergent forms being
rendered, even in places where they are so slight that they can
hardly be detected but by the touch. It is impossible to render
a very elaborate example of this kind intelligible, without
some fifty measured sections; but fig. 6, Plate IV. is a very interesting
and simple one, from the west gate of Rouen. It is
part of the base of one of the narrow piers between its principal
niches. The square column , having a base with the profile
, is supposed to contain within itself another similar
one, set diagonally, and lifted so far above the inclosing one,
as that the recessed part of its profile shall fall behind the
projecting part of the outer one. The angle of its upper
portion exactly meets the plane of the side of the upper inclosing
shaft 4, and would, therefore, not be seen, unless two vertical
cuts were made to exhibit it, which form two dark lines the
whole way up the shaft. Two small pilasters are run, like
fastening stitches, through the junction on the front of the
shafts. The sections taken respectively at the levels ,
will explain the hypothetical construction of the whole. Fig.
7 is a base, or joint rather (for passages of this form occur
again and again, on the shafts of flamboyant work), of one of
the smallest piers of the pedestals which support the lost statues
of the porch; its section below would be the same as ,
and its construction, after what has been said of the other
base, will be at once perceived.


[Pg 67]

XXVIII. There was, however, in this kind of involution,
much to be admired as well as reprehended, the proportions
of quantities were always as beautiful as they were intricate;
and, though the lines of intersection were harsh, they were
exquisitely opposed to the flower-work of the interposing
mouldings. But the fancy did not stop here; it rose from
the bases into the arches; and there, not finding room enough
for its exhibition, it withdrew the capitals from the heads
even of cylindrical shafts, (we cannot but admire, while we
regret, the boldness of the men who could defy the authority
and custom of all the nations of the earth for a space of some
three thousand years,) in order that the arch mouldings might
appear to emerge from the pillar, as at its base they had been
lost in it, and not to terminate on the abacus of the capital;
then they ran the mouldings across and through each other,
at the point of the arch; and finally, not finding their natural
directions enough to furnish as many occasions of intersection
as they wished, bent them hither and thither, and cut off their
ends short, when they had passed the point of intersection.
Fig. 2, Plate IV. is part of a flying buttress from the apse of
St. Gervais at Falaise, in which the moulding whose section
is rudely given above at , (taken vertically through the point
,) is carried thrice through itself, in the cross-bar and two
arches; and the flat fillet is cut off sharp at the end of the
cross-bar, for the mere pleasure of the truncation. Fig. 3 is[Pg 68]
half of the head of a door in the Stadthaus of Sursee, in which
the shaded part of the section of the joint , is that of the
arch-moulding, which is three times reduplicated, and six
times intersected by itself, the ends being cut off when they
become unmanageable. This style is, indeed, earlier exaggerated
in Switzerland and Germany, owing to the imitation
in stone of the dovetailing of wood, particularly of the intersecting
of beams at the angles of châlets; but it only furnishes
the more plain instance of the danger of the fallacious system
which, from the beginning, repressed the German, and, in
the end, ruined the French Gothic. It would be too painful
a task to follow further the caricatures of form, and eccentricities
of treatment, which grow out of this singular abuse—the
flattened arch, the shrunken pillar, the lifeless ornament,
the liny moulding, the distorted and extravagant foliation,
until the time came when, over these wrecks and remnants,
deprived of all unity and principle, rose the foul torrent
of the renaissance, and swept them all away. So fell the great
dynasty of mediæval architecture. It was because it had lost
its own strength, and disobeyed its own laws—because its order,
and consistency, and organization, had been broken through—that
it could oppose no resistance to the rush of overwhelming
innovation. And this, observe, all because it had sacrificed
a single truth. From that one surrender of its integrity,
from that one endeavor to assume the semblance of what it
was not, arose the multitudinous forms of disease and decrepitude,
which rotted away the pillars of its supremacy. It was
not because its time was come; it was not because it was
scorned by the classical Romanist, or dreaded by the faithful
Protestant. That scorn and that fear it might have survived,
and lived; it would have stood forth in stern comparison with
the enervated sensuality of the renaissance; it would have
risen in renewed and purified honor, and with a new soul,
from the ashes into which it sank, giving up its glory, as it
had received it, for the honor of God—but its own truth was
gone, and it sank forever. There was no wisdom nor strength
left in it, to raise it from the dust; and the error of zeal, and
the softness of luxury smote it down and dissolved it away.[Pg 69]
It is good for us to remember this, as we tread upon the
bare ground of its foundations, and stumble over its scattered
stones. Those rent skeletons of pierced wall, through which
our sea-winds moan and murmur, strewing them joint by
joint, and bone by bone, along the bleak promontories on
which the Pharos lights came once from houses of prayer—those
grey arches and quiet isles under which the sheep of
our valleys feed and rest on the turf that has buried their
altars—those shapeless heaps, that are not of the Earth, which
lift our fields into strange and sudden banks of flowers, and
stay our mountain streams with stones that are not their own,
have other thoughts to ask from us than those of mourning
for the rage that despoiled, or the fear that forsook them. It
was not the robber, not the fanatic, not the blasphemer, who
sealed the destruction that they had wrought; the war, the
wrath, the terror, might have worked their worst, and the
strong walls would have risen, and the slight pillars would
have started again, from under the hand of the destroyer.
But they could not rise out of the ruins of their own violated



I. In recalling the impressions we have received from the
works of man, after a lapse of time long enough to involve in
obscurity all but the most vivid, it often happens that we find
a strange pre-eminence and durability in many upon whose
strength we had little calculated, and that points of character
which had escaped the detection of the judgment, become developed
under the waste of memory; as veins of harder rock,
whose places could not at first have been discovered by the
eye, are left salient under the action of frosts and streams.
The traveller who desires to correct the errors of his judgment,
necessitated by inequalities of temper, infelicities of
circumstance, and accidents of association, has no other resource
than to wait for the calm verdict of interposing years;
and to watch for the new arrangements of eminence and shape[Pg 70]
in the images which remain latest in his memory; as in the
ebbing of a mountain lake, he would watch the varying outlines
of its successive shore, and trace, in the form of its departing
waters, the true direction of the forces which had
cleft, or the currents which had excavated, the deepest recesses
of its primal bed.

In thus reverting to the memories of those works of architecture
by which we have been most pleasurably impressed, it
will generally happen that they fall into two broad classes:
the one characterized by an exceeding preciousness and delicacy,
to which we recur with a sense of affectionate admiration;
and the other by a severe, and, in many cases, mysterious,
majesty, which we remember with an undiminished
awe, like that felt at the presence and operation of some great
Spiritual Power. From about these two groups, more or less
harmonised by intermediate examples, but always distinctively
marked by features of beauty or of power, there will be
swept away, in multitudes, the memories of buildings, perhaps,
in their first address to our minds, of no inferior pretension,
but owing their impressiveness to characters of less
enduring nobility—to value of material, accumulation of ornament,
or ingenuity of mechanical construction. Especial
interest may, indeed, have been awakened by such circumstances,
and the memory may have been, consequently, rendered
tenacious of particular parts or effects of the structure;
but it will recall even these only by an active effort, and then
without emotion; while in passive moments, and with thrilling
influence, the image of purer beauty, and of more spiritual
power, will return in a fair and solemn company; and
while the pride of many a stately palace, and the wealth of
many a jewelled shrine, perish from our thoughts in a dust of
gold, there will rise, through their dimness, the white image
of some secluded marble chapel, by river or forest side, with
the fretted flower-work shrinking under its arches, as if under
vaults of late-fallen snow; or the vast weariness of some shadowy
wall whose separate stones are like mountain foundations,
and yet numberless.

II. Now, the difference between these two orders of build[Pg 71]-ing
is not merely that which there is in nature between things
beautiful and sublime. It is, also, the difference between
what is derivative and original in man’s work; for whatever
is in architecture fair or beautiful, is imitated from natural
forms; and what is not so derived, but depends for its dignity
upon arrangement and government received from human
mind, becomes the expression of the power of that mind, and
receives a sublimity high in proportion to the power expressed.
All building, therefore, shows man either as gathering
or governing: and the secrets of his success are his
knowing what to gather, and how to rule. These are the two
great intellectual Lamps of Architecture; the one consisting
in a just and humble veneration for the works of God upon
the earth, and the other in an understanding of the dominion
over those works which has been vested in man.

III. Besides this expression of living authority and power,
there is, however, a sympathy in the forms of noble building,
with what is most sublime in natural things; and it is the
governing Power directed by this sympathy, whose operation
I shall at present endeavor to trace, abandoning all inquiry
into the more abstract fields of invention: for this latter
faculty, and the questions of proportion and arrangement
connected with its discussion, can only be rightly examined
in a general view of all arts; but its sympathy, in architecture,
with the vast controlling powers of Nature herself, is special,
and may shortly be considered; and that with the more advantage,
that it has, of late, been little felt or regarded by
architects. I have seen, in recent efforts, much contest between
two schools, one affecting originality, and the other legality—many
attempts at beauty of design—many ingenious adaptations
of construction; but I have never seen any aim at the
expression of abstract power; never any appearance of a consciousness
that, in this primal art of man, there is room for
the marking of his relations with the mightiest, as well as the
fairest, works of God; and that those works themselves have
been permitted, by their Master and his, to receive an added
glory from their association with earnest efforts of human
thought. In the edifices of Man there should be found rever[Pg 72]ent
worship and following, not only of the spirit which rounds
the pillars of the forest, and arches the vault of the avenue—which
gives veining to the leaf, and polish to the shell, and
grace to every pulse that agitates animal organization,—but
of that also which reproves the pillars of the earth, and builds
up her barren precipices into the coldness of the clouds, and
lifts her shadowy cones of mountain purple into the pale arch
of the sky; for these, and other glories more than these, refuse
not to connect themselves, in his thoughts, with the work
of his own hand; the grey cliff loses not its nobleness when it
reminds us of some Cyclopean waste of mural stone; the pinnacles
of the rocky promontory arrange themselves, undegraded,
into fantastic semblances of fortress towers; and even
the awful cone of the far-off mountain has a melancholy mixed
with that of its own solitude, which is cast from the images of
nameless tumuli on white sea-shores, and of the heaps of reedy
clay, into which chambered cities melt in their mortality.

IV. Let us, then, see what is this power and majesty, which
Nature herself does not disdain to accept from the works of
man; and what that sublimity in the masses built up by his
coralline-like energy, which is honorable, even when transferred
by association to the dateless hills, which it needed
earthquakes to lift, and deluges to mould.

And, first of mere size: It might not be thought possible
to emulate the sublimity of natural objects in this respect; nor
would it be, if the architect contended with them in pitched
battle. It would not be well to build pyramids in the valley
of Chamouni; and St. Peter’s, among its many other errors,
counts for not the least injurious its position on the slope of
an inconsiderable hill. But imagine it placed on the plain of
Marengo, or, like the Superga of Turin, or like La Salute at
Venice! The fact is, that the apprehension of the size of natural
objects, as well as of architecture, depends more on fortunate
excitement of the imagination than on measurements
by the eye; and the architect has a peculiar advantage in being
able to press close upon the sight, such magnitude as he can
command. There are few rocks, even among the Alps, that
have a clear vertical fall as high as the choir of Beauvais; and[Pg 73]
if we secure a good precipice of wall, or a sheer and unbroken
flank of tower, and place them where there are no enormous
natural features to oppose them, we shall feel in them no want
of sublimity of size. And it may be matter of encouragement
in this respect, though one also of regret, to observe how much
oftener man destroys natural sublimity, than nature crushes
human power. It does not need much to humiliate a mountain.
A hut will sometimes do it; I never look up to the Col
de Balme from Chamouni, without a violent feeling of provocation
against its hospitable little cabin, whose bright white
walls form a visibly four-square spot on the green ridge, and
entirely destroy all idea of its elevation. A single villa will
often mar a whole landscape, and dethrone a dynasty of hills,
and the Acropolis of Athens, Parthenon and all, has, I believe,
been dwarfed into a model by the palace lately built beneath
it. The fact is, that hills are not so high as we fancy them,
and, when to the actual impression of no mean comparative
size, is added the sense of the toil of manly hand and thought,
a sublimity is reached, which nothing but gross error in arrangement
of its parts can destroy.

V. While, therefore, it is not to be supposed that mere size
will ennoble a mean design, yet every increase of magnitude
will bestow upon it a certain degree of nobleness: so that it
is well to determine at first, whether the building is to be
markedly beautiful or markedly sublime; and if the latter,
not to be withheld by respect to smaller parts from reaching
largeness of scale; provided only, that it be evidently in the
architect’s power to reach at least that degree of magnitude
which is the lowest at which sublimity begins, rudely definable
as that which will make a living figure look less than life beside
it. It is the misfortune of most of our modern buildings
that we would fain have an universal excellence in them; and
so part of the funds must go in painting, part in gilding, part
in fitting up, part in painted windows, part in small steeples,
part in ornaments here and there; and neither the windows,
nor the steeple, nor the ornaments, are worth their materials.
For there is a crust about the impressible part of men’s minds,
which must be pierced through before they can be touched[Pg 74]
to the quick; and though we may prick at it and scratch it
in a thousand separate places, we might as well have let it
alone if we do not come through somewhere with a deep
thrust: and if we can give such a thrust anywhere, there is
no need of another; it need not be even so “wide as a church
door,” so that it be . And mere weight will do this;
it is a clumsy way of doing it, but an effectual one, too; and
the apathy which cannot be pierced through by a small steeple,
nor shone through by a small window, can be broken through
in a moment by the mere weight of a great wall. Let, therefore,
the architect who has not large resources, choose his
point of attack first, and, if he choose size, let him abandon
decoration; for, unless they are concentrated, and numerous
enough to make their concentration conspicuous, all his ornaments
together would not be worth one huge stone. And the
choice must be a decided one, without compromise. It must
be no question whether his capitals would not look better with
a little carving—let him leave them huge as blocks; or whether
his arches should not have richer architraves—let him throw
them a foot higher, if he can; a yard more across the nave
will be worth more to him than a tesselated pavement; and
another fathom of outer wall, than an army of pinnacles. The
limitation of size must be only in the uses of the building, or
in the ground at his disposal.

VI. That limitation, however, being by such circumstances
determined, by what means, it is to be next asked, may the
actual magnitude be best displayed; since it is seldom, perhaps
never, that a building of any pretension to size looks so
large as it is. The appearance of a figure in any distant, more
especially in any upper, parts of it will almost always prove
that we have under-estimated the magnitude of those parts.

It has often been observed that a building, in order to show
its magnitude, must be seen all at once. It would, perhaps,
be better to say, must be bounded as much as possible by
continuous lines, and that its extreme points should be seen
all at once; or we may state, in simpler terms still, that it
must have one visible bounding line from top to bottom, and
from end to end. This bounding line from top to bottom may[Pg 75]
either be inclined inwards, and the mass, therefore, pyramidical;
or vertical, and the mass form one grand cliff; or inclined
outwards, as in the advancing fronts of old houses, and,
in a sort, in the Greek temple, and in all buildings with heavy
cornices or heads. Now, in all these cases, if the bounding
line be violently broken; if the cornice project, or the upper
portion of the pyramid recede, too violently, majesty will be
lost; not because the building cannot be seen all at once,—for
in the case of a heavy cornice no part of it is necessarily
concealed—but because the continuity of its terminal line is
broken, and the , therefore, cannot be estimated.
But the error is, of course, more fatal when much of
the building is also concealed; as in the well-known case of
the recession of the dome of St. Peter’s, and, from the greater
number of points of view, in churches whose highest portions,
whether dome or tower, are over their cross. Thus there is
only one point from which the size of the Cathedral of Florence
is felt; and that is from the corner of the Via de’ Balestrieri,
opposite the south-east angle, where it happens that the dome
is seen rising instantly above the apse and transepts. In all
cases in which the tower is over the cross, the grandeur and
height of the tower itself are lost, because there is but one line
down which the eye can trace the whole height, and that is in
the inner angle of the cross, not easily discerned. Hence,
while, in symmetry and feeling, such designs may often have
pre-eminence, yet, where the height of the tower itself is to
be made apparent, it must be at the west end, or better still,
detached as a campanile. Imagine the loss to the Lombard
churches if their campaniles were carried only to their present
height over their crosses; or to the Cathedral of Rouen, if the
Tour de Beurre were made central, in the place of its present
debased spire!

VII. Whether, therefore, we have to do with tower or wall,
there must be one bounding line from base to coping; and I
am much inclined, myself, to love the true vertical, or the
vertical, with a solemn frown of projection (not a scowl), as
in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence. This character is always
given to rocks by the poets; with slight foundation indeed[Pg 76]
real rocks being little given to overhanging—but with excellent
judgment; for the sense of threatening conveyed by this
form is a nobler character than that of mere size. And, in
buildings, this threatening should be somewhat carried down
into their mass. A mere projecting shelf is not enough, the
whole wall must, Jupiter like, nod as well as frown. Hence,
I think the propped machicolations of the Palazzo Vecchio
and Duomo of Florence far grander headings than any form
of Greek cornice. Sometimes the projection may be thrown
lower, as in the Doge’s palace of Venice, where the chief appearance
of it is above the second arcade; or it may become
a grand swell from the ground, as the head of a ship of the
line rises from the sea. This is very nobly attained by the
projection of the niches in the third story of the Tour de
Beurre at Rouen.

VIII. What is needful in the setting forth of magnitude in
height, is right also in the marking it in area—let it be gathered
well together. It is especially to be noted with respect
to the Palazzo Vecchio and other mighty buildings of its
order, how mistakenly it has been stated that dimension, in
order to become impressive, should be expanded either in
height or length, but not equally: whereas, rather it will be
found that those buildings seem on the whole the vastest
which have been gathered up into a mighty square, and which
look as if they had been measured by the angel’s rod, “the
length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal,” and
herein something is to be taken notice of, which I believe
not to be sufficiently, if at all, considered among our architects.

Of the many broad divisions under which architecture may
be considered, none appear to me more significant than that
into buildings whose interest is in their walls, and those
whose interest is in the lines dividing their walls. In the
Greek temple the wall is as nothing; the entire interest is in
the detached columns and the frieze they bear; in French
Flamboyant, and in our detestable Perpendicular, the object
is to get rid of the wall surface, and keep the eye altogether
on tracery of line; in Romanesque work and Egyptian, the[Pg 77]
wall is a confessed and honored member, and the light is
often allowed to fall on large areas of it, variously decorated.
Now, both these principles are admitted by Nature, the one
in her woods and thickets, the other in her plains, and cliffs,
and waters; but the latter is pre-eminently the principle of
power, and, in some sense, of beauty also. For, whatever infinity
of fair form there may be in the maze of the forest,
there is a fairer, as I think, in the surface of the quiet lake;
and I hardly know that association of shaft or tracery, for
which I would exchange the warm sleep of sunshine on some
smooth, broad, human-like front of marble. Nevertheless, if
breadth is to be beautiful, its substance must in some sort be
beautiful; and we must not hastily condemn the exclusive
resting of the northern architects in divided lines, until at
least we have remembered the difference between a blank
surface of Caen stone, and one mixed from Genoa and Carrara,
of serpentine with snow: but as regards abstract power
and awfulness, there is no question; without breadth of surface
it is in vain to seek them, and it matters little, so that the
surface be wide, bold and unbroken, whether it be of brick or
of jasper; the light of heaven upon it, and the weight of earth
in it, are all we need: for it is singular how forgetful the mind
may become both of material and workmanship, if only it have
space enough over which to range, and to remind it, however
feebly, of the joy that it has in contemplating the flatness
and sweep of great plains and broad seas. And it is a noble
thing for men to do this with their cut stone or moulded
clay, and to make the face of a wall look infinite, and its edge
against the sky like an horizon: or even if less than this be
reached, it is still delightful to mark the play of passing light
on its broad surface, and to see by how many artifices and
gradations of tinting and shadow, time and storm will set
their wild signatures upon it; and how in the rising or declining
of the day the unbroken twilight rests long and luridly
on its high lineless forehead, and fades away untraceably
down its tiers of confused and countless stone.

IX. This, then, being, as I think, one of the peculiar elements
of sublime architecture, it may be easily seen how neces[Pg 78]sarily
consequent upon the love of it will be the choice of a
form approaching to the square for the main outline.

For, in whatever direction the building is contracted, in
that direction the eye will be drawn to its terminal lines; and
the sense of surface will only be at its fullest when those lines
are removed, in every direction, as far as possible. Thus the
square and circle are pre-eminently the areas of power among
those bounded by purely straight or curved lines; and these,
with their relative solids, the cube and sphere, and relative
solids of progression (as in the investigation of the laws of
proportion I shall call those masses which are generated by
the progression of an area of given form along a line in a
given direction), the square and cylindrical column, are the
elements of utmost power in all architectural arrangements.
On the other hand, grace and perfect proportion require an
elongation in some one direction: and a sense of power may
be communicated to this form of magnitude by a continuous
series of any marked features, such as the eye may be unable
to number; while yet we feel, from their boldness, decision,
and simplicity, that it is indeed their multitude which has
embarrassed us, not any confusion or indistinctness of form.
This expedient of continued series forms the sublimity of
arcades and aisles, of all ranges of columns, and, on a smaller
scale, of those Greek mouldings, of which, repeated as they
now are in all the meanest and most familiar forms of our furniture,
it is impossible altogether to weary. Now, it is evident
that the architect has choice of two types of form, each
properly associated with its own kind of interest or decoration:
the square, or greatest area, to be chosen especially
when the is to be the subject of thought; and the
elongated area, when the of the surface are to be the
subjects of thought. Both these orders of form, as I think
nearly every other source of power and beauty, are marvellously
united in that building which I fear to weary the reader
by bringing forward too frequently, as a model of all perfection—the
Doge’s palace at Venice: its general arrangement,
a hollow square; its principal façade, an oblong, elongated to
the eye by a range of thirty-four small arches, and thirty-five[Pg 79]
columns, while it is separated by a richly-canopied window in
the centre, into two massive divisions, whose height and length
are nearly as four to five; the arcades which give it length
being confined to the lower stories, and the upper, between
its broad windows, left a mighty surface of smooth marble,
chequered with blocks of alternate rose-color and white. It
would be impossible, I believe, to invent a more magnificent
arrangement of all that is in building most dignified and most

X. In the Lombard Romanesque, the two principles are
more fused into each other, as most characteristically in the
Cathedral of Pisa: length of proportion, exhibited by an arcade
of twenty-one arches above, and fifteen below, at the side
of the nave; bold square proportion in the front; that front
divided into arcades, placed one above the other, the lowest
with its pillars engaged, of seven arches, the four uppermost
thrown out boldly from the receding wall, and casting deep
shadows; the first, above the basement, of nineteen arches;
the second of twenty-one; the third and fourth of eight each;
sixty-three arches in all; all headed, all with cylindrical
shafts, and the lowest with panellings, set diagonally
under their semicircles, an universal ornament in this
style (Plate XII., fig. 7); the apse, a semicircle, with a semi-dome
for its roof, and three ranges of circular arches for its
exterior ornament; in the interior of the nave, a range of
circular arches below a circular-arched triforium, and a vast
flat , observe, of wall decorated with striped marble
above; the whole arrangement (not a peculiar one, but characteristic
of every church of the period; and, to my feeling,
the most majestic; not perhaps the fairest, but the mightiest
type of form which the mind of man has ever conceived)
based exclusively on associations of the circle and the square.

I am now, however, trenching upon ground which I desire
to reserve for more careful examination, in connection with
other æsthetic questions: but I believe the examples I have
given will justify my vindication of the square form from the
reprobation which has been lightly thrown upon it; nor might
this be done for it only as a ruling outline, but as occurring[Pg 80]
constantly in the best mosaics, and in a thousand forms of
minor decoration, which I cannot now examine; my chief
assertion of its majesty being always as it is an exponent of
space and surface, and therefore to be chosen, either to rule in
their outlines, or to adorn by masses of light and shade those
portions of buildings in which surface is to be rendered precious
or honorable.

XI. Thus far, then, of general forms, and of the modes in
which the scale of architecture is best to be exhibited. Let
us next consider the manifestations of power which belong to
its details and lesser divisions.

The first division we have to regard, is the inevitable one
of masonry. It is true that this division may, by great art, be
concealed; but I think it unwise (as well as dishonest) to do
so; for this reason, that there is a very noble character always
to be obtained by the opposition of large stones to divided
masonry, as by shafts and columns of one piece, or massy
lintels and architraves, to wall work of bricks or smaller stones;
and there is a certain organization in the management of such
parts, like that of the continuous bones of the skeleton, opposed
to the vertebræ, which it is not well to surrender. I
hold, therefore, that, for this and other reasons, the masonry
of a building is to be shown: and also that, with certain rare
exceptions (as in the cases of chapels and shrines of most finished
workmanship), the smaller the building, the more necessary
it is that its masonry should be bold, and .
For if a building be under the mark of average magnitude, it
is not in our power to increase its apparent size (too easily
measurable) by any proportionate diminution in the scale of
its masonry. But it may be often in our power to give it a
certain nobility by building it of massy stones, or, at all events,
introducing such into its make. Thus it is impossible that
there should ever be majesty in a cottage built of brick; but
there is a marked element of sublimity in the rude and irregular
piling of the rocky walls of the mountain cottages of
Wales, Cumberland, and Scotland. Their size is not one whit
diminished, though four or five stones reach at their angles
from the ground to the eaves, or though a native rock happen[Pg 81]
to project conveniently, and to be built into the framework of
the wall. On the other hand, after a building has once reached
the mark of majestic size, it matters, indeed, comparatively
little whether its masonry be large or small, but if it be altogether
large, it will sometimes diminish the magnitude for
want of a measure; if altogether small, it will suggest ideas
of poverty in material, or deficiency in mechanical resource,
besides interfering in many cases with the lines of the design,
and delicacy of the workmanship. A very unhappy instance
of such interference exists in the façade of the church of St.
Madeleine at Paris, where the columns, being built of very
small stones of nearly equal size, with visible joints, look as if
they were covered with a close trellis. So, then, that masonry
will be generally the most magnificent which, without the use
of materials systematically small or large, accommodates itself,
naturally and frankly, to the conditions and structure of its
work, and displays alike its power of dealing with the vastest
masses, and of accomplishing its purpose with the smallest,
sometimes heaping rock upon rock with Titanic commandment,
and anon binding the dusty remnants and edgy splinters into
springing vaults and swelling domes. And if the nobility of this
confessed and natural masonry were more commonly felt, we
should not lose the dignity of it by smoothing surfaces and
fitting joints. The sums which we waste in chiselling and
polishing stones which would have been better left as they
came from the quarry would often raise a building a story
higher. Only in this there is to be a certain respect for
material also: for if we build in marble, or in any limestone,
the known ease of the workmanship will make its absence
seem slovenly; it will be well to take advantage of the stone’s
softness, and to make the design delicate and dependent upon
smoothness of chiselled surfaces: but if we build in granite
or lava, it is a folly, in most cases, to cast away the labor
necessary to smooth it; it is wiser to make the design granitic
itself, and to leave the blocks rudely squared. I do not deny
a certain splendor and sense of power in the smoothing of
granite, and in the entire subduing of its iron resistance to
the human supremacy. But, in most cases, I believe, the labor[Pg 82]
and time necessary to do this would be better spent in another
way; and that to raise a building to a height of a hundred
feet with rough blocks, is better than to raise it to seventy
with smooth ones. There is also a magnificence in the natural
cleavage of the stone to which the art must indeed be great
that pretends to be equivalent; and a stern expression of
brotherhood with the mountain heart from which it has been
rent, ill-exchanged for a glistering obedience to the rule and
measure of men. His eye must be delicate indeed, who would
desire to see the Pitti palace polished.

XII. Next to those of the masonry, we have to consider
the divisions of the design itself. Those divisions are, necessarily,
either into masses of light and shade, or else by traced
lines; which latter must be, indeed, themselves produced by
incisions or projections which, in some lights, cast a certain
breadth of shade, but which may, nevertheless, if finely enough
cut, be always true lines, in distant effect. I call, for instance,
such panelling as that of Henry the Seventh’s chapel, pure
linear division.

Now, it does not seem to me sufficiently recollected, that a
wall surface is to an architect simply what a white canvas is to
a painter, with this only difference, that the wall has already a
sublimity in its height, substance, and other characters already
considered, on which it is more dangerous to break than to
touch with shade the canvas surface. And, for my own part,
I think a smooth, broad, freshly laid surface of gesso a fairer
thing than most pictures I see painted on it; much more, a
noble surface of stone than most architectural features which
it is caused to assume. But however this may be, the canvas
and wall are supposed to be given, and it is our craft to divide

And the principles on which this division is to be made, are
as regards relation of quantities, the same in architecture as
in painting, or indeed, in any other art whatsoever, only the
painter is by his varied subject partly permitted, partly compelled,
to dispense with the symmetry of architectural light
and shade, and to adopt arrangements apparently free and
accidental. So that in modes of grouping there is much dif[Pg 83]ference
(though no opposition) between the two arts; but in
rules of quantity, both are alike, so far forth as their commands
of means are alike. For the architect, not being able
to secure always the same depth or decision of shadow, nor
to add to its sadness by color (because even when color is
employed, it cannot follow the moving shade), is compelled
to make many allowances, and avail himself of many contrivances,
which the painter needs neither consider nor

XIII. Of these limitations the first consequence is, that
positive shade is a more necessary and more sublime thing in
an architect’s hands than in a painter’s. For the latter being
able to temper his light with an under-tone throughout, and
to make it delightful with sweet color, or awful with lurid
color, and to represent distance, and air, and sun, by the
depth of it, and fill its whole space with expression, can deal
with an enormous, nay, almost with an universal extent of it,
and the best painters most delight in such extent; but as
light, with the architect, is nearly always liable to become full
and untempered sunshine seen upon solid surface, his only
rests, and his chief means of sublimity, are definite shades.
So that, after size and weight, the Power of architecture may
be said to depend on the quantity (whether measured in space
or intenseness) of its shadow; and it seems to me, that the
reality of its works, and the use and influence they have in the
daily life of men (as opposed to those works of art with which
we have nothing to do but in times of rest or of pleasure)
require of it that it should express a kind of human sympathy,
by a measure of darkness as great as there is in human life:
and that as the great poem and great fiction generally affect
us most by the majesty of their masses of shade, and cannot
take hold upon us if they affect a continuance of lyric sprightliness,
but must be serious often, and sometimes melancholy,
else they do not express the truth of this wild world of ours;
so there must be, in this magnificently human art of architecture,
some equivalent expression for the trouble and wrath
of life, for its sorrow and its mystery: and this it can only
give by depth or diffusion of gloom, by the frown upon its[Pg 84]
front, and the shadow of its recess. So that Rembrandtism
is a noble manner in architecture, though a false one in painting;
and I do not believe that ever any building was truly
great, unless it had mighty masses, vigorous and deep, of
shadow mingled with its surface. And among the first habits
that a young architect should learn, is that of thinking in
shadow, not looking at a design in its miserable liny skeleton;
but conceiving it as it will be when the dawn lights it, and
the dusk leaves it; when its stones will be hot and its crannies
cool; when the lizards will bask on the one, and the
birds build in the other. Let him design with the sense of
cold and heat upon him; let him cut out the shadows, as men
dig wells in unwatered plains; and lead along the lights, as a
founder does his hot metal; let him keep the full command of
both, and see that he knows how they fall, and where they fade.
His paper lines and proportions are of no value: all that he
has to do must be done by spaces of light and darkness; and
his business is to see that the one is broad and bold enough
not to be swallowed up by twilight, and the other deep enough
not to be dried like a shallow pool by a noon-day sun.

And that this may be, the first necessity is that the quantities
of shade or light, whatever they may be, shall be thrown
into masses, either of something like equal weight, or else
large masses of the one relieved with small of the other; but
masses of one or other kind there must be. No design that
is divided at all, and is not divided into masses, can ever be
of the smallest value: this great law respecting breadth, precisely
the same in architecture and painting, is so important,
that the examination of its two principal applications will
include most of the conditions of majestic design on which I
would at present insist.

XIV. Painters are in the habit of speaking loosely of masses
of light and shade, meaning thereby any large spaces of
either. Nevertheless, it is convenient sometimes to restrict
the term “mass” to the portions to which proper form belongs,
and to call the field on which such forms are traced,
interval. Thus, in foliage with projecting boughs or stems,
we have masses of light, with intervals of shade; and, in[Pg 85]
light skies with dark clouds upon them, masses of shade with
intervals of light.

This distinction is, in architecture, still more necessary;
for there are two marked styles dependent upon it: one in
which the forms are drawn with light upon darkness, as in
Greek sculpture and pillars; the other in which they are
drawn with darkness upon light, as in early Gothic foliation.
Now, it is not in the designer’s power determinately to vary
degrees and places of darkness, but it is altogether in his
power to vary in determined directions his degrees of light.
Hence, the use of the dark mass characterises, generally, a
trenchant style of design, in which the darks and lights are
both flat, and terminated by sharp edges; while the use of
the light mass is in the same way associated with a softened
and full manner of design, in which the darks are much
warmed by reflected lights, and the lights are rounded and
melt into them. The term applied by Milton to Doric bas-relief—”bossy,”
is, as is generally the case with Milton’s
epithets, the most comprehensive and expressive of this manner,
which the English language contains; while the term
which specifically describes the chief member of early Gothic
decoration, feuille, foil or leaf, is equally significative of a
flat space of shade.

XV. We shall shortly consider the actual modes in which
these two kinds of mass have been treated. And, first, of the
light, or rounded, mass. The modes in which relief was secured
for the more projecting forms of bas-relief, by the
Greeks, have been too well described by Mr. Eastlake[I] to need
recapitulation: the conclusion which forces itself upon us from
the facts he has remarked, being one on which I shall have occasion
farther to insist presently, that the Greek workman cared
for shadow only as a dark field wherefrom his light figure or design
might be intelligibly detached: his attention was concentrated
on the one aim at readableness, and clearness of accent;
and all composition, all harmony, nay, the very vitality and
energy of separate groups were, when necessary, sacrificed to
plain speaking. Nor was there any predilection for one kind
[Pg 86]of form rather than another. Bounded forms were, in the
columns and principal decorative members, adopted, not for
their own sake, but as characteristic of the things represented.
They were beautifully rounded, because the Greek habitually
did well what he had to do, not because he loved roundness
more than squareness; severely rectilinear forms were associated
with the curved ones in the cornice and triglyph, and the
mass of the pillar was divided by a fluting, which, in distant
effect, destroyed much of its breadth. What power of light
these primal arrangements left, was diminished in successive
refinements and additions of ornament; and continued to diminish
through Roman work, until the confirmation of the
circular arch as a decorative feature. Its lovely and simple
line taught the eye to ask for a similar boundary of solid form;
the dome followed, and necessarily the decorative masses were
thenceforward managed with reference to, and in sympathy
with, the chief feature of the building. Hence arose, among
the Byzantine architects, a system of ornament, entirely restrained
within the superfices of curvilinear masses, on which
the light fell with as unbroken gradation as on a dome or column,
while the illumined surface was nevertheless cut into
details of singular and most ingenious intricacy. Something
is, of course, to be allowed for the less dexterity of the workmen;
it being easier to cut down into a solid block, than to
arrange the projecting portions of leaf on the Greek capital:
such leafy capitals are nevertheless executed by the Byzantines
with skill enough to show that their preference of the massive
form was by no means compulsory, nor can I think it unwise.
On the contrary, while the arrangements of are far more
artful in the Greek capital, the Byzantine light and shade are
as incontestably more grand and masculine, based on that
quality of pure gradation, which nearly all natural objects
possess, and the attainment of which is, in fact, the first and
most palpable purpose in natural arrangements of grand form.
The rolling heap of the thunder-cloud, divided by rents, and
multiplied by wreaths, yet gathering them all into its broad,
torrid, and towering zone, and its midnight darkness opposite;
the scarcely less majestic heave of the mountain side, all[Pg 87]
torn and traversed by depth of defile and ridge of rock, yet
never losing the unity of its illumined swell and shadowy decline;
and the head of every mighty tree, rich with tracery of
leaf and bough, yet terminated against the sky by a true line,
and rounded by a green horizon, which, multiplied in the distant
forest, makes it look bossy from above; all these mark,
for a great and honored law, that diffusion of light for which
the Byzantine ornaments were designed; and show us that
those builders had truer sympathy with what God made majestic,
than the self-contemplating and self-contented Greek. I
know that they are barbaric in comparison; but there is a
power in their barbarism of sterner tone, a power not sophistic
nor penetrative, but embracing and mysterious; a power faithful
more than thoughtful, which conceived and felt more than
it created; a power that neither comprehended nor ruled itself,
but worked and wandered as it listed, like mountain
streams and winds; and which could not rest in the expression
or seizure of finite form. It could not bury itself in acanthus
leaves. Its imagery was taken from the shadows of the storms
and hills, and had fellowship with the night and day of the
earth itself.

XVI. I have endeavored to give some idea of one of the
hollow balls of stone which, surrounded by flowing leafage,
occur in varied succession on the architrave of the central
gate of St. Mark’s at Venice, in Plate I. fig. 2. It seems to
me singularly beautiful in its unity of lightness, and delicacy
of detail, with breadth of light. It looks as if its leaves had
been sensitive, and had risen and shut themselves into a bud
at some sudden touch, and would presently fall back again
into their wild flow. The cornices of San Michele of Lucca,
seen above and below the arch, in Plate VI., show the effect
of heavy leafage and thick stems arranged on a surface whose
curve is a simple quadrant, the light dying from off them as
it turns. It would be difficult, as I think, to invent anything
more noble; and I insist on the broad character of their arrangement
the more earnestly, because, afterwards modified
by greater skill in its management, it became characteristic of
the richest pieces of Gothic design. The capital, given in[Pg 88]
Plate V., is of the noblest period of the Venetian Gothic; and
it is interesting to see the play of leafage so luxuriant, absolutely
subordinated to the breadth of two masses of light and
shade. What is done by the Venetian architect, with a power
as irresistible as that of the waves of his surrounding sea, is
done by the masters of the Cis-Alpine Gothic, more timidly,
and with a manner somewhat cramped and cold, but not less
expressing their assent to the same great law. The ice spiculæ
of the North, and its broken sunshine, seem to have
image in, and influence on the work; and the leaves which,
under the Italian’s hand, roll, and flow, and bow down over
their black shadows, as in the weariness of noon-day heat, are,
in the North, crisped and frost-bitten, wrinkled on the edges,
and sparkling as if with dew. But the rounding of the ruling
form is not less sought and felt. In the lower part of Plate I.
is the finial of the pediment given in Plate II., from the cathedral
of St. Lo. It is exactly similar in feeling to the Byzantine
capital, being rounded under the abacus by four branches
of thistle leaves, whose stems, springing from the angles, bend
outwards and fall back to the head, throwing their jaggy
spines down upon the full light, forming two sharp quatre-foils.
I could not get near enough to this finial to see with
what degree of delicacy the spines were cut; but I have
sketched a natural group of thistle-leaves beside it, that the
reader may compare the types, and see with what mastery
they are subjected to the broad form of the whole. The small
capital from Coutances, Plate XIII. fig. 4, which is of earlier
date, is of simpler elements, and exhibits the principle still
more clearly; but the St. Lo finial is only one of a thousand
instances which might be gathered even from the fully developed
flamboyant, the feeling of breadth being retained in
minor ornaments long after it had been lost in the main design,
and sometimes capriciously renewing itself throughout,
as in the cylindrical niches and pedestals which enrich the
porches of Caudebec and Rouen. Fig. 1, Plate I. is the simplest
of those of Rouen; in the more elaborate there are four
projecting sides, divided by buttresses into eight rounded
compartments of tracery; even the whole bulk of the outer
pier is treated with the same feeling; and though composed
partly of concave recesses, partly of square shafts, partly of
statues and tabernacle work, arranges itself as a whole into
one richly rounded tower.


[Pg 89]

XVII. I cannot here enter into the curious questions connected
with the management of larger curved surfaces; into
the causes of the difference in proportion necessary to be
observed between round and square towers; nor into the
reasons why a column or ball may be richly ornamented,
while surface decorations would be inexpedient on masses
like the Castle of St. Angelo, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, or
the dome of St. Peter’s. But what has been above said of the
desireableness of serenity in plane surfaces, applies still more
forcibly to those which are curved; and it is to be remembered
that we are, at present, considering how this serenity
and power may be carried into minor divisions, not how the
ornamental character of the lower form may, upon occasion,
be permitted to fret the calmness of the higher. Nor, though
the instances we have examined are of globular or cylindrical
masses chiefly, is it to be thought that breadth can only be
secured by such alone: many of the noblest forms are of subdued
curvature, sometimes hardly visible; but curvature of
some degree there must be, in order to secure any measure
of grandeur in a small mass of light. One of the most
marked distinctions between one artist and another, in the
point of skill, will be found in their relative delicacy of perception
of rounded surface; the full power of expressing the
perspective, foreshortening and various undulation of such
surface is, perhaps, the last and most difficult attainment of
the hand and eye. For instance: there is, perhaps, no tree
which has baffled the landscape painter more than the common
black spruce fir. It is rare that we see any representation
of it other than caricature. It is conceived as if it grew
in one plane, or as a section of a tree, with a set of boughs
symmetrically dependent on opposite sides. It is thought
formal, unmanageable, and ugly. It would be so, if it grew
as it is drawn. But the power of the tree is not in that
chandelier-like section. It is in the dark, flat, solid tables of[Pg 90]
leafage, which it holds out on its strong arms, curved slightly
over them like shields, and spreading towards the extremity
like a hand. It is vain to endeavor to paint the sharp, grassy,
intricate leafage, until this ruling form has been secured;
and in the boughs that approach the spectator, the foreshortening
of it is like that of a wide hill country, ridge just rising
over ridge in successive distances; and the finger-like extremities,
foreshortened to absolute bluntness, require a delicacy
in the rendering of them like that of the drawing of the
hand of the Magdalene upon the vase in Mr. Rogers’s Titian.
Get but the back of that foliage, and you have the tree; but
I cannot name the artist who has thoroughly felt it. So, in
all drawing and sculpture, it is the power of rounding, softly
and perfectly, every inferior mass which preserves the serenity,
as it follows the truth, of Nature, and which demands the
highest knowledge and skill from the workman. A noble design
may always be told by the back of a single leaf, and it
was the sacrifice of this breadth and refinement of surface for
sharp edges and extravagant undercutting, which destroyed
the Gothic mouldings, as the substitution of the line for the
light destroyed the Gothic tracery. This change, however,
we shall better comprehend after we have glanced at the chief
conditions of arrangement of the second kind of mass; that
which is flat, and of shadow only.


XVIII. We have noted above how the wall surface, composed
of rich materials, and covered with costly work, in
modes which we shall examine in the next Chapter, became a
subject of peculiar interest to the Christian architects. Its
broad flat lights could only be made valuable by points or
masses of energetic shadow, which were obtained by the Romanesque
architect by means of ranges of recessed arcade, in
the management of which, however, though all the effect depends
upon the shadow so obtained, the eye is still, as in
classical architecture, caused to dwell upon the projecting columns,
capitals, and wall, as in Plate VI. But with the enlargement
of the window, which, in the Lombard and Romanesque
churches, is usually little more than an arched slit, came the
conception of the simpler mode of decoration, by penetrations
[Pg 91]
which, seen from within, are forms of light, and, from without,
are forms of shade. In Italian traceries the eye is exclusively
fixed upon the dark forms of the penetrations, and the whole
proportion and power of the design are caused to depend
upon them. The intermediate spaces are, indeed, in the most
perfect early examples, filled with elaborate ornament; but
this ornament was so subdued as never to disturb the simplicity
and force of the dark masses; and in many instances is entirely
wanting. The composition of the whole depends on the
proportioning and shaping of the darks; and it is impossible
that anything can be more exquisite than their placing in the
head window of the Giotto campanile, Plate IX., or the church
of Or San Michele. So entirely does the effect depend upon
them, that it is quite useless to draw Italian tracery in outline;
if with any intention of rendering its effect, it is better
to mark the black spots, and let the rest alone. Of course,
when it is desired to obtain an accurate rendering of the design,
its lines and mouldings are enough; but it often happens
that works on architecture are of little use, because they
afford the reader no means of judging of the effective intention
of the arrangements which they state. No person, looking
at an architectural drawing of the richly foliaged cusps
and intervals of Or San Michele, would understand that all
this sculpture was extraneous, was a mere added grace, and
had nothing to do with the real anatomy of the work, and
that by a few bold cuttings through a slab of stone he might
reach the main effect of it all at once. I have, therefore, in
the plate of the design of Giotto, endeavored especially to
mark these points of ; there, as in every other instance,
black shadows of a graceful form lying on the white
surface of the stone, like dark leaves laid upon snow. Hence,
as before observed, the universal name of foil applied to such

XIX. In order to the obtaining their full effect, it is evident
that much caution is necessary in the management of the
glass. In the finest instances, the traceries are open lights,
either in towers, as in this design of Giotto’s or in external
arcades like that of the Campo Santo at Pisa or the Doge’s[Pg 92]
palace at Venice; and it is thus only that their full beauty is
shown. In domestic buildings, or in windows of churches
necessarily glazed, the glass was usually withdrawn entirely
behind the traceries. Those of the Cathedral of Florence
stand quite clear of it, casting their shadows in well detached
lines, so as in most lights to give the appearance of a double
tracery. In those few instances in which the glass was set in
the tracery itself, as in Or San Michele, the effect of the latter
is half destroyed: perhaps the especial attention paid by
Orgagna to his surface ornament, was connected with the intention
of so glazing them. It is singular to see, in late architecture,
the glass, which tormented the older architects, considered
as a valuable means of making the lines of tracery more
slender; as in the smallest intervals of the windows of Merton
College, Oxford, where the glass is advanced about two inches
from the centre of the tracery bar (that in the larger spaces
being in the middle, as usual), in order to prevent the depth
of shadow from farther diminishing the apparent interval.
Much of the lightness of the effect of the traceries is owing
to this seemingly unimportant arrangement. But, generally
speaking, glass spoils all traceries; and it is much to be
wished that it should be kept well within them, when it cannot
be dispensed with, and that the most careful and beautiful
designs should be reserved for situations where no glass
would be needed.

XX. The method of decoration by shadow was, as far as
we have hitherto traced it, common to the northern and southern
Gothic. But in the carrying out of the system they instantly
diverged. Having marble at his command, and classical
decoration in his sight, the southern architect was able to
carve the intermediate spaces with exquisite leafage, or to vary
his wall surface with inlaid stones. The northern architect
neither knew the ancient work, nor possessed the delicate
material; and he had no resource but to cover his walls with
holes, cut into foiled shapes like those of the windows. This
he did, often with great clumsiness, but always with a vigorous
sense of composition, and always, observe, depending on
the for effect. Where the wall was thick and could
[Pg 93]
not be cut through, and the foilings were large, those shadows
did not fill the entire space; but the form was, nevertheless,
drawn on the eye by means of them, and when it was possible,
they were cut clear through, as in raised screens of pediment,
like those on the west front of Bayeux; cut so deep in every
case, as to secure, in all but a direct low front light, great
breadth of shadow.


The spandril, given at the top of Plate VII., is from the
southwestern entrance of the Cathedral of Lisieux; one of
the most quaint and interesting doors in Normandy, probably
soon to be lost forever, by the continuance of the masonic
operations which have already destroyed the northern tower.
Its work is altogether rude, but full of spirit; the opposite
spandrils have different, though balanced, ornaments very inaccurately
adjusted, each rosette or star (as the five-rayed figure,
now quite defaced, in the upper portion appears to have
been) cut on its own block of stone and fitted in with small
nicety, especially illustrating the point I have above insisted
upon—the architect’s utter neglect of the forms of intermediate
stone, at this early period.

The arcade, of which a single arch and shaft are given on
the left, forms the flank of the door; three outer shafts bearing
three orders within the spandril which I have drawn, and
each of these shafts carried over an inner arcade, decorated
above with quatre-foils, cut concave and filled with leaves, the
whole disposition exquisitely picturesque and full of strange
play of light and shade.

For some time the penetrative ornaments, if so they may
be for convenience called, maintained their bold and independent
character. Then they multiplied and enlarged, becoming
shallower as they did so; then they began to run together,
one swallowing up, or hanging on to, another, like
bubbles in expiring foam—fig. 4, from a spandril at Bayeux,
looks as if it had been blown from a pipe; finally, they lost
their individual character altogether, and the eye was made
to rest on the separating lines of tracery, as we saw before in
the window; and then came the great change and the fall of
the Gothic power.[Pg 94]

XXI. Figs. 2 and 3, the one a quadrant of the star window
of the little chapel close to St. Anastasia at Verona, and the
other a very singular example from the church of the Eremitani
at Padua, compared with fig. 5, one of the ornaments of
the transept towers of Rouen, show the closely correspondent
conditions of the early Northern and Southern Gothic.10
But, as we have said, the Italian architects, not being embarrassed
for decoration of wall surface, and not being obliged,
like the Northmen, to multiply their penetrations, held to the
system for some time longer; and while they increased the
refinement of the ornament, kept the purity of the plan.
That refinement of ornament was their weak point, however,
and opened the way for the renaissance attack. They fell,
like the old Romans, by their luxury, except in the separate
instance of the magnificent school of Venice. That architecture
began with the luxuriance in which all others expired:
it founded itself on the Byzantine mosaic and fretwork; and
laying aside its ornaments, one by one, while it fixed its forms
by laws more and more severe, stood forth, at last, a model
of domestic Gothic, so grand, so complete, so nobly systematised,
that, to my mind, there never existed an architecture
with so stern a claim to our reverence. I do not except even
the Greek Doric; the Doric had cast nothing away; the fourteenth
century Venetian had cast away, one by one, for a succession
of centuries, every splendor that art and wealth could
give it. It had laid down its crown and its jewels, its gold
and its color, like a king disrobing; it had resigned its exertion,
like an athlete reposing; once capricious and fantastic,
it had bound itself by laws inviolable and serene as those of
nature herself. It retained nothing but its beauty and its
power; both the highest, but both restrained. The Doric
flutings were of irregular number—the Venetian mouldings
were unchangeable. The Doric manner of ornament admitted
no temptation, it was the fasting of an anchorite—the
Venetian ornament embraced, while it governed, all vegetable
and animal forms; it was the temperance of a man, the command
of Adam over creation. I do not know so magnificent
a marking of human authority as the iron grasp of the Venetian
[Pg 95]
over his own exuberance of imagination; the calm and
solemn restraint with which, his mind filled with thoughts of
flowing leafage and fiery life, he gives those thoughts expression
for an instant, and then withdraws within those massy
bars and level cusps of stone.11


And his power to do this depended altogether on his retaining
the forms of the shadows in his sight. Far from carrying
the eye to the ornaments, upon the stone, he abandoned
these latter one by one; and while his mouldings received
the most shapely order and symmetry, closely correspondent
with that of the Rouen tracery, compare Plates III. and VIII.,
he kept the cusps within them perfectly flat, decorated, if at
all, with a trefoil (Palazzo Foscari), or fillet (Doge’s Palace)
just traceable and no more, so that the quatrefoil, cut as
sharply through them as if it had been struck out by a stamp,
told upon the eye, with all its four black leaves, miles away.
No knots of flowerwork, no ornaments of any kind, were suffered
to interfere with the purity of its form: the cusp is
usually quite sharp; but slightly truncated in the Palazzo
Foscari, and charged with a simple ball in that of the Doge;
and the glass of the window, where there was any, was, as
we have seen, thrown back behind the stone-work, that no
flashes of light might interfere with its depth. Corrupted
forms, like those of the Casa d’Oro and Palazzo Pisani, and
several others, only serve to show the majesty of the common

XXII. Such are the principal circumstances traceable in the
treatment of the two kinds of masses of light and darkness,
in the hands of the earlier architects; gradation in the one,
flatness in the other, and breadth in both, being the qualities
sought and exhibited by every possible expedient, up to the
period when, as we have before stated, the line was substituted
for the mass, as the means of division of surface. Enough
has been said to illustrate this, as regards tracery; but a word
or two is still necessary respecting the mouldings.

Those of the earlier times were, in the plurality of instances,
composed of alternate square and cylindrical shafts, variously
associated and proportioned. Where concave cuttings occur,[Pg 96]
as in the beautiful west doors of Bayeux, they are between
cylindrical shafts, which they throw out into broad light. The
eye in all cases dwells on broad surfaces, and commonly upon
few. In course of time, a low ridgy process is seen emerging
along the outer edge of the cylindrical shaft, forming a line of
light upon it and destroying its gradation. Hardly traceable
at first (as on the alternate rolls of the north door of Rouen),
it grows and pushes out as gradually as a stag’s horns: sharp
at first on the edge; but, becoming prominent, it receives a
truncation, and becomes a definite fillet on the face of the roll.
Not yet to be checked, it pushes forward until the roll itself becomes
subordinate to it, and is finally lost in a slight swell upon
its sides, while the concavities have all the time been deepening
and enlarging behind it, until, from a succession of square
or cylindrical masses, the whole moulding has become a series
of edged by delicate fillets, upon which (sharp
of light, observe) the eye exclusively rests. While this has
been taking place, a similar, though less total, change has
affected the flowerwork itself. In Plate I. fig. 2 (), I have
given two from the transepts of Rouen. It will be observed
how absolutely the eye rests on the forms of the leaves, and
on the three berries in the angle, being in light exactly what
the trefoil is in darkness. These mouldings nearly adhere to
the stone; and are very slightly, though sharply, undercut.
In process of time, the attention of the architect, instead of
resting on the leaves, went to the . These latter were
elongated (, from the south door of St. Lo); and to exhibit
them better, the deep concavity was cut behind, so as to throw
them out in lines of light. The system was carried out into
continually increasing intricacy, until, in the transepts of
Beauvais, we have brackets and flamboyant traceries, composed
of twigs without any leaves at all. This, however, is a
partial, though a sufficiently characteristic, caprice, the leaf
being never generally banished, and in the mouldings round
those same doors, beautifully managed, but itself rendered
liny by bold marking of its ribs and veins, and by turning up,
and crisping its edges, large intermediate spaces being always
left to be occupied by intertwining stems (, from Caudebec).[Pg 97]
The trefoil of light formed by berries or acorns, though diminished
in value, was never lost up to the last period of living

XXIII. It is interesting to follow into its many ramifications,
the influence of the corrupting principle; but we have
seen enough of it to enable us to draw our practical conclusion—a
conclusion a thousand times felt and reiterated in the experience
and advice of every practised artist, but never often
enough repeated, never profoundly enough felt. Of composition
and invention much has been written, it seems to me
vainly, for men cannot be taught to compose or to invent; of
these, the highest elements of Power in architecture, I do not,
therefore, speak; nor, here, of that peculiar restraint in the
imitation of natural forms, which constitutes the dignity of
even the most luxuriant work of the great periods. Of this
restraint I shall say a word or two in the next Chapter; pressing
now only the conclusion, as practically useful as it is certain,
that the relative majesty of buildings depends more on
the weight and vigor of their masses than on any other attribute
of their design: mass of everything, of bulk, of light, of
darkness, of color, not mere sum of any of these, but breadth
of them; not broken light, nor scattered darkness, nor divided
weight, but solid stone, broad sunshine, starless shade. Time
would fail me altogether, if I attempted to follow out the range
of the principle; there is not a feature, however apparently
trifling, to which it cannot give power. The wooden fillings
of belfry lights, necessary to protect their interiors from rain,
are in England usually divided into a number of neatly executed
cross-bars, like those of Venetian blinds, which, of
course, become as conspicuous in their sharpness as they are
uninteresting in their precise carpentry, multiplying, moreover,
the horizontal lines which directly contradict those of
the architecture. Abroad, such necessities are met by three
or four downright penthouse roofs, reaching each from within
the window to the outside shafts of its mouldings; instead of
the horrible row of ruled lines, the space is thus divided into
four or five grand masses of shadow, with grey slopes of roof
above, bent or yielding into all kinds of delicious swells and[Pg 98]
curves, and covered with warm tones of moss and lichen. Very
often the thing is more delightful than the stone-work itself,
and all because it is broad, dark, and simple. It matters not
how clumsy, how common, the means are, that get weight and
shadow—sloping roof, jutting porch, projecting balcony, hollow
niche, massy gargoyle, frowning parapet; get but gloom
and simplicity, and all good things will follow in their place
and time; do but design with the owl’s eyes first, and you will
gain the falcon’s afterwards.

XXIV. I am grieved to have to insist upon what seems so
simple; it looks trite and commonplace when it is written,
but pardon me this: for it is anything but an accepted or understood
principle in practice, and the less excusably forgotten,
because it is, of all the great and true laws of art, the
easiest to obey. The executive facility of complying with its
demands cannot be too earnestly, too frankly asserted. There
are not five men in the kingdom who could compose, not
twenty who could cut, the foliage with which the windows of
Or San Michele are adorned; but there is many a village
clergyman who could invent and dispose its black openings,
and not a village mason who could not cut them. Lay a few
clover or wood-roof leaves on white paper, and a little alteration
in their positions will suggest figures which, cut boldly
through a slab of marble, would be worth more window traceries
than an architect could draw in a summer’s day. There
are few men in the world who could design a Greek capital;
there are few who could not produce some vigor of effect with
leaf designs on Byzantine block: few who could design a Palladian
front, or a flamboyant pediment; many who could
build a square mass like the Strozzi palace. But I know not
how it is, unless that our English hearts have more oak than
stone in them, and have more filial sympathy with acorns than
Alps; but all that we do is small and mean, if not worse—thin,
and wasted, and unsubstantial. It is not modern work
only; we have built like frogs and mice since the thirteenth
century (except only in our castles). What a contrast between
the pitiful little pigeon-holes which stand for doors in
the east front of Salisbury, looking like the entrances to a bee[Pg 99]hive
or a wasp’s nest, and the soaring arches and kingly
crowning of the gates of Abbeville, Rouen, and Rheims, or the
rock-hewn piers of Chartres, or the dark and vaulted porches
and writhed pillars of Verona! Of domestic architecture
what need is there to speak? How small, how cramped, how
poor, how miserable in its petty neatness is our best! how
beneath the mark of attack, and the level of contempt, that
which is common with us! What a strange sense of formalised
deformity, of shrivelled precision, of starved accuracy,
of minute misanthropy have we, as we leave even the
rude streets of Picardy for the market towns of Kent! Until
that street architecture of ours is bettered, until we give it
some size and boldness, until we give our windows recess,
and our walls thickness, I know not how we can blame our
architects for their feebleness in more important work; their
eyes are inured to narrowness and slightness: can we expect
them at a word to conceive and deal with breadth and solidity?
They ought not to live in our cities; there is that in their
miserable walls which bricks up to death men’s imaginations,
as surely as ever perished forsworn nun. An architect should
live as little in cities as a painter. Send him to our hills, and
let him study there what nature understands by a buttress,
and what by a dome. There was something in the old power
of architecture, which it had from the recluse more than from
the citizen. The buildings of which I have spoken with chief
praise, rose, indeed, out of the war of the piazza, and above
the fury of the populace: and Heaven forbid that for such
cause we should ever have to lay a larger stone, or rivet a
firmer bar, in our England! But we have other sources of
power, in the imagery of our iron coasts and azure hills; of
power more pure, nor less serene, than that of the hermit
spirit which once lighted with white lines of cloisters the
glades of the Alpine pine, and raised into ordered spires the
wild rocks of the Norman sea; which gave to the temple gate
the depth and darkness of Elijah’s Horeb cave; and lifted,
out of the populous city, grey cliffs of lonely stone, into the
midst of sailing birds and silent air.

[Pg 100]



I. It was stated, in the outset of the preceding chapter,
that the value of architecture depended on two distinct characters:
the one, the impression it receives from human power;
the other, the image it bears of the natural creation. I have
endeavored to show in what manner its majesty was attributable
to a sympathy with the effort and trouble of human life
(a sympathy as distinctly perceived in the gloom and mystery
of form, as it is in the melancholy tones of sounds). I desire
now to trace that happier element of its excellence, consisting
in a noble rendering of images of Beauty, derived chiefly from
the external appearances of organic nature.

It is irrelevant to our present purpose to enter into any inquiry
respecting the essential causes of impressions of beauty.
I have partly expressed my thoughts on this matter in a previous
work, and I hope to develope them hereafter. But since
all such inquiries can only be founded on the ordinary understanding
of what is meant by the term Beauty, and since they
presume that the feeling of mankind on this subject is universal
and instinctive, I shall base my present investigation on
this assumption; and only asserting that to be beautiful which
I believe will be granted me to be so without dispute, I would
endeavor shortly to trace the manner in which this element of
delight is to be best engrafted upon architectural design, what
are the purest sources from which it is to be derived, and what
the errors to be avoided in its pursuit.

II. It will be thought that I have somewhat rashly limited
the elements of architectural beauty to imitative forms. I do
not mean to assert that every arrangement of line is directly
suggested by a natural object; but that all beautiful lines are
adaptations of those which are commonest in the external creation;
that in proportion to the richness of their association,
the resemblance to natural work, as a type and help, must be
more closely attempted, and more clearly seen; and that be[Pg 101]yond
a certain point, and that a very low one, man cannot advance
in the invention of beauty, without directly imitating
natural form. Thus, in the Doric temple, the triglyph and
cornice are unimitative; or imitative only of artificial cuttings
of wood. No one would call these members beautiful. Their
influence over us is in their severity and simplicity. The
fluting of the column, which I doubt not was the Greek symbol
of the bark of the tree, was imitative in its origin, and
feebly resembled many caniculated organic structures. Beauty
is instantly felt in it, but of a low order. The decoration
proper was sought in the true forms of organic life, and those
chiefly human. Again: the Doric capital was unimitative;
but all the beauty it had was dependent on the precision of
its ovolo, a natural curve of the most frequent occurrence.
The Ionic capital (to my mind, as an architectural invention,
exceedingly base) nevertheless depended for all the beauty
that it had on its adoption of a spiral line, perhaps the commonest
of all that characterise the inferior orders of animal
organism and habitation. Farther progress could not be
made without a direct imitation of the acanthus leaf.

Again: the Romanesque arch is beautiful as an abstract
line. Its type is always before us in that of the apparent
vault of heaven, and horizon of the earth. The cylindrical
pillar is always beautiful, for God has so moulded the stem of
every tree that it is pleasant to the eyes. The pointed arch
is beautiful; it is the termination of every leaf that shakes in
summer wind, and its most fortunate associations are directly
borrowed from the trefoiled grass of the field, or from the
stars of its flowers. Further than this, man’s invention could
not reach without frank imitation. His next step was to
gather the flowers themselves, and wreathe them in his capitals.

III. Now, I would insist especially on the fact, of which I
doubt not that further illustrations will occur to the mind of
every reader, that all most lovely forms and thoughts are directly
taken from natural objects; because I would fain be
allowed to assume also the converse of this, namely, that
forms which are taken from natural objects be ugly.[Pg 102]
I know this is a bold assumption; but as I have not space to
reason out the points wherein essential beauty of form consists,
that being far too serious a work to be undertaken in a
bye way, I have no other resource than to use this accidental
mark or test of beauty, of whose truth the considerations
which I hope hereafter to lay before the reader may assure
him. I say an accidental mark, since forms are not beautiful
they are copied from nature; only it is out of the
power of man to conceive beauty without her aid. I believe
the reader will grant me this, even from the examples above
advanced; the degree of confidence with which it is granted
must attach also to his acceptance of the conclusions which
will follow from it; but if it be granted frankly, it will enable
me to determine a matter of very essential importance, namely,
what or is ornament. For there are many forms of
so-called decoration in architecture, habitual, and received,
therefore, with approval, or at all events without any venture
at expression or dislike, which I have no hesitation in asserting
to be not ornament at all, but to be ugly things, the expense
of which ought in truth to be set down in the architect’s
contract, as “For Monstrification.” I believe that we
regard these customary deformities with a savage complacency,
as an Indian does his flesh patterns and paint (all nations
being in certain degrees and senses savage). I believe
that I can prove them to be monstrous, and I hope hereafter
to do so conclusively; but, meantime, I can allege in defence
of my persuasion nothing but this fact of their being unnatural,
to which the reader must attach such weight as he
thinks it deserves. There is, however, a peculiar difficulty in
using this proof; it requires the writer to assume, very impertinently,
that nothing is natural but what he has seen or
supposes to exist. I would not do this; for I suppose there
is no conceivable form or grouping of forms but in some part
of the universe an example of it may be found. But I think I
am justified in considering those forms to be natural
which are most frequent; or, rather, that on the shapes which
in the every-day world are familiar to the eyes of men, God
has stamped those characters of beauty which He has made[Pg 103]
it man’s nature to love; while in certain exceptional forms
He has shown that the adoption of the others was not a
matter of necessity, but part of the adjusted harmony of creation.
I believe that thus we may reason from Frequency to
Beauty and ; that knowing a thing to be frequent,
we may assume it to be beautiful; and assume that which is
most frequent to be most beautiful: I mean, of course,
frequent; for the forms of things which are hidden in caverns
of the earth, or in the anatomy of animal frames, are evidently
not intended by their Maker to bear the habitual gaze of man.
And, again, by frequency I mean that limited and isolated
frequency which is characteristic of all perfection; not mere
multitude: as a rose is a common flower, but yet there are
not so many roses on the tree as there are leaves. In this respect
Nature is sparing of her highest, and lavish of her less,
beauty; but I call the flower as frequent as the leaf, because,
each in its allotted quantity, where the one is, there will ordinarily
be the other.

IV. The first so-called ornament, then, which I would attack
is that Greek fret, now, I believe, usually known by the
Italian name Guilloche, which is exactly a case in point. It
so happens that in crystals of bismuth formed by the unagitated
cooling of the melted metal, there occurs a natural resemblance
of it almost perfect. But crystals of bismuth not
only are of unusual occurrence in every-day life, but their
form is, as far as I know, unique among minerals; and not
only unique, but only attainable by an artificial process, the
metal itself never being found pure. I do not remember any
other substance or arrangement which presents a resemblance
to this Greek ornament; and I think that I may trust my remembrance
as including most of the arrangements which
occur in the outward forms of common and familiar things.
On this ground, then, I allege that ornament to be ugly; or,
in the literal sense of the word, monstrous; different from
anything which it is the nature of man to admire: and I
think an uncarved fillet or plinth infinitely preferable to one
covered with this vile concatenation of straight lines: unless
indeed it be employed as a foil to a true ornament, which it[Pg 104]
may, perhaps, sometimes with advantage; or excessively small,
as it occurs on coins, the harshness of its arrangement being
less perceived.

V. Often in association with this horrible design we find,
in Greek works, one which is as beautiful as this is painful—that
egg and dart moulding, whose perfection in its place and
way, has never been surpassed. And why is this? Simply
because the form of which it is chiefly composed is one not
only familiar to us in the soft housing of the bird’s nest, but
happens to be that of nearly every pebble that rolls and murmurs
under the surf of the sea, on all its endless shore. And
with that a peculiar accuracy; for the mass which bears the
light in this moulding is in good Greek work, as in the
frieze of the Erechtheum, merely of the shape of an egg. It
is on the upper surface, with a delicacy and keen
sense of variety in the curve which it is impossible too highly
to praise, attaining exactly that flattened, imperfect oval,
which, in nine cases out of ten, will be the form of the pebble
lifted at random from the rolled beach. Leave out this flatness,
and the moulding is vulgar instantly. It is singular
also that the insertion of this rounded form in the hollow
recess has a type in the plumage of the Argus pheasant,
the eyes of whose feathers are so shaded as exactly to
represent an oval form placed in a hollow.

VI. It will evidently follow, upon our application of this
test of natural resemblance, that we shall at once conclude
that all perfectly beautiful forms must be composed of curves;
since there is hardly any common natural form in which it is
possible to discover a straight line. Nevertheless, Architecture,
having necessarily to deal with straight lines essential
to its purposes in many instances and to the expression of its
power in others, must frequently be content with that measure
of beauty which is consistent with such primal forms;
and we may presume that utmost measure of beauty to have
been attained when the arrangements of such lines are consistent
with the most frequent natural groupings of them we
can discover, although, to find right lines in nature at all, we
may be compelled to do violence to her finished work, break[Pg 105]
through the sculptured and colored surfaces of her crags, and
examine the processes of their crystallisation.

VII. I have just convicted the Greek fret of ugliness, because
it has no precedent to allege for its arrangement except
an artificial form of a rare metal. Let us bring into court an
ornament of Lombard architects, Plate XII., fig. 7, as exclusively
composed of right lines as the other, only, observe, with
the noble element of shadow added. This ornament, taken
from the front of the Cathedral of Pisa, is universal throughout
the Lombard churches of Pisa, Lucca, Pistoja, and Florence;
and it will be a grave stain upon them if it cannot
be defended. Its first apology for itself, made in a hurry,
sounds marvellously like the Greek one, and highly dubious.
It says that its terminal contour is the very image of a carefully
prepared artificial crystal of common salt. Salt being,
however, a substance considerably more familiar to us than
bismuth, the chances are somewhat in favor of the accused
Lombard ornament already. But it has more to say for itself,
and more to the purpose; namely, that its main outline is one
not only of natural crystallisation, but among the very first and
commonest of crystalline forms, being the primal condition of
the occurrence of the oxides of iron, copper, and tin, of the
sulphurets of iron and lead, of fluor spar, &c.; and that those
projecting forms in its surface represent the conditions of
structure which effect the change into another relative and
equally common crystalline form, the cube. This is quite
enough. We may rest assured it is as good a combination of
such simple right lines as can be put together, and gracefully
fitted for every place in which such lines are necessary.

VIII. The next ornament whose cause I would try is that
of our Tudor work, the portcullis. Reticulation is common
enough in natural form, and very beautiful; but it is either of
the most delicate and gauzy texture, or of variously sized
meshes and undulating lines. There is no family relation between
portcullis and cobwebs or beetles’ wings; something
like it, perhaps, may be found in some kinds of crocodile armor
and on the backs of the Northern divers, but always
beautifully varied in size of mesh. There is a dignity in the[Pg 106]
thing itself, if its size were exhibited, and the shade given
through its bars; but even these merits are taken away in the
Tudor diminution of it, set on a solid surface. It has not a
single syllable, I believe, to say in its defence. It is another
monster, absolutely and unmitigatedly frightful. All that
carving on Henry the Seventh’s Chapel simply deforms the
stones of it.

In the same clause with the portcullis, we may condemn all
heraldic decoration, so far as beauty is its object. Its pride
and significance have their proper place, fitly occurring in
prominent parts of the building, as over its gates; and allowably
in places where its legendary may be plainly read, as in
painted windows, bosses of ceilings, &c. And sometimes, of
course, the forms which it presents may be beautiful, as of
animals, or simple symbols like the fleur-de-lis; but, for the
most part, heraldic similitudes and arrangements are so professedly
and pointedly unnatural, that it would be difficult to
invent anything uglier; and the use of them as a repeated
decoration will utterly destroy both the power and beauty of
any building. Common sense and courtesy also forbid their
repetition. It is right to tell those who enter your doors that
you are such a one, and of such a rank; but to tell it to them
again and again, wherever they turn, becomes soon impertinence,
and at last folly. Let, therefore, the entire bearings
occur in few places, and these not considered as an ornament,
but as an inscription; and for frequent appliance, let any single
and fair symbol be chosen out of them. Thus we may
multiply as much as we choose the French fleur-de-lis, or the
Florentine giglio bianco, or the English rose; but we must
not multiply a King’s arms.

IX. It will also follow, from these considerations, that if
any one part of heraldic decoration be worse than another, it
is the motto; since, of all things unlike nature, the forms of
letters are, perhaps, the most so. Even graphic tellurium and
felspar look, at their clearest, anything but legible. All letters
are, therefore, to be considered as frightful things, and
to be endured only upon occasion; that is to say, in places
where the sense of the inscription is of more importance than[Pg 107]
external ornament. Inscriptions in churches, in rooms, and
on pictures, are often desirable, but they are not to be considered
as architectural or pictorial ornaments: they are, on
the contrary, obstinate offences to the eye, not to be suffered
except when their intellectual office introduces them. Place
them, therefore, where they will be read, and there only; and
let them be plainly written, and not turned upside down, nor
wrong end first. It is an ill sacrifice to beauty to make that
illegible whose only merit is in its sense. Write it as you
would speak it, simply; and do not draw the eye to it when
it would fain rest elsewhere, nor recommend your sentence
by anything but a little openness of place and architectural
silence about it. Write the Commandments on the Church
walls where they may be plainly seen, but do not put a dash
and a tail to every letter; and remember that you are an architect,
not a writing master.

X. Inscriptions appear sometimes to be introduced for the
sake of the scroll on which they are written; and in late and
modern painted glass, as well as in architecture, these scrolls
are flourished and turned hither and thither as if they were
ornamental. Ribands occur frequently in arabesques,—in
some of a high order, too,—tying up flowers, or flitting in and
out among the fixed forms. Is there anything like ribands
in nature? It might be thought that grass and sea-weed
afforded apologetic types. They do not. There is a wide
difference between their structure and that of a riband. They
have a skeleton, an anatomy, a central rib, or fibre, or framework
of some kind or another, which has a beginning and an
end, a root and head, and whose make and strength effects
every direction of their motion, and every line of their form.
The loosest weed that drifts and waves under the heaving of
the sea, or hangs heavily on the brown and slippery shore,
has a marked strength, structure, elasticity, gradation of substance;
its extremities are more finely fibred than its centre,
its centre than its root; every fork of its ramification is measured
and proportioned; every wave of its languid lines is love.
It has its allotted size, and place, and function; it is a specific
creature. What is there like this in a riband? It has[Pg 108]
no structure: it is a succession of cut threads all alike; it
has no skeleton, no make, no form, no size, no will of its own.
You cut it and crush it into what you will. It has no strength,
no languor. It cannot fall into a single graceful form. It
cannot wave, in the true sense, but only flutter: it cannot
bend, in the true sense, but only turn and be wrinkled. It
is a vile thing; it spoils all that is near its wretched film of
an existence. Never use it. Let the flowers come loose if
they cannot keep together without being tied; leave the sentence
unwritten if you cannot write it on a tablet or book,
or plain roll of paper. I know what authority there is against
me. I remember the scrolls of Perugino’s angels, and the
ribands of Raphael’s arabesques, and of Ghiberti’s glorious
bronze flowers: no matter; they are every one of them vices
and uglinesses. Raphael usually felt this, and used an honest
and rational tablet, as in the Madonna di Fuligno. I do not
say there is any type of such tablets in nature, but all the
difference lies in the fact that the tablet is not considered as
an ornament, and the riband, or flying scroll, is. The tablet,
as in Albert Durer’s Adam and Eve, is introduced for the sake
of the writing, understood and allowed as an ugly but necessary
interruption. The scroll is extended as an ornamental
form, which it is not, nor ever can be.

XI. But it will be said that all this want of organisation
and form might be affirmed of drapery also, and that this
latter is a noble subject of sculpture. By no means. When
was drapery a subject of sculpture by itself, except in the
form of a handkerchief on urns in the seventeenth century and
in some of the baser scenic Italian decorations? Drapery, as
such, is always ignoble; it becomes a subject of interest only
by the colors it bears, and the impressions which it receives
from some foreign form or force. All noble draperies, either
in painting or sculpture (color and texture being at present
out of our consideration), have, so far as they are anything
more than necessities, one of two great functions; they are
the exponents of motion and of gravitation. They are the
most valuable means of expressing past as well as present
motion in the figure, and they are almost the only means of[Pg 109]
indicating to the eye the force of gravity which resists such
motion. The Greeks used drapery in sculpture for the most
part as an ugly necessity, but availed themselves of it gladly
in all representation of action, exaggerating the arrangements
of it which express lightness in the material, and follow gesture
in the person. The Christian sculptors, caring little for
the body, or disliking it, and depending exclusively on the
countenance, received drapery at first contentedly as a veil,
but soon perceived a capacity of expression in it which the
Greek had not seen or had despised. The principal element
of this expression was the entire removal of agitation from
what was so pre-eminently capable of being agitated. It fell
from their human forms plumb down, sweeping the ground
heavily, and concealing the feet; while the Greek drapery
was often blown away from the thigh. The thick and coarse
stuffs of the monkish dresses, so absolutely opposed to the
thin and gauzy web of antique material, suggested simplicity
of division as well as weight of fall. There was no crushing
nor subdividing them. And thus the drapery gradually came
to represent the spirit of repose as it before had of motion,
repose saintly and severe. The wind had no power upon the
garment, as the passion none upon the soul; and the motion
of the figure only bent into a softer line the stillness of the
falling veil, followed by it like a slow cloud by drooping rain:
only in links of lighter undulation it followed the dances of
the angels.

Thus treated, drapery is indeed noble; but it is as an exponent
of other and higher things. As that of gravitation, it
has especial majesty, being literally the only means we have
of fully representing this mysterious natural force of earth (for
falling water is less passive and less defined in its lines). So,
again, in sails it is beautiful because it receives the forms of
solid curved surface, and expresses the force of another invisible
element. But drapery trusted to its own merits, and
given for its own sake,—drapery like that of Carlo Dolci and
the Caraccis,—is always base.

XII. Closely connected with the abuse of scrolls and bands,
is that of garlands and festoons of flowers as an architectural[Pg 110]
decoration, for unnatural arrangements are just as ugly as unnatural
forms; and architecture, in borrowing the objects of
nature, is bound to place them, as far as may be in her power,
in such associations as may befit and express their origin. She
is not to imitate directly the natural arrangement; she is not
to carve irregular stems of ivy up her columns to account for
the leaves at the top, but she is nevertheless to place her most
exuberant vegetable ornament just where Nature would have
placed it, and to give some indication of that radical and connected
structure which Nature would have given it. Thus
the Corinthian capital is beautiful, because it expands under
the abacus just as Nature would have expanded it; and because
it looks as if the leaves had one root, though that root
is unseen. And the flamboyant leaf mouldings are beautiful,
because they nestle and run up the hollows, and fill the angles,
and clasp the shafts which natural leaves would have delighted
to fill and to clasp. They are no mere cast of natural leaves;
they are counted, orderly, and architectural: but they are
naturally, and therefore beautifully, placed.

XIII. Now I do not mean to say that Nature never uses
festoons: she loves them, and uses them lavishly; and though
she does so only in those places of excessive luxuriance wherein
it seems to me that architectural types should seldom be sought,
yet a falling tendril or pendent bough might, if managed with
freedom and grace, be well introduced into luxuriant decoration
(or if not, it is not their want of beauty, but of architectural
fitness, which incapacitates them for such uses). But
what resemblance to such example can we trace in a mass of
all manner of fruit and flowers, tied heavily into a long bunch,
thickest in the middle, and pinned up by both ends against a
dead wall? For it is strange that the wildest and most fanciful
of the builders of truly luxuriant architecture never ventured,
so far as I know, even a pendent tendril; while the
severest masters of the revived Greek permitted this extraordinary
piece of luscious ugliness to be fastened in the middle
of their blank surfaces. So surely as this arrangement is
adopted, the whole value of the flower work is lost. Who
among the crowds that gaze upon the building ever pause to[Pg 111]
admire the flower work of St. Paul’s? It is as careful and as
rich as it can be, yet it adds no delightfulness to the edifice.
It is no part of it. It is an ugly excrescence. We always conceive
the building without it, and should be happier if our
conception were not disturbed by its presence. It makes the
rest of the architecture look poverty-stricken, instead of sublime;
and yet it is never enjoyed itself. Had it been put,
where it ought, into the capitals, it would have been beheld
with never-ceasing delight. I do not mean that it could have
been so in the present building, for such kind of architecture
has no business with rich ornament in any place; but that if
those groups of flowers had been put into natural places in an
edifice of another style, their value would have been felt as vividly
as now their uselessness. What applies to festoons is still
more sternly true of garlands. A garland is meant to be seen
upon a head. There it is beautiful, because we suppose it
newly gathered and joyfully worn. But it is not meant to be
hung upon a wall. If you want a circular ornament, put a
flat circle of colored marble, as in the Casa Doria and other
such palaces at Venice; or put a star, or a medallion, or if
you want a ring, put a solid one, but do not carve the images
of garlands, looking as if they had been used in the last procession,
and been hung up to dry, and serve next time withered.
Why not also carve pegs, and hats upon them?

XIV. One of the worst enemies of modern Gothic architecture,
though seemingly an unimportant feature, is an excrescence,
as offensive by its poverty as the garland by its profusion,
the dripstone in the shape of the handle of a chest of
drawers, which is used over the square-headed windows of
what we call Elizabethan buildings. In the last Chapter,
it will be remembered that the square form was shown to be
that of pre-eminent Power, and to be properly adapted and
limited to the exhibition of space or surface. Hence, when
the window is to be an exponent of power, as for instance in
those by M. Angelo in the lower story of the Palazzo Ricardi
at Florence, the square head is the most noble form they can
assume; but then either their space must be unbroken, and
their associated mouldings the most severe, or else the square[Pg 112]
must be used as a finial outline, and is chiefly to be associated
with forms of tracery, in which the relative form of power, the
circle, is predominant, as in Venetian, and Florentine, and
Pisan Gothic. But if you break upon your terminal square,
or if you cut its lines off at the top and turn them outwards,
you have lost its unity and space. It is an including form no
longer, but an added, isolated line, and the ugliest possible.
Look abroad into the landscape and see if you can discover
any one so bent and fragmentary as that of this strange
windlass-looking dripstone. You cannot. It is a monster. It
unites every element of ugliness, its line is harshly broken in
itself, and unconnected with every other; it has no harmony
either with structure or decoration, it has no architectural support,
it looks glued to the wall, and the only pleasant property
it has, is the appearance of some likelihood of its dropping off.

I might proceed, but the task is a weary one, and I think I
have named those false forms of decoration which are most
dangerous in our modern architecture as being legal and accepted.
The barbarisms of individual fancy are as countless
as they are contemptible; they neither admit attack nor are
worth it; but these above named are countenanced, some by
the practice of antiquity, all by high authority: they have depressed
the proudest, and contaminated the purest schools,
and are so established in recent practice that I write rather
for the barren satisfaction of bearing witness against them,
than with hope of inducing any serious convictions to their

XV. Thus far of what is ornament. What ornament is,
will without difficulty be determined by the application of the
same test. It must consist of such studious arrangements of
form as are imitative or suggestive of those which are commonest
among natural existences, that being of course the
noblest ornament which represents the highest orders of existence.
Imitated flowers are nobler than imitated stones,
imitated animals, than flowers; imitated human form of all
animal forms the noblest. But all are combined in the
richest ornamental work; and the rock, the fountain, the
flowing river with its pebbled bed, the sea, the clouds of[Pg 113]
Heaven, the herb of the field, the fruit-tree bearing fruit, the
creeping thing, the bird, the beast, the man, and the angel,
mingle their fair forms on the bronze of Ghiberti.

Every thing being then ornamental that is imitative, I
would ask the reader’s attention to a few general considerations,
all that can here be offered relating to so vast a subject;
which, for convenience sake, may be classed under the three
heads of inquiry:—What is the right place for architectural
ornament? What is the peculiar treatment of ornament
which renders it architectural? and what is the right use of
color as associated with architectural imitative form?

XVI. What is the place of ornament? Consider first that
the characters of natural objects which the architect can
represent are few and abstract. The greater part of those
delights by which Nature recommends herself to man at all
times, cannot be conveyed by him into his imitative work.
He cannot make his grass green and cool and good to rest
upon, which in nature is its chief use to man; nor can he
make his flowers tender and full of color and of scent, which
in nature are their chief powers of giving joy. Those qualities
which alone he can secure are certain severe characters
of form, such as men only see in nature on deliberate examination,
and by the full and set appliance of sight and
thought: a man must lie down on the bank of grass on his
breast and set himself to watch and penetrate the intertwining
of it, before he finds that which is good to be gathered by
the architect. So then while Nature is at all times pleasant to
us, and while the sight and sense of her work may mingle
happily with all our thoughts, and labors, and times of existence,
that image of her which the architect carries away
represents what we can only perceive in her by direct intellectual
exertion, and demands from us, wherever it appears,
an intellectual exertion of a similar kind in order to understand
it and feel it. It is the written or sealed impression of
a thing sought out, it is the shaped result of inquiry and
bodily expression of thought.

XVII. Now let us consider for an instant what would be
the effect of continually repeating an expression of a beautiful[Pg 114]
thought to any other of the senses at times when the mind
could not address that sense to the understanding of it.
Suppose that in time of serious occupation, of stern business,
a companion should repeat in our ears continually some
favorite passage of poetry, over and over again all day long.
We should not only soon be utterly sick and weary of the
sound of it, but that sound would at the end of the day have
so sunk into the habit of the ear that the entire meaning of
the passage would be dead to us, and it would ever thenceforward
require some effort to fix and recover it. The music
of it would not meanwhile have aided the business in hand,
while its own delightfulness would thenceforward be in a
measure destroyed. It is the same with every other form of
definite thought. If you violently present its expression to
the senses, at times when the mind is otherwise engaged, that
expression will be ineffective at the time, and will have its
sharpness and clearness destroyed forever. Much more if
you present it to the mind at times when it is painfully
affected or disturbed, or if you associate the expression of
pleasant thought with incongruous circumstances, you will
affect that expression thenceforward with a painful color for

XVIII. Apply this to expressions of thought received by
the eye. Remember that the eye is at your mercy more than
the ear. “The eye it cannot choose but see.” Its nerve is
not so easily numbed as that of the ear, and it is often busied
in tracing and watching forms when the ear is at rest. Now
if you present lovely forms to it when it cannot call the mind
to help it in its work, and among objects of vulgar use and
unhappy position, you will neither please the eye nor elevate
the vulgar object. But you will fill and weary the eye with
the beautiful form, and you will infect that form itself with
the vulgarity of the thing to which you have violently attached
it. It will never be of much use to you any more; you have
killed or defiled it; its freshness and purity are gone. You
will have to pass it through the fire of much thought before
you will cleanse it, and warm it with much love before it will
revive.[Pg 115]

XIX. Hence then a general law, of singular importance in
the present day, a law of simple common sense,—not to decorate
things belonging to purposes of active and occupied
life. Wherever you can rest, there decorate; where rest is
forbidden, so is beauty. You must not mix ornament with
business, any more than you may mix play. Work first, and
then rest. Work first and then gaze, but do not use golden
ploughshares, nor bind ledgers in enamel. Do not thrash
with sculptured flails: nor put bas-reliefs on millstones.
What! it will be asked, are we in the habit of doing so?
Even so; always and everywhere. The most familiar position
of Greek mouldings is in these days on shop fronts.
There is not a tradesman’s sign nor shelf nor counter in all
the streets of all our cities, which has not upon it ornaments
which were invented to adorn temples and beautify kings’
palaces. There is not the smallest advantage in them where
they are. Absolutely valueless—utterly without the power
of giving pleasure, they only satiate the eye, and vulgarise
their own forms. Many of these are in themselves thoroughly
good copies of fine things, which things themselves
we shall never, in consequence, enjoy any more. Many a
pretty beading and graceful bracket there is in wood or
stucco above our grocers’ and cheese-mongers’ and hosiers’
shops: how it is that the tradesmen cannot understand that
custom is to be had only by selling good tea and cheese and
cloth, and that people come to them for their honesty, and
their readiness, and their right wares, and not because they
have Greek cornices over their windows, or their names in
large gilt letters on their house fronts? how pleasurable it
would be to have the power of going through the streets of
London, pulling down those brackets and friezes and large
names, restoring to the tradesmen the capital they had spent
in architecture, and putting them on honest and equal terms,
each with his name in black letters over his door, not shouted
down the street from the upper stories, and each with a plain
wooden shop casement, with small panes in it that people
would not think of breaking in order to be sent to
prison! How much better for them would it be—how much[Pg 116]
happier, how much wiser, to put their trust upon their own
truth and industry, and not on the idiocy of their customers.
It is curious, and it says little for our national probity on
the one hand, or prudence on the other, to see the whole system
of our street decoration based on the idea that people
must be baited to a shop as moths are to a candle.

XX. But it will be said that much of the best wooden decoration
of the middle ages was in shop fronts. No; it was in
fronts, of which the shop was a part, and received its
natural and consistent portion of the ornament. In those
days men lived, and intended to live their shops, and over
them, all their days. They were contented with them and
happy in them: they were their palaces and castles. They
gave them therefore such decoration as made themselves
happy in their own habitation, and they gave it for their own
sake. The upper stories were always the richest, and the
shop was decorated chiefly about the door, which belonged to
the house more than to it. And when our tradesmen settle
to their shops in the same way, and form no plans respecting
future villa architecture, let their whole houses be decorated,
and their shops too, but with a national and domestic decoration
(I shall speak more of this point in the sixth chapter).
However, our cities are for the most part too large to admit
of contented dwelling in them throughout life; and I do not
say there is harm in our present system of separating the
shop from the dwelling-house; only where they are so separated,
let us remember that the only reason for shop decoration
is removed, and see that the decoration be removed

XXI. Another of the strange and evil tendencies of the
present day is to the decoration of the railroad station. Now,
if there be any place in the world in which people are deprived
of that portion of temper and discretion which are
necessary to the contemplation of beauty, it is there. It is
the very temple of discomfort, and the only charity that the
builder can extend to us is to show us, plainly as may be, how
soonest to escape from it. The whole system of railroad travelling
is addressed to people who, being in a hurry, are there[Pg 117]fore,
for the time being, miserable. No one would travel in
that manner who could help it—who had time to go leisurely
over hills and between hedges, instead of through tunnels and
between banks: at least those who would, have no sense of
beauty so acute as that we need consult it at the station. The
railroad is in all its relations a matter of earnest business, to
be got through as soon as possible. It transmutes a man
from a traveller into a living parcel. For the time he has
parted with the nobler characteristics of his humanity for the
sake of a planetary power of locomotion. Do not ask him to
admire anything. You might as well ask the wind. Carry
him safely, dismiss him soon: he will thank you for nothing
else. All attempts to please him in any other way are mere
mockery, and insults to the things by which you endeavor to
do so. There never was more flagrant nor impertinent folly
than the smallest portion of ornament in anything concerned
with railroads or near them. Keep them out of the way, take
them through the ugliest country you can find, confess them
the miserable things they are, and spend nothing upon them
but for safety and speed. Give large salaries to efficient servants,
large prices to good manufacturers, large wages to able
workmen; let the iron be tough, and the brickwork solid,
and the carriages strong. The time is perhaps not distant
when these first necessities may not be easily met: and to increase
expense in any other direction is madness. Better
bury gold in the embankments, than put it in ornaments on
the stations. Will a single traveller be willing to pay an increased
fare on the South Western, because the columns of
the terminus are covered with patterns from Nineveh? He
will only care less for the Ninevite ivories in the British Museum:
or on the North Western, because there are old English-looking
spandrils to the roof of the station at Crewe? He
will only have less pleasure in their prototypes at Crewe
House. Railroad architecture has or would have a dignity
of its own if it were only left to its work. You would not
put rings on the fingers of a smith at his anvil.

XXII. It is not however only in these marked situations
that the abuse of which I speak takes place. There is hardly,[Pg 118]
at present, an application of ornamental work, which is not
in some sort liable to blame of the same kind. We have a
bad habit of trying to disguise disagreeable necessities by
some form of sudden decoration, which is, in all other places,
associated with such necessities. I will name only one instance,
that to which I have alluded before—the roses which
conceal the ventilators in the flat roofs of our chapels. Many
of those roses are of very beautiful design, borrowed from
fine works: all their grace and finish are invisible when they
are so placed, but their general form is afterwards associated
with the ugly buildings in which they constantly occur; and
all the beautiful roses of the early French and English Gothic,
especially such elaborate ones as those of the triforium of
Coutances, are in consequence deprived of their pleasurable
influence: and this without our having accomplished the
smallest good by the use we have made of the dishonored form.
Not a single person in the congregation ever receives one ray
of pleasure from those roof roses; they are regarded with
mere indifference, or lost in the general impression of harsh

XXIII. Must not beauty, then, it will be asked, be sought for
in the forms which we associate with our every-day life? Yes,
if you do it consistently, and in places where it can be calmly
seen; but not if you use the beautiful form only as a mask
and covering of the proper conditions and uses of things,
nor if you thrust it into the places set apart for toil. Put it in
the drawing-room, not into the workshop; put it upon domestic
furniture, not upon tools of handicraft. All men have
sense of what is right in this manner, if they would only use
and apply that sense; every man knows where and how
beauty gives him pleasure, if he would only ask for it when it
does so, and not allow it to be forced upon him when he does
not want it. Ask any one of the passengers over London
Bridge at this instant whether he cares about the forms of the
bronze leaves on its lamps, and he will tell you, No. Modify
these forms of leaves to a less scale, and put them on his milk-jug
at breakfast, and ask him whether he likes them, and he
will tell you, Yes. People have no need of teaching if they[Pg 119]
could only think and speak truth, and ask for what they like
and want, and for nothing else: nor can a right disposition
of beauty be ever arrived at except by this common sense,
and allowance for the circumstances of the time and place.
It does not follow, because bronze leafage is in bad taste on
the lamps of London Bridge, that it would be so on those of
the Ponte della Trinita; nor, because it would be a folly to
decorate the house fronts of Gracechurch Street, that it would
be equally so to adorn those of some quiet provincial town.
The question of greatest external or internal decoration depends
entirely on the conditions of probable repose. It was
a wise feeling which made the streets of Venice so rich in external
ornament, for there is no couch of rest like the gondola.
So, again, there is no subject of street ornament so wisely
chosen as the fountain, where it is a fountain of use; for it is
just there that perhaps the happiest pause takes place in the
labor of the day, when the pitcher is rested on the edge of it,
and the breath of the bearer is drawn deeply, and the hair
swept from the forehead, and the uprightness of the form
declined against the marble ledge, and the sound of the kind
word or light laugh mixes with the trickle of the falling water,
heard shriller and shriller as the pitcher fills. What pause is
so sweet as that—so full of the depth of ancient days, so softened
with the calm of pastoral solitude?

XXIV. II. Thus far, then, of the place for beauty. We
were next to inquire into the characters which fitted it peculiarly
for architectural appliance, and into the principles of
choice and of arrangement which best regulate the imitation
of natural forms in which it consists. The full answering of
these questions would be a treatise on the art of design: I intend
only to say a few words respecting the two conditions of
that art which are essentially architectural,—Proportion and
Abstraction. Neither of these qualities is necessary, to the
same extent, in other fields of design. The sense of proportion
is, by the landscape painter, frequently sacrificed to character
and accident; the power of abstraction to that of complete
realisation. The flowers of his foreground must often be unmeasured
in their quantity, loose in their arrangement: what[Pg 120]
is calculated, either in quantity or disposition, must be artfully
concealed. That calculation is by the architect to be
prominently exhibited. So the abstraction of few characteristics
out of many is shown only in the painter’s sketch; in
his finished work it is concealed or lost in completion. Architecture,
on the contrary, delights in Abstraction and fears to
complete her forms. Proportion and Abstraction, then, are
the two especial marks of architectural design as distinguished
from all other. Sculpture must have them in inferior degrees;
leaning, on the one hand, to an architectural manner, when it
is usually greatest (becoming, indeed, a part of Architecture),
and, on the other, to a pictorial manner, when it is apt to lose
its dignity, and sink into mere ingenious carving.

XXV. Now, of Proportion so much has been written, that
I believe the only facts which are of practical use have been
overwhelmed and kept out of sight by vain accumulations of
particular instances and estimates. Proportions are as infinite
(and that in all kinds of things, as severally in colors, lines,
shades, lights, and forms) as possible airs in music: and it is
just as rational an attempt to teach a young architect how to
proportion truly and well by calculating for him the proportions
of fine works, as it would be to teach him to compose
melodies by calculating the mathematical relations of the notes
in Beethoven’s Adelaïde or Mozart’s Requiem. The man who
has eye and intellect will invent beautiful proportions, and
cannot help it; but he can no more tell how to do it than
Wordsworth could tell us how to write a sonnet, or than Scott
could have told us how to plan a romance. But there are one
or two general laws which can be told: they are of no use,
indeed, except as preventives of gross mistake, but they are so
far worth telling and remembering; and the more so because,
in the discussion of the subtle laws of proportion (which will
never be either numbered or known), architects are perpetually
forgetting and transgressing the very simplest of its

XXVI. Of which the first is, that wherever Proportion exists
at all, one member of the composition must be either larger
than, or in some way supreme over, the rest. There is no[Pg 121]
proportion between equal things. They can have symmetry
only, and symmetry without proportion is not composition. It
is necessary to perfect beauty, but it is the least necessary of
its elements, nor of course is there any difficulty in obtaining
it. Any succession of equal things is agreeable; but to compose
is to arrange unequal things, and the first thing to be
done in beginning a composition is to determine which is to
be the principal thing. I believe that all that has been
written and taught about proportion, put together, is not to
the architect worth the single rule, well enforced, “Have one
large thing and several smaller things, or one principal thing
and several inferior things, and bind them well together.”
Sometimes there may be a regular gradation, as between the
heights of stories in good designs for houses; sometimes a
monarch with a lowly train, as in the spire with its pinnacles:
the varieties of arrangement are infinite, but the law is
universal—have one thing above the rest, either by size, or office,
or interest. Don’t put the pinnacles without the spire. What
a host of ugly church towers have we in England, with pinnacles
at the corners, and none in the middle! How many
buildings like King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, looking
like tables upside down, with their four legs in the air! What!
it will be said, have not beasts four legs? Yes, but legs of
different shapes, and with a head between them. So they
have a pair of ears: and perhaps a pair of horns: but not at
both ends. Knock down a couple of pinnacles at either end
in King’s College Chapel, and you will have a kind of proportion
instantly. So in a cathedral you may have one tower in
the centre, and two at the west end; or two at the west end
only, though a worse arrangement: but you must not have
two at the west and two at the east end, unless you have some
central member to connect them; and even then, buildings
are generally bad which have large balancing features at the
extremities, and small connecting ones in the centre, because
it is not easy then to make the centre dominant. The bird or
moth may indeed have wide wings, because the size of the wing
does not give supremacy to the wing. The head and life are
the mighty things, and the plumes, however wide, are sub[Pg 122]ordinate.
In fine west fronts with a pediment and two towers,
the centre is always the principal mass, both in bulk and interest
(as having the main gateway), and the towers are subordinated
to it, as an animal’s horns are to its head. The
moment the towers rise so high as to overpower the body and
centre, and become themselves the principal masses, they will
destroy the proportion, unless they are made unequal, and
one of them the leading feature of the cathedral, as at Antwerp
and Strasburg. But the purer method is to keep them
down in due relation to the centre, and to throw up the pediment
into a steep connecting mass, drawing the eye to it by
rich tracery. This is nobly done in St. Wulfran of Abbeville,
and attempted partly at Rouen, though that west front is made
up of so many unfinished and supervening designs that it is
impossible to guess the real intention of any one of its builders.


XXVII. This rule of supremacy applies to the smallest as
well as to the leading features: it is interestingly seen in the
arrangement of all good mouldings. I have given one, on the
opposite page, from Rouen cathedral; that of the tracery before
distinguished as a type of the noblest manner of Northern
Gothic (Chap. II. § XXII.). It is a tracery of three orders, of
which the first is divided into a leaf moulding, fig. 4, and in
the section, and a plain roll, also seen in fig. 4, in the section;
these two divisions surround the entire window or panelling,
and are carried by two-face shafts of corresponding sections.
The second and third orders are plain rolls following
the line of the tracery; four divisions of moulding in all: of
these four, the leaf moulding is, as seen in the sections, much
the largest; next to it the outer roll; then, by an exquisite
alternation, the innermost roll (), in order that it may not be
lost in the recess and the intermediate (), the smallest. Each
roll has its own shaft and capital; and the two smaller, which
in effect upon the eye, owing to the retirement of the innermost,
are nearly equal, have smaller capitals than the two
larger, lifted a little to bring them to the same level. The
wall in the trefoiled lights is curved, as from to in the section;
but in the quatrefoil it is flat, only thrown back to the
full depth of the recess below so as to get a sharp shadow
[Pg 123]
instead of a soft one, the mouldings falling back to it in nearly
a vertical curve behind the roll . This could not, however,
be managed with the simpler mouldings of the smaller quatrefoil
above, whose half section is given from to ; but
the architect was evidently fretted by the heavy look of its
circular foils as opposed to the light spring of the arches below:
so he threw its cusps obliquely clear from the wall, as
seen in fig. 2, attached to it where they meet the circle, but
with their finials pushed out from the natural level (, in the
section) to that of the first order () and supported by stone
props behind, as seen in the profile fig. 2, which I got from
the correspondent panel on the buttress face (fig. 1 being on
its side), and of which the lower cusps, being broken away,
show the remnant of one of their props projecting from the
wall. The oblique curve thus obtained in the profile is of
singular grace. Take it all in all, I have never met with a
more exquisite piece of varied, yet severe, proportioned and
general arrangement (though all the windows of the period
are fine, and especially delightful in the subordinate proportioning
of the smaller capitals to the smaller shafts). The
only fault it has is the inevitable misarrangement of the central
shafts; for the enlargement of the inner roll, though
beautiful in the group of four divisions at the side, causes,
in the triple central shaft, the very awkwardness of heavy
lateral members which has just been in most instances condemned.
In the windows of the choir, and in most of the
period, this difficulty is avoided by making the fourth order a
fillet which only follows the foliation, while the three outermost
are nearly in arithmetical progression of size, and the central
triple shaft has of course the largest roll in front. The
moulding of the Palazzo Foscari (Plate VIII., and Plate IV.
fig. 8) is, for so simple a group, the grandest in effect I have
even seen: it is composed of a large roll with two subordinates.

XXVIII. It is of course impossible to enter into details of
instances belonging to so intricate division of our subject, in
the compass of a general essay. I can but rapidly name the
chief conditions of right. Another of these is the connection[Pg 124]
of Symmetry with horizontal, and of Proportion with vertical,
division. Evidently there is in symmetry a sense not merely
of equality, but of balance: now a thing cannot be balanced
by another on the top of it, though it may by one at the side
of it. Hence, while it is not only allowable, but often necessary,
to divide buildings, or parts of them, horizontally into
halves, thirds, or other equal parts, all vertical divisions of
this kind are utterly wrong; worst into half, next worst in
the regular numbers which more betray the equality. I should
have thought this almost the first principle of proportion
which a young architect was taught: and yet I remember an
important building, recently erected in England, in which
the columns are cut in half by the projecting architraves of
the central windows; and it is quite usual to see the spires
of modern Gothic churches divided by a band of ornament
half way up. In all fine spires there are two bands and three
parts, as at Salisbury. The ornamented portion of the tower
is there cut in half, and allowably, because the spire forms the
third mass to which the other two are subordinate: two stories
are also equal in Giotto’s campanile, but dominant over
smaller divisions below, and subordinated to the noble third
above. Even this arrangement is difficult to treat; and it is
usually safer to increase or diminish the height of the divisions
regularly as they rise, as in the Doge’s Palace, whose
three divisions are in a bold geometrical progression: or, in
towers, to get an alternate proportion between the body, the
belfry, and the crown, as in the campanile of St. Mark’s.
But, at all events, get rid of equality; leave that to children
and their card houses: the laws of nature and the reason of
man are alike against it, in arts, as in politics. There is but
one thoroughly ugly tower in Italy that I know of, and that
is so because it is divided into vertical equal parts: the tower
of Pisa.12

XXIX. One more principle of Proportion I have to name,
equally simple, equally neglected. Proportion is between
three terms at . Hence, as the pinnacles are not enough
without the spire, so neither the spire without the pinnacles. All
men feel this and usually express their feeling by saying that[Pg 125]
the pinnacles conceal the junction of the spire and tower.
This is one reason; but a more influential one is, that the
pinnacles furnish the third term to the spire and tower. So
that it is not enough, in order to secure proportion, to divide
a building unequally; it must be divided into at least three
parts; it may be into more (and in details with advantage),
but on a large scale I find three is about the best number of
parts in elevation, and five in horizontal extent, with freedom
of increase to five in the one case and seven in the other; but
not to more without confusion (in architecture, that is to say;
for in organic structure the numbers cannot be limited). I
purpose, in the course of works which are in preparation, to
give copious illustrations of this subject, but I will take at
present only one instance of vertical proportion, from the
flower stem of the common water plantain, .
Fig. 5, Plate XII. is a reduced profile of one side of a plant
gathered at random; it is seen to have five masts, of which,
however, the uppermost is a mere shoot, and we can consider
only their relations up to the fourth. Their lengths are
measured on the line A B, which is the actual length of the
lowest mass , A C=, A D=, and A E=. If the
reader will take the trouble to measure these lengths and
compare them, he will find that, within half a line, the uppermost
A E=5/7 of A D, A D=6/8 of A C, and A C=7/9 of A B; a
most subtle diminishing proportion. From each of the joints
spring three major and three minor branches, each between
each; but the major branches, at any joint, are placed over
the minor branches at the joint below, by the curious arrangement
of the joint itself—the stem is bluntly triangular; fig.
6 shows the section of any joint. The outer darkened triangle
is the section of the lower stem; the inner, left light,
of the upper stem; and the three main branches spring from
the ledges left by the recession. Thus the stems diminish in
diameter just as they diminish in height. The main branches
(falsely placed in the profile over each other to show their
relations) have respectively seven, six, five, four, and three
arm-bones, like the masts of the stem; these divisions being
proportioned in the same subtle manner. From the joints of[Pg 126]
these, it seems to be the of the plant that three major
and three minor branches should again spring, bearing the
flowers: but, in these infinitely complicated members, vegetative
nature admits much variety; in the plant from which
these measures were taken the full complement appeared only
at one of the secondary joints.

The leaf of this plant has five ribs on each side, as its flower
generally five masts, arranged with the most exquisite grace
of curve; but of lateral proportion I shall rather take illustrations
from architecture: the reader will find several in the accounts
of the Duomo at Pisa and St. Mark’s at Venice, in
Chap. V. §§ XIV.-XVI. I give these arrangements merely as
illustrations, not as precedents: all beautiful proportions are
unique, they are not general formulæ.

XXX. The other condition of architectural treatment which
we proposed to notice was the abstraction of imitated form.
But there is a peculiar difficulty in touching within these narrow
limits on such a subject as this, because the abstraction
of which we find examples in existing art, is partly involuntary;
and it is a matter of much nicety to determine where it
begins to be purposed. In the progress of national as well
as of individual mind, the first attempts at imitation are always
abstract and incomplete. Greater completion marks
the progress of art, absolute completion usually its decline;
whence absolute completion of imitative form is often supposed
to be in itself wrong. But it is not wrong always, only
dangerous. Let us endeavor briefly to ascertain wherein its
danger consists, and wherein its dignity.

XXXI. I have said that all art is abstract in its beginnings;
that is to say, it expresses only a small number of the qualities
of the thing represented. Curved and complex lines are represented
by straight and simple ones; interior markings of forms
are few, and much is symbolical and conventional. There is a
resemblance between the work of a great nation, in this phase,
and the work of childhood and ignorance, which, in the mind
of a careless observer, might attach something like ridicule to it.
The form of a tree on the Ninevite sculptures is much like that
which, come twenty years ago, was familiar upon samplers; and[Pg 127]
the types of the face and figure in early Italian art are susceptible
of easy caricature. On the signs which separate the infancy
of magnificent manhood from every other, I do not pause to
insist (they consist entirely in the choice of the symbol and of
the features abstracted); but I pass to the next stage of art, a
condition of strength in which the abstraction which was begun
in incapability is continued in free will. This is the case, however,
in pure sculpture and painting, as well as in architecture;
and we have nothing to do but with that greater severity of
manner which fits either to be associated with the more realist
art. I believe it properly consists only in a due expression of
their subordination, an expression varying according to their
place and office. The question is first to be clearly determined
whether the architecture is a frame for the sculpture, or the
sculpture an ornament of the architecture. If the latter, then
the first office of that sculpture is not to represent the things it
imitates, but to gather out of them those arrangements of
form which shall be pleasing to the eye in their intended places.
So soon as agreeable lines and points of shade have been added
to the mouldings which were meagre, or to the lights which
were unrelieved, the architectural work of the imitation is accomplished;
and how far it shall be wrought towards completeness
or not, will depend upon its place, and upon other various
circumstances. If, in its particular use or position, it is symmetrically
arranged, there is, of course, an instant indication of
architectural subjection. But symmetry is not abstraction.
Leaves may be carved in the most regular order, and yet be
meanly imitative; or, on the other hand, they may be thrown
wild and loose, and yet be highly architectural in their separate
treatment. Nothing can be less symmetrical than the group of
leaves which join the two columns in Plate XIII.; yet, since
nothing of the leaf character is given but what is necessary
for the bare suggestion of its image and the attainment of the
lines desired, their treatment is highly abstract. It shows that
the workman only wanted so much of the leaf as he supposed
good for his architecture, and would allow no more; and how
much is to be supposed good, depends, as I have said, much
more on place and circumstance than on general laws. I know[Pg 128]
that this is not usually thought, and that many good architects
would insist on abstraction in all cases: the question is so wide
and so difficult that I express my opinion upon it most diffidently;
but my own feeling is, that a purely abstract manner,
like that of our earliest English work, does not afford room for
the perfection of beautiful form, and that its severity is wearisome
after the eye has been long accustomed to it. I have not
done justice to the Salisbury dog-tooth moulding, of which the
effect is sketched in fig. 5, Plate X., but I have done more justice
to it nevertheless than to the beautiful French one above
it; and I do not think that any candid reader would deny that,
piquant and spirited as is that from Salisbury, the Rouen moulding
is, in every respect, nobler. It will be observed that its
symmetry is more complicated, the leafage being divided into
double groups of two lobes each, each lobe of different structure.
With exquisite feeling, one of these double groups is
alternately omitted on the other side of the moulding (not seen
in the Plate, but occupying the cavetto of the section), thus
giving a playful lightness to the whole; and if the reader will
allow for a beauty in the flow of the curved outlines (especially
on the angle), of which he cannot in the least judge from my
rude drawing, he will not, I think, expect easily to find a nobler
instance of decoration adapted to the severest mouldings.

Now it will be observed, that there is in its treatment a
high degree of abstraction, though not so conventional as that
of Salisbury: that is to say, the leaves have little more than
their flow and outline represented; they are hardly undercut,
but their edges are connected by a gentle and most studied
curve with the stone behind; they have no serrations, no
veinings, no rib or stalk on the angle, only an incision gracefully
made towards their extremities, indicative of the central
rib and depression. The whole style of the abstraction shows
that the architect could, if he had chosen, have carried the
imitation much farther, but stayed at this point of his own
free will; and what he has done is also so perfect in its kind,
that I feel disposed to accept his authority without question,
so far as I can gather it from his works, on the whole subject
of abstraction.[Pg 129]

XXXII. Happily his opinion is frankly expressed. This
moulding is on the lateral buttress, and on a level with the top
of the north gate; it cannot therefore be closely seen except
from the wooden stairs of the belfry; it is not intended to be
so seen, but calculated for a distance of, at least, forty to fifty
feet from the eye. In the vault of the gate itself, half as near
again, there are three rows of mouldings, as I think, by the
same designer, at all events part of the same plan. One of
them is given in Plate I. fig. 2 . It will be seen that the abstraction
is here infinitely less; the ivy leaves have stalks and
associated fruit, and a rib for each lobe, and are so far undercut
as to detach their forms from the stone; while in the vine-leaf
moulding above, of the same period, from the south gate,
serration appears added to other purely imitative characters.
Finally, in the animals which form the ornaments of the portion
of the gate which is close to the eye, abstraction nearly
vanishes into perfect sculpture.

XXXIII. Nearness to the eye, however, is not the only circumstance
which influences architectural abstraction. These
very animals are not merely better cut because close to the
eye; they are put close to the eye that they may, without indiscretion,
be better cut, on the noble principle, first I think,
clearly enunciated by Mr. Eastlake, that the closest imitation
shall be of the noblest object. Farther, since the wildness
and manner of growth of vegetation render a bona fide imitation
of it impossible in sculpture—since its members must be
reduced in number, ordered in direction, and cut away from
their roots, even under the most earnestly imitative treatment,—it
becomes a point, as I think, of good judgment, to proportion
the completeness of execution of parts to the formality
of the whole; and since five or six leaves must stand for a
tree, to let also five or six touches stand for a leaf. But since
the animal generally admits of perfect outline—since its form
is detached, and may be fully represented, its sculpture may
be more complete and faithful in all its parts. And this principle
will be actually found. I believe, to guide the old workmen.
If the animal form be in a gargoyle, incomplete, and
coining out of a block of stone, or if a head only, as for a boss[Pg 130]
or other such partial use, its sculpture will be highly abstract.
But if it be an entire animal, as a lizard, or a bird, or a
squirrel, peeping among leafage, its sculpture will be much
farther carried, and I think, if small, near the eye, and worked
in a fine material, may rightly be carried to the utmost possible
completion. Surely we cannot wish a less finish bestowed
on those which animate the mouldings of the south door of
the cathedral of Florence; nor desire that the birds in the
capitals of the Doge’s palace should be stripped of a single

XXXIV. Under these limitations, then, I think that perfect
sculpture may be made a part of the severest architecture;
but this perfection was said in the outset to be dangerous. It
is so in the highest degree; for the moment the architect
allows himself to dwell on the imitated portions, there is a
chance of his losing sight of the duty of his ornament, of its
business as a part of the composition, and sacrificing its points
of shade and effect to the delight of delicate carving. And
then he is lost. His architecture has become a mere framework
for the setting of delicate sculpture, which had better
be all taken down and put into cabinets. It is well, therefore,
that the young architect should be taught to think of
imitative ornament as of the extreme of grace in language; not
to be regarded at first, not to be obtained at the cost of purpose,
meaning, force, or conciseness, yet, indeed, a perfection—the
least of all perfections, and yet the crowning one of all—one
which by itself, and regarded in itself, is an architectural
coxcombry, but is yet the sign of the most highly-trained
mind and power when it is associated with others. It is a
safe manner, as I think, to design all things at first in severe
abstraction, and to be prepared, if need were, to carry them
out in that form; then to mark the parts where high finish
would be admissible, to complete these always with stern reference
to their general effect, and then connect them by a
graduated scale of abstraction with the rest. And there is
one safeguard against danger in this process on which I
would finally insist. Never imitate anything but natural
forms, and those the noblest, in the completed parts. The
[Pg 131]
degradation of the cinque cento manner of decoration was not
owing to its naturalism, to its faithfulness of imitation, but to
its imitation of ugly, i.e. unnatural things. So long as it restrained
itself to sculpture of animals and flowers, it remained
noble. The balcony, on the opposite page, from a house in
the Campo St. Benedetto at Venice, shows one of the earliest
occurrences of the cinque cento arabesque, and a fragment of
the pattern is given in Plate XII. fig. 8. It is but the arresting
upon the stone work of a stem or two of the living flowers,
which are rarely wanting in the window above (and which, by
the by, the French and Italian peasantry often trellis with exquisite
taste about their casements). This arabesque, relieved
as it is in darkness from the white stone by the stain of time,
is surely both beautiful and pure; and as long as the renaissance
ornament remained in such forms it may be beheld with
undeserved admiration. But the moment that unnatural objects
were associated with these, and armor, and musical instruments,
and wild meaningless scrolls and curled shields, and
other such fancies, became principal in its subjects, its doom
was sealed, and with it that of the architecture of the world.


XXXV. III. Our final inquiry was to be into the use of
color as associated with architectural ornament.

I do not feel able to speak with any confidence respecting
the touching of with color. I would only note one
point, that sculpture is the representation of an idea, while
architecture is itself a real thing. The idea may, as I think,
be left colorless, and colored by the beholder’s mind: but a
reality ought to have reality in all its attributes: its color
should be as fixed as its form. I cannot, therefore, consider
architecture as in any wise perfect without color. Farther, as
I have above noticed, I think the colors of architecture should
be those of natural stones; partly because more durable, but
also because more perfect and graceful. For to conquer the
harshness and deadness of tones laid upon stone or on gesso,
needs the management and discretion of a true painter; and
on this co-operation we must not calculate in laying down rules
for general practice. If Tintoret or Giorgione are at hand,
and ask us for a wall to paint, we will alter our whole design[Pg 132]
for their sake, and become their servants; but we must, as
architects, expect the aid of the common workman only; and
the laying of color by a mechanical hand, and its toning under
a vulgar eye, are far more offensive than rudeness in cutting the
stone. The latter is imperfection only; the former deadness
or discordance. At the best, such color is so inferior to the
lovely and mellow hues of the natural stone, that it is wise to
sacrifice some of the intricacy of design, if by so doing we
may employ the nobler material. And if, as we looked to
Nature for instruction respecting form, we look to her also to
learn the management of color, we shall, perhaps, find that this
sacrifice of intricacy is for other causes expedient.

XXXVI. First, then, I think that in making this reference
we are to consider our building as a kind of organized creature;
in coloring which we must look to the single and separately
organized creatures of Nature, not to her landscape
combinations. Our building, if it is well composed, is one
thing, and is to be colored as Nature would color one thing—a
shell, a flower, or an animal; not as she colors groups of

And the first broad conclusion we shall deduce from observance
of natural color in such cases will be, that it never follows
form, but is arranged on an entirely separate system.
What mysterious connection there may be between the shape
of the spots on an animal’s skin and its anatomical system, I
do not know, nor even if such a connection has in any wise
been traced: but to the eye the systems are entirely separate,
and in many cases that of color is accidentally variable. The
stripes of a zebra do not follow the lines of its body or limbs,
still less the spots of a leopard. In the plumage of birds,
each feather bears a part of the pattern which is arbitrarily
carried over the body, having indeed certain graceful harmonies
with the form, diminishing or enlarging in directions
which sometimes follow, but also not unfrequently oppose, the
directions of its muscular lines. Whatever harmonies there
may be, are distinctly like those of two separate musical parts,
coinciding here and there only—never discordant, but essentially
different I hold this, then, for the first great principle[Pg 133]
of architectural color. Let it be visibly independent of form.
Never paint a column with vertical lines, but always cross it.13
Never give separate mouldings separate colors (I know this is
heresy, but I never shrink from any conclusions, however contrary
to human authority, to which I am led by observance of
natural principles); and in sculptured ornaments I do not
paint the leaves or figures (I cannot help the Elgin frieze) of
one color and their ground of another, but vary both the
ground and the figures with the same harmony. Notice how
Nature does it in a variegated flower; not one leaf red and
another white, but a point of red and a zone of white, or whatever
it may be, to each. In certain places you may run your
two systems closer, and here and there let them be parallel for
a note or two, but see that the colors and the forms coincide
only as two orders of mouldings do; the same for an instant,
but each holding its own course. So single members may
sometimes have single colors: as a bird’s head is sometimes
of one color and its shoulders another, you may make your
capital of one color and your shaft another; but in general
the best place for color is on broad surfaces, not on the points
of interest in form. An animal is mottled on its breast and
back, rarely on its paws or about its eyes; so put your variegation
boldly on the flat wall and broad shaft, but be shy of
it in the capital and moulding; in all cases it is a safe rule to
simplify color when form is rich, and vice versâ; and I think
it would be well in general to carve all capitals and graceful
ornaments in white marble, and so leave them.

XXXVII. Independence then being first secured, what kind
of limiting outlines shall we adopt for the system of color

I am quite sure that any person familiar with natural objects
will never be surprised at any appearance of care or finish
in them. That is the condition of the universe. But there is
cause both for surprise and inquiry whenever we see anything
like carelessness or incompletion: that is not a common condition;
it must be one appointed for some singular purpose. I
believe that such surprise will be forcibly felt by any one who,
after studying carefully the lines of some variegated organic[Pg 134]
form, will set himself to copy with similar diligence those of
its colors. The boundaries of the forms he will assuredly,
whatever the object, have found drawn with a delicacy and
precision which no human hand can follow. Those of its
colors he will find in many cases, though governed always by
a certain rude symmetry, yet irregular, blotched, imperfect,
liable to all kinds of accidents and awkwardnesses. Look at
the tracery of the lines on a camp shell, and see how oddly and
awkwardly its tents are pitched. It is not indeed always so:
there is occasionally, as in the eye of the peacock’s plume, an
apparent precision, but still a precision far inferior to that of
the drawing of the filaments which bear that lovely stain; and
in the plurality of cases a degree of looseness and variation,
and, still more singularly, of harshness and violence in arrangement,
is admitted in color which would be monstrous in form.
Observe the difference in the precision of a fish’s scales and of
the spots on them.

XXXVIII. Now, why it should be that color is best seen
under these circumstances I will not here endeavor to determine;
nor whether the lesson we are to learn from it be that
it is God’s will that all manner of delights should never be
combined in one thing. But the fact is certain, that color is
always by Him arranged in these simple or rude forms, and as
certain that, therefore, it must be best seen in them, and that
we shall never mend by refining its arrangements. Experience
teaches us the same thing. Infinite nonsense has been written
about the union of perfect color with perfect form. They never
will, never can be united. Color, to be perfect, have a
soft outline or a simple one: it cannot have a refined one;
and you will never produce a good painted window with good
figure-drawing in it. You will lose perfection of color as you
give perfection of line. Try to put in order and form the
colors of a piece of opal.

XXXIX. I conclude, then, that all arrangements of color,
for its own sake, in graceful forms, are barbarous; and that,
to paint a color pattern with the lovely lines of a Greek leaf
moulding, is an utterly savage procedure. I cannot find anything
in natural color like this: it is not in the bond. I find[Pg 135]
it in all natural form—never in natural color. If, then, our
architectural color is to be beautiful as its form was, by being
imitative, we are limited to these conditions—to simple
masses of it, to zones, as in the rainbow and the zebra;
cloudings and flamings, as in marble shells and plumage, or
spots of various shapes and dimensions. All these conditions
are susceptible of various degrees of sharpness and delicacy,
and of complication in arrangement. The zone may become
a delicate line, and arrange itself in chequers and zig-zags.
The flaming may be more or less defined, as on a tulip leaf,
and may at last be represented by a triangle of color, and
arrange itself in stars or other shapes; the spot may be also
graduated into a stain, or defined into a square or circle. The
most exquisite harmonies may be composed of these simple
elements: some soft and full of flushed and melting spaces
of color; others piquant and sparkling, or deep and rich,
formed of close groups of the fiery fragments: perfect and
lovely proportion may be exhibited in the relation of their
quantities, infinite invention in their disposition: but, in all
cases, their shape will be effective only as it determines their
quantity, and regulates their operation on each other; points
or edges of one being introduced between breadths of others,
and so on. Triangular and barred forms are therefore convenient,
or others the simplest possible; leaving the pleasure
of the spectator to be taken in the color, and in that only.
Curved outlines, especially if refined, deaden the color, and
confuse the mind. Even in figure painting the greatest
colorists have either melted their outline away, as often
Correggio and Rubens; or purposely made their masses of ungainly
shape, as Titian; or placed their brightest hues in costume,
where they could get quaint patterns, as Veronese, and
especially Angelico, with whom, however, the absolute virtue
of color is secondary to grace of line. Hence, he never uses
the blended hues of Correggio, like those on the wing of the
little Cupid, in the “Venus and Mercury,” but always the
severest type—the peacock plume. Any of these men would
have looked with infinite disgust upon the leafage and scrollwork
which form the ground of color in our modern painted[Pg 136]
windows, and yet all whom I have named were much infected
with the love of renaissance designs. We must also allow for
the freedom of the painter’s subject, and looseness of his
associated lines; a pattern being severe in a picture, which is
over luxurious upon a building. I believe, therefore, that it
is impossible to be over quaint or angular in architectural
coloring; and thus many dispositions which I have had occasion
to reprobate in form, are, in color, the best that can be
invented. I have always, for instance, spoken with contempt
of the Tudor style, for this reason, that, having surrendered
all pretence to spaciousness and breadth,—having divided its
surfaces by an infinite number of lines, it yet sacrifices the
only characters which can make lines beautiful; sacrifices all
the variety and grace which long atoned for the caprice of
the Flamboyant, and adopts, for its leading feature, an entanglement
of cross bars and verticals, showing about as much
invention or skill of design as the reticulation of the bricklayer’s
sieve. Yet this very reticulation would in color be
highly beautiful; and all the heraldry, and other features
which, in form, are monstrous, may be delightful as themes
of color (so long as there are no fluttering or over-twisted
lines in them); and this observe, because, when colored, they
take the place of a mere pattern, and the resemblance to
nature, which could not be found in their sculptured forms,
is found in their piquant variegation of other surfaces. There
is a beautiful and bright bit of wall painting behind the
Duomo of Verona, composed of coats of arms, whose bearings
are balls of gold set in bars of green (altered blue?) and
white, with cardinal’s hats in alternate squares. This is of
course, however, fit only for domestic work. The front of
the Doge’s palace at Venice is the purest and most chaste
model that I can name (but one) of the fit application of color
to public buildings. The sculpture and mouldings are all
white; but the wall surface is chequered with marble blocks
of pale rose, the chequers being in no wise harmonized, or
fitted to the forms of the windows; but looking as if the surface
had been completed first, and the windows cut out of it.
In Plate XII. fig. 2 the reader will see two of the patterns[Pg 137]
used in green and white, on the columns of San Michele of
Lucca, every column having a different design. Both are
beautiful, but the upper one certainly the best. Yet in sculpture
its lines would have been perfectly barbarous, and those
even of the lower not enough refined.

XL. Restraining ourselves, therefore, to the use of such
simple patterns, so far forth as our color is subordinate either
to architectural structure, or sculptural form, we have yet one
more manner of ornamentation to add to our general means
of effect, monochrome design, the intermediate condition between
coloring and carving. The relations of the entire system
of architectural decoration may then be thus expressed.

1. Organic form dominant. True, independent sculpture, and
alto-relievo; rich capitals, and mouldings; to be elaborate
in completion of form, not abstract, and either to be left
in pure white marble, or most cautiously touched with
color in points and borders only, in a system not concurrent
with their forms.

2. Organic form sub-dominant. Basso-relievo or intaglio. To
be more abstract in proportion to the reduction of depth;
to be also more rigid and simple in contour; to be
touched with color more boldly and in an increased degree,
exactly in proportion to the reduced depth and fulness
of form, but still in a system non-concurrent with
their forms.

3. Organic form abstracted to outline. Monochrome design,
still farther reduced to simplicity of contour, and therefore
admitting for the first time the color to be concurrent
with its outlines; that is to say, as its name imports,
the entire figure to be detached in one color from a
ground of another.

4. Organic forms entirely lost. Geometrical patterns or variable
cloudings in the most vivid color.

On the opposite side of this scale, ascending from the color
pattern, I would place the various forms of painting which
may be associated with architecture: primarily, and as most[Pg 138]
fit for such purpose, the mosaic, highly abstract in treatment,
and introducing brilliant color in masses; the Madonna of
Torcello being, as I think, the noblest type of the manner, and
the Baptistery of Parma the richest: next, the purely decorative
fresco, like that of the Arena Chapel; finally, the fresco
becoming principal, as in the Vatican and Sistine. But I cannot,
with any safety, follow the principles of abstraction in
this pictorial ornament; since the noblest examples of it
appear to me to owe their architectural applicability to their
archaic manner; and I think that the abstraction and admirable
simplicity which render them fit media of the most splendid
coloring, cannot be recovered by a voluntary condescension.
The Byzantines themselves would not, I think, if they
could have drawn the figure better, have used it for a color
decoration; and that use, as peculiar to a condition of childhood,
however noble and full of promise, cannot be included
among those modes of adornment which are now legitimate or
even possible. There is a difficulty in the management of the
painted window for the same reason, which has not yet been
met, and we must conquer that first, before we can venture to
consider the wall as a painted window on a large scale. Pictorial
subject, without such abstraction, becomes necessarily
principal, or, at all events, ceases to be the architect’s concern;
its plan must be left to the painter after the completion of the
building, as in the works of Veronese and Giorgione on the
palaces of Venice.

XLI. Pure architectural decoration, then, may be considered
as limited to the four kinds above specified; of which
each glides almost imperceptibly into the other. Thus, the
Elgin frieze is a monochrome in a state of transition to sculpture,
retaining, as I think, the half-cast skin too long. Of
pure monochrome, I have given an example in Plate VI., from
the noble front of St. Michele of Lucca. It contains forty
such arches, all covered with equally elaborate ornaments, entirely
drawn by cutting out their ground to about the depth
of an inch in the flat white marble, and filling the spaces with
pieces of green serpentine; a most elaborate mode of sculpture,
requiring excessive care and precision in the fitting of[Pg 139]
the edges, and of course double work, the same line needing
to be cut both in the marble and serpentine. The excessive simplicity
of the forms will be at once perceived; the eyes of the
figures of animals, for instance, being indicated only by a
round dot, formed by a little inlet circle of serpentine, about
half an inch over: but, though simple, they admit often much
grace of curvature, as in the neck of the bird seen above the
right hand pillar.14 The pieces of serpentine have fallen out
in many places, giving the black shadows, as seen under the
horseman’s arm and bird’s neck, and in the semi-circular line
round the arch, once filled with some pattern. It would have
illustrated my point better to have restored the lost portions,
but I always draw a thing exactly as it is, hating restoration
of any kind; and I would especially direct the reader’s attention
to the completion of the forms in the ornament
of the marble cornices, as opposed to the abstraction of
the monochrome figures, of the ball and cross patterns between
the arches, and of the triangular ornament round the arch on
the left.

XLII. I have an intense love for these monochrome figures,
owing to their wonderful life and spirit in all the works on
which I found them; nevertheless, I believe that the excessive
degree of abstraction which they imply necessitates our
placing them in the rank of a progressive or imperfect art,
and that a perfect building should rather be composed of the
highest sculpture (organic form dominant and sub-dominant),
associated with pattern colors on the flat or broad surfaces.
And we find, in fact, that the cathedral of Pisa, which is a
higher type than that of Lucca, exactly follows this condition,
the color being put in geometrical patterns on its surfaces,
and animal-forms and lovely leafage used in the sculptured
cornices and pillars. And I think that the grace of the carved
forms is best seen when it is thus boldly opposed to severe
traceries of color, while the color itself is, as we have seen,
always most piquant when it is put into sharp angular arrangements.
Thus the sculpture is approved and set off by the
color, and the color seen to the best advantage in its opposition
both to the whiteness and the grace of the carved marble.[Pg 140]

XLIII. In the course of this and the preceding chapters, I
have now separately enumerated most of the conditions of
Power and Beauty, which in the outset I stated to be the
grounds of the deepest impressions with which architecture
could affect the human mind; but I would ask permission to
recapitulate them in order to see if there be any building
which I may offer as an example of the unison, in such manner
as is possible, of them all. Glancing back, then, to the
beginning of the third chapter, and introducing in their place
the conditions incidentally determined in the two previous
sections, we shall have the following list of noble characters:

Considerable size, exhibited by simple terminal lines (Chap.
III. § 6). Projection towards the top (§ 7). Breadth of flat
surface (§ 8). Square compartments of that surface (§ 9).
Varied and visible masonry (§ 11). Vigorous depth of shadow
(§ 13), exhibited especially by pierced traceries (§ 18). Varied
proportion in ascent (Chap. IV. § 28). Lateral symmetry (§ 28).
Sculpture most delicate at the base (Chap. I. § 12). Enriched
quantity of ornament at the top (§ 13). Sculpture abstract in
inferior ornaments and mouldings (Chap. IV. § 31), complete
in animal forms (§ 33). Both to be executed in white marble
(§ 40). Vivid color introduced in flat geometrical patterns
(§ 39), and obtained by the use of naturally colored stone (§ 35).

These characteristics occur more or less in different buildings,
some in one and some in another. But all together, and
all in their highest possible relative degrees, they exist, as far
as I know, only in one building in the world, the Campanile
of Giotto at Florence. The drawing of the tracery of its
upper story, which heads this chapter, rude as it is, will nevertheless
give the reader some better conception of that tower’s
magnificence than the thin outlines in which it is usually
portrayed. In its first appeal to the stranger’s eye there is
something unpleasing; a mingling, as it seems to him, of over
severity with over minuteness. But let him give it time, as he
should to all other consummate art. I remember well how, when
a boy, I used to despise that Campanile, and think it meanly
smooth and finished. But I have since lived beside it many a
day, and looked out upon it from my windows by sunlight and[Pg 141]
moonlight, and I shall not soon forget how profound and
gloomy appeared to me the savageness of the Northern Gothic,
when I afterwards stood, for the first time, beneath the front
of Salisbury. The contrast is indeed strange, if it could be
quickly felt, between the rising of those grey walls out of their
quiet swarded space, like dark and barren rocks out of a green
lake, with their rude, mouldering, rough-grained shafts, and
triple lights, without tracery or other ornament than the martins’
nests in the height of them, and that bright, smooth,
sunny surface of glowing jasper, those spiral shafts and fairy
traceries, so white, so faint, so crystalline, that their slight shapes
are hardly traced in darkness on the pallor of the Eastern sky,
that serene height of mountain alabaster, colored like a morning
cloud, and chased like a sea shell. And if this be, as I believe
it, the model and mirror of perfect architecture, is there
not something to be learned by looking back to the early life
of him who raised it? I said that the Power of human mind
had its growth in the Wilderness; much more must the love
and the conception of that beauty, whose every line and hue
we have seen to be, at the best, a faded image of God’s daily
work, and an arrested ray of some star of creation, be given
chiefly in the places which He has gladdened by planting there
the fir tree and the pine. Not within the walls of Florence,
but among the far away fields of her lilies, was the child trained
who was to raise that headstone of Beauty above the towers
of watch and war. Remember all that he became; count the
sacred thoughts with which he filled the heart of Italy; ask
those who followed him what they learned at his feet; and when
you have numbered his labors, and received their testimony, if
it seem to you that God had verily poured out upon this His
servant no common nor restrained portion of His Spirit, and
that he was indeed a king among the children of men, remember
also that the legend upon his crown was that of David’s:—”I
took thee from the sheepcote, and from following the sheep.”

[Pg 142]



I. Among the countless analogies by which the nature and
relations of the human soul are illustrated in the material
creation, none are more striking than the impressions inseparably
connected with the active and dormant states of matter.
I have elsewhere endeavored to show, that no inconsiderable
part of the essential characters of Beauty depended on the
expression of vital energy in organic things, or on the subjection
to such energy, of things naturally passive and powerless.
I need not here repeat, of what was then advanced, more than
the statement which I believe will meet with general acceptance,
that things in other respects alike, as in their substance,
or uses, or outward forms, are noble or ignoble in proportion
to the fulness of the life which either they themselves enjoy,
or of whose action they bear the evidence, as sea sands are
made beautiful by their bearing the seal of the motion of the
waters. And this is especially true of all objects which bear
upon them the impress of the highest order of creative life,
that is to say, of the mind of man: they become noble or ignoble
in proportion to the amount of the energy of that mind
which has visibly been employed upon them. But most peculiarly
and imperatively does the rule hold with respect to
the creations of Architecture, which being properly capable
of no other life than this, and being not essentially composed
of things pleasant in themselves,—as music of sweet sounds,
or painting of fair colors, but of inert substance,—depend,
for their dignity and pleasurableness in the utmost degree,
upon the vivid expression of the intellectual life which has
been concerned in their production.

II. Now in all other kind of energies except that of man’s
mind, there is no question as to what is life, and what is not.
Vital sensibility, whether vegetable or animal, may, indeed, be
reduced to so great feebleness, as to render its existence a
matter of question, but when it is evident at all, it is evident[Pg 143]
as such: there is no mistaking any imitation or pretence of it
for the life itself; no mechanism nor galvanism can take its
place; nor is any resemblance of it so striking as to involve
even hesitation in the judgment; although many occur which
the human imagination takes pleasure in exalting, without for
an instant losing sight of the real nature of the dead things it
animates; but rejoicing rather in its own excessive life, which
puts gesture into clouds, and joy into waves, and voices into

III. But when we begin to be concerned with the energies
of man, we find ourselves instantly dealing with a double creature.
Most part of his being seems to have a fictitious counterpart,
which it is at his peril if he do not cast off and deny.
Thus he has a true and false (otherwise called a living and
dead, or a feigned or unfeigned) faith. He has a true and a
false hope, a true and a false charity, and, finally, a true and a
false life. His true life is like that of lower organic beings,
the independent force by which he moulds and governs external
things; it is a force of assimilation which converts everything
around him into food, or into instruments; and which,
however humbly or obediently it may listen to or follow the
guidance of superior intelligence, never forfeits its own
authority as a judging principle, as a will capable either of
obeying or rebelling. His false life is, indeed, but one of the
conditions of death or stupor, but it acts, even when it cannot
be said to animate, and is not always easily known from the
true. It is that life of custom and accident in which many of
us pass much of our time in the world; that life in which we
do what we have not purposed, and speak what we do not
mean, and assent to what we do not understand; that life
which is overlaid by the weight of things external to it, and is
moulded by them, instead of assimilating them; that, which
instead of growing and blossoming under any wholesome dew,
is crystallised over with it, as with hoar frost, and becomes to
the true life what an arborescence is to a tree, a candied
agglomeration of thoughts and habits foreign to it, brittle,
obstinate, and icy, which can neither bend nor grow, but
must be crushed and broken to bits, if it stand in our way.[Pg 144]
All men are liable to be in some degree frost-bitten in this
sort; all are partly encumbered and crusted over with idle
matter; only, if they have real life in them, they are always
breaking this bark away in noble rents, until it becomes, like
the black strips upon the birch tree, only a witness of their
own inward strength. But, with all the efforts that the best
men make, much of their being passes in a kind of dream, in
which they indeed move, and play their parts sufficiently, to
the eyes of their fellow-dreamers, but have no clear consciousness
of what is around them, or within them; blind to the
one, insensible to the other, νωθροι. I would not press the
definition into its darker application to the dull heart and
heavy ear; I have to do with it only as it refers to the too frequent
condition of natural existence, whether of nations or individuals,
settling commonly upon them in proportion to their
age. The life of a nation is usually, like the flow of a lava
stream, first bright and fierce, then languid and covered, at
last advancing only by the tumbling over and over of its frozen
blocks. And that last condition is a sad one to look upon.
All the steps are marked most clearly in the arts, and in Architecture
more than in any other; for it, being especially dependent,
as we have just said, on the warmth of the true life,
is also peculiarly sensible of the hemlock cold of the false;
and I do not know anything more oppressive, when the mind
is once awakened to its characteristics, than the aspect of a
dead architecture. The feebleness of childhood is full of
promise and of interest,—the struggle of imperfect knowledge
full of energy and continuity,—but to see impotence and rigidity
settling upon the form of the developed man; to see
the types which once had the die of thought struck fresh
upon them, worn flat by over use; to see the shell of the
living creature in its adult form, when its colors are faded,
and its inhabitant perished,—this is a sight more humiliating,
more melancholy, than the vanishing of all knowledge,
and the return to confessed and helpless infancy.

Nay, it is to be wished that such return were always possible.
There would be hope if we could change palsy into
puerility; but I know not how far we can become children[Pg 145]
again, and renew our lost life. The stirring which has taken
place in our architectural aims and interests within these few
years, is thought by many to be full of promise: I trust it is,
but it has a sickly look to me. I cannot tell whether it be
indeed a springing of seed or a shaking among bones; and I
do not think the time will be lost which I ask the reader to
spend in the inquiry, how far all that we have hitherto ascertained
or conjectured to be the best in principle, may be formally
practised without the spirit or the vitality which alone
could give it influence, value, or delightfulness.

IV. Now, in the first place—and this is rather an important
point—it is no sign of deadness in a present art that it borrows
or imitates, but only if it borrows without paying interest, or
if it imitates without choice. The art of a great nation, which
is developed without any acquaintance with nobler examples
than its own early efforts furnish, exhibits always the most
consistent and comprehensible growth, and perhaps is regarded
usually as peculiarly venerable in its self-origination.
But there is something to my mind more majestic yet in the
life of an architecture like that of the Lombards, rude and infantine
in itself, and surrounded by fragments of a nobler art
of which it is quick in admiration and ready in imitation, and
yet so strong in its own new instincts that it re-constructs and
re-arranges every fragment that it copies or borrows into harmony
with its own thoughts,—a harmony at first disjointed
and awkward, but completed in the end, and fused into perfect
organisation; all the borrowed elements being subordinated
to its own primal, unchanged life. I do not know any
sensation more exquisite than the discovering of the evidence
of this magnificent struggle into independent existence; the
detection of the borrowed thoughts, nay, the finding of the actual
blocks and stones carved by other hands and in other ages,
wrought into the new walls, with a new expression and purpose
given to them, like the blocks of unsubdued rocks (to go back
to our former simile) which we find in the heart of the lava
current, great witnesses to the power which has fused all but
those calcined fragments into the mass of its homogeneous
fire.[Pg 146]

V. It will be asked, How is imitation to be rendered healthy
and vital? Unhappily, while it is easy to enumerate the signs
of life, it is impossible to define or to communicate life; and
while every intelligent writer on Art has insisted on the difference
between the copying found in an advancing or recedent
period, none have been able to communicate, in the slightest
degree, the force of vitality to the copyist over whom they
might have influence. Yet it is at least interesting, if not
profitable, to note that two very distinguishing characters of
vital imitation are, its Frankness and its Audacity; its Frankness
is especially singular; there is never any effort to conceal
the degree of the sources of its borrowing. Raffaelle
carries off a whole figure from Masaccio, or borrows an entire
composition from Perugino, with as much tranquillity and
simplicity of innocence as a young Spartan pickpocket; and
the architect of a Romanesque basilica gathered his columns
and capitals where he could find them, as an ant picks up
sticks. There is at least a presumption, when we find this
frank acceptance, that there is a sense within the mind of
power capable of transforming and renewing whatever it
adopts; and too conscious, too exalted, to fear the accusation
of plagiarism,—too certain that it can prove, and has proved,
its independence, to be afraid of expressing its homage to
what it admires in the most open and indubitable way; and
the necessary consequence of this sense of power is the other
sign I have named—the Audacity of treatment when it finds
treatment necessary, the unhesitating and sweeping sacrifice
of precedent where precedent becomes inconvenient. For instance,
in the characteristic forms of Italian Romanesque, in
which the hypaethral portion of the heathen temple was replaced
by the towering nave, and where, in consequence, the
pediment of the west front became divided into three portions,
of which the central one, like the apex of a ridge of sloping
strata lifted by a sudden fault, was broken away from and
raised above the wings; there remained at the extremities of
the aisles two triangular fragments of pediment, which could
not now be filled by any of the modes of decoration adapted
for the unbroken space; and the difficulty became greater[Pg 147]
when the central portion of the front was occupied by columnar
ranges, which could not, without painful abruptness, terminate
short of the extremities of the wings. I know not
what expedient would have been adopted by architects who
had much respect for precedent, under such circumstances,
but it certainly would not have been that of the Pisan,—to
continue the range of columns into the pedimental space,
shortening them to its extremity until the shaft of the last
column vanished altogether, and there remained only its
resting in the angle on its basic plinth. I raise no question
at present whether this arrangement be graceful or otherwise;
I allege it only as an instance of boldness almost without
a parallel, casting aside every received principle that stood in
its way, and struggling through every discordance and difficulty
to the fulfilment of its own instincts.

VI. Frankness, however, is in itself no excuse for repetition,
nor audacity for innovation, when the one is indolent and the
other unwise. Nobler and surer signs of vitality must be
sought,—signs independent alike of the decorative or original
character of the style, and constant in every style that is determinedly

Of these, one of the most important I believe to be a certain
neglect or contempt of refinement in execution, or, at all
events, a visible subordination of execution to conception,
commonly involuntary, but not unfrequently intentional.
This is a point, however, on which, while I speak confidently,
I must at the same time reservedly and carefully, as there
would otherwise be much chance of my being dangerously
misunderstood. It has been truly observed and well stated
by Lord Lindsay, that the best designers of Italy were also
the most careful in their workmanship; and that the stability
and finish of their masonry, mosaic, or other work whatsoever,
were always perfect in proportion to the apparent improbability
of the great designers condescending to the care of details
among us so despised. Not only do I fully admit and re-assert
this most important fact, but I would insist upon perfect
and most delicate finish in its right place, as a characteristic
of all the highest schools of architecture, as much as it is[Pg 148]
those of painting. But on the other hand, as perfect finish
belongs to the perfected art, a progressive finish belongs to
progressive art; and I do not think that any more fatal sign
of a stupor or numbness settling upon that undeveloped art
could possibly be detected, than that it had been
by its own execution, and that the workmanship had gone
ahead of the design; while, even in my admission of absolute
finish in the right place, as an attribute of the perfected
school, I must reserve to myself the right of answering in my
own way the two very important questions, what finish?
and what its right place?

VII. But in illustrating either of these points, we must
remember that the correspondence of workmanship with
thought is, in existent examples, interfered with by the adoption
of the designs of an advanced period by the workmen of
a rude one. All the beginnings of Christian architecture are
of this kind, and the necessary consequence is of course an
increase of the visible interval between the power of realisation
and the beauty of the idea. We have at first an imitation,
almost savage in its rudeness, of a classical design; as
the art advances, the design is modified by a mixture of
Gothic grotesqueness, and the execution more complete, until
a harmony is established between the two, in which balance
they advance to new perfection. Now during the whole
period in which the ground is being recovered, there will be
found in the living architecture marks not to be mistaken, of
intense impatience; a struggle towards something unattained,
which causes all minor points of handling to be neglected;
and a restless disdain of all qualities which appear either to
confess contentment or to require a time and care which
might be better spent. And, exactly as a good and earnest
student of drawing will not lose time in ruling lines or finishing
backgrounds about studies which, while they have answered
his immediate purpose, he knows to be imperfect and
inferior to what he will do hereafter,—so the vigor of a true
school of early architecture, which is either working under
the influence of high example or which is itself in a state of
rapid development, is very curiously traceable, among other
[Pg 149]
signs, in the contempt of exact symmetry and measurement,
which in dead architecture are the most painful necessities.


VIII. In Plate XII. fig. 1 I have given a most singular instance
both of rude execution and defied symmetry, in the
little pillar and spandril from a panel decoration under the
pulpit of St. Mark’s at Venice. The imperfection (not merely
simplicity, but actual rudeness and ugliness) of the leaf ornament
will strike the eye at once: this is general in works of
the time, but it is not so common to find a capital which has
been so carelessly cut; its imperfect volutes being pushed up
one side far higher than on the other, and contracted on that
side, an additional drill hole being put in to fill the space;
besides this, the member , of the mouldings, is a roll where
it follows the arch, and a flat fillet at ; the one being slurred
into the other at the angle , and finally stopped short altogether
at the other side by the most uncourteous and remorseless
interference of the outer moulding: and in spite of
all this, the grace, proportion, and feeling of the whole arrangement
are so great, that, in its place, it leaves nothing to
be desired; all the science and symmetry in the world could
not beat it. In fig. 4 I have endeavored to give some idea of
the execution of the subordinate portions of a much higher
work, the pulpit of St. Andrea at Pistoja, by Nicolo Pisano.
It is covered with figure sculptures, executed with great care
and delicacy; but when the sculptor came to the simple arch
mouldings, he did not choose to draw the eye to them by over
precision of work or over sharpness of shadow. The section
adopted, , , is peculiarly simple, and so slight and obtuse
in its recessions as never to produce a sharp line; and it is
worked with what at first appears slovenliness, but it is in fact
sculptural ; exactly correspondent to a painter’s
light execution of a background: the lines appear and disappear
again, are sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes
quite broken off; and the recession of the cusp joins that of
the external arch at , in the most fearless defiance of all
mathematical laws of curvilinear contact.

IX. There is something very delightful in this bold expression
of the mind of the great master. I do not say that it is[Pg 150]
the “perfect work” of patience, but I think that impatience
is a glorious character in an advancing school; and I love the
Romanesque and early Gothic especially, because they afford
so much room for it; accidental carelessness of measurement
or of execution being mingled undistinguishably with the
purposed departures from symmetrical regularity, and the
luxuriousness of perpetually variable fancy, which are eminently
characteristic of both styles. How great, how frequent
they are, and how brightly the severity of architectural
law is relieved by their grace and suddenness, has not, I
think, been enough observed; still less, the unequal measurements
of even important features professing to be absolutely
symmetrical. I am not so familiar with modern practice
as to speak with confidence respecting its ordinary
precision; but I imagine that the following measures of the
western front of the cathedral of Pisa, would be looked upon
by present architects as very blundering approximations.
That front is divided into seven arched compartments, of
which the second, fourth or central, and sixth contain doors;
the seven are in a most subtle alternating proportion; the
central being the largest, next to it the second and sixth, then
the first and seventh, lastly the third and fifth. By this arrangement,
of course, these three pairs should be equal; and
they are so to the eye, but I found their actual measures to
be the following, taken from pillar to pillar, in Italian braccia,
palmi (four inches each), and inches:—

Braccia.Palmi.Inches.Total in inches.
1. Central door800= 192
2. Northern door631½= 157½
3. Southern door643= 163
4. Extreme northern space553½= 143½
5. Extreme southern space610½= 148½
6. Northern intervals between the doors521= 129
7. Southern intervals between the doors521½= 129½

There is thus a difference, severally, between 2, 3 and 4, 5,
of five inches and a half in the one case, and five inches in the

X. This, however, may perhaps be partly attributable to[Pg 151]
some accommodation of the accidental distortions which evidently
took place in the walls of the cathedral during their
building, as much as in those of the campanile. To my mind,
those of the Duomo are far the most wonderful of the two: I
do not believe that a single pillar of its walls is absolutely
vertical: the pavement rises and falls to different heights, or
rather the plinth of the walls sinks into it continually to different
depths, the whole west front literally overhangs (I have
not plumbed it; but the inclination may be seen by the eye,
by bringing it into visual contact with the upright pilasters of
the Campo Santo): and a most extraordinary distortion in
the masonry of the southern wall shows that this inclination
had begun when the first story was built. The cornice above
the first arcade of that wall touches the tops of eleven out of
its fifteen arches; but it suddenly leaves the tops of the four
westernmost; the arches nodding westward and sinking into
the ground, while the cornice rises (or seems to rise), leaving
at any rate, whether by the rise of the one or the fall of the
other, an interval of more than two feet between it and the
top of the western arch, filled by added courses of masonry.
There is another very curious evidence of this struggle of the
architect with his yielding wall in the columns of the main
entrance. (These notices are perhaps somewhat irrelevant to
our immediate subject, but they appear to me highly interesting;
and they, at all events, prove one of the points on which
I would insist,—how much of imperfection and variety in
things professing to be symmetrical the eyes of those eager
builders could endure: they looked to loveliness in detail, to
nobility in the whole, never to petty measurements.) Those
columns of the principal entrance are among the loveliest in
Italy; cylindrical, and decorated with a rich arabesque of
sculptured foliage, which at the base extends nearly all round
them, up to the black pilaster in which they are lightly engaged:
but the shield of foliage, bounded by a severe line,
narrows to their tops, where it covers their frontal segment
only; thus giving, when laterally seen, a terminal line sloping
boldly outwards, which, as I think, was meant to conceal the
accidental leaning of the western walls, and, by its exagger[Pg 152]ated
inclination in the same direction, to throw them by comparison
into a seeming vertical.

XI. There is another very curious instance of distortion
above the central door of the west front. All the intervals between
the seven arches are filled with black marble, each containing
in its centre a white parallelogram filled with animal
mosaics, and the whole surmounted by a broad white band,
which, generally, does not touch the parallelogram below.
But the parallelogram on the north of the central arch has
been forced into an oblique position, and touches the white
band; and, as if the architect was determined to show that
he did not care whether it did or not, the white band suddenly
gets thicker at that place, and remains so over the two next
arches. And these differences are the more curious because
the workmanship of them all is most finished and masterly,
and the distorted stones are fitted with as much neatness as
if they tallied to a hair’s breadth. There is no look of slurring
or blundering about it; it is all coolly filled in, as if the
builder had no sense of anything being wrong or extraordinary:
I only wish we had a little of his impudence.

XII. Still, the reader will say that all these variations are
probably dependent more on the bad foundation than on the
architect’s feeling. Not so the exquisite delicacies of change
in the proportions and dimensions of the apparently symmetrical
arcades of the west front. It will be remembered that
I said the tower of Pisa was the only ugly tower in Italy,
because its tiers were equal, or nearly so, in height; a fault
this, so contrary to the spirit of the builders of the time, that
it can be considered only as an unlucky caprice. Perhaps the
general aspect of the west front of the cathedral may then
have occurred to the reader’s mind, as seemingly another contradiction
of the rule I had advanced. It would not have been
so, however, even had its four upper arcades been actually
equal; as they are subordinated to the great seven-arched
lower story, in the manner before noticed respecting the spire
of Salisbury, and as is actually the case in the Duomo of Lucca
and Tower of Pistoja. But the Pisan front is far more subtly
proportioned. Not one of its four arcades is of like height[Pg 153]
with another. The highest is the third, counting upwards;
and they diminish in nearly arithmetical proportion alternately;
in the order 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 4th. The inequalities in
their arches are not less remarkable: they at first strike the
eye as all equal; but there is a grace about them which
equality never obtained: on closer observation, it is perceived
that in the first row of nineteen arches, eighteen are equal,
and the central one larger than the rest; in the second arcade,
the nine central arches stand over the nine below, having, like
them, the ninth central one largest. But on their flanks, where
is the slope of the shoulder-like pediment, the arches vanish,
and a wedge-shaped frieze takes their place, tapering outwards,
in order to allow the columns to be carried to the extremity of
the pediment; and here, where the heights of the shafts are
so far shortened, they are set thicker; five shafts, or rather
four and a capital, above, to four of the arcade below, giving
twenty-one intervals instead of nineteen. In the next or third
arcade,—which, remember, is the highest,—eight arches, all
equal, are given in the space of the nine below, so that there
is now a central shaft instead of a central arch, and the span
of the arches is increased in proportion to their increased
height. Finally, in the uppermost arcade, which is the lowest
of all, the arches, the same in number as those below, are
narrower than any of the façade; the whole eight going very
nearly above the six below them, while the terminal arches of
the lower arcade are surmounted by flanking masses of decorated
wall with projecting figures.

XIV. Now I call Living Architecture. There is sensation
in every inch of it, and an accommodation to every
architectural necessity, with a determined variation in arrangement,
which is exactly like the related proportions and
provisions in the structure of organic form. I have not space
to examine the still lovelier proportioning of the external shafts
of the apse of this marvellous building. I prefer, lest the
reader should think it a peculiar example, to state the structure
of another church, the most graceful and grand piece of
Romanesque work, as a fragment, in north Italy, that of San
Giovanni Evangelista at Pistoja.[Pg 154]

The side of that church has three stories of arcade, diminishing
in height in bold geometrical proportion, while the
arches, for the most part, increase in number in arithmetical,
two in the second arcade, and three in the third, to one
in the first. Lest, however, this arrangement should be too
formal, of the fourteen arches in the lowest series, that
which contains the door is made larger than the rest, and is
not in the middle, but the sixth from the West, leaving five on
one side and eight on the other. Farther: this lowest arcade
is terminated by broad flat pilasters, about half the width of
its arches; but the arcade above is continuous; only the two
extreme arches at the west end are made larger than all the
rest, and instead of coming, as they should, into the space of
the lower extreme arch, take in both it and its broad pilaster.
Even this, however, was not out of order enough to satisfy the
architect’s eye; for there were still two arches above to each
single one below: so at the east end, where there are more
arches, and the eye might be more easily cheated, what does
he do but the two extreme arches by half a
braccio; while he at the same time slightly enlarged the
upper ones, so as to get only seventeen upper to nine lower,
instead of eighteen to nine. The eye is thus thoroughly confused,
and the whole building thrown into one mass, by the
curious variations in the adjustments of the superimposed
shafts, not one of which is either exactly in nor positively out
of its place; and, to get this managed the more cunningly,
there is from an inch to an inch and a half of gradual gain in
the space of the four eastern arches, besides the confessed
half braccio. Their measures, counting from the east, I found
as follows:—


The upper arcade is managed on the same principle; it
looks at first as if there were three arches to each under pair;
but there are, in reality, only thirty-eight (or thirty-seven, I[Pg 155]
am not quite certain of this number) to the twenty-seven below;
and the columns get into all manner of relative positions.
Even then, the builder was not satisfied, but must
needs carry the irregularity into the spring of the arches,
and actually, while the general effect is of a symmetrical
arcade, there is not one of the arches the same in height as
another; their tops undulate all along the wall like waves
along a harbor quay, some nearly touching the string course
above, and others falling from it as much as five or six

XIV. Let us next examine the plan of the west front of St.
Mark’s at Venice, which, though in many respects imperfect,
is in its proportions, and as a piece of rich and fantastic color,
as lovely a dream as ever filled human imagination. It may,
perhaps, however, interest the reader to hear one opposite
opinion upon this subject, and after what has been urged in the
preceding pages respecting proportion in general, more especially
respecting the wrongness of balanced cathedral towers
and other regular designs, together with my frequent references
to the Doge’s palace, and campanile of St. Mark’s, as models
of perfection, and my praise of the former especially as projecting
above its second arcade, the following extracts from
the journal of Wood the architect, written on his arrival
at Venice, may have a pleasing freshness in them, and may
show that I have not been stating principles altogether trite
or accepted.

“The strange looking church, and the great ugly campanile,
could not be mistaken. The exterior of this church surprises
you by its extreme ugliness, more than by anything else.”

“The Ducal Palace is even more ugly than anything I have
previously mentioned. Considered in detail, I can imagine no
alteration to make it tolerable; but if this lofty wall had been
the two stories of little arches, it would have
been a very noble production.”

After more observations on “a certain justness of proportion,”
and on the appearance of riches and power in the church,
to which he ascribes a pleasing effect, he goes on: “Some persons
are of opinion that irregularity is a necessary part of its[Pg 156]
excellence. I am decidedly of a contrary opinion, and am convinced
that a regular design of the same sort would be far superior.
Let an oblong of good architecture, but not very
showy, conduct to a fine cathedral, which should appear between
and have in front, and on
each side of this cathedral let other squares partially open into
the first, and one of these extend down to a harbor or sea
shore, and you would have a scene which might challenge any
thing in existence.”

Why Mr. Wood was unable to enjoy the color of St. Mark’s,
or perceive the majesty of the Ducal Palace, the reader will see
after reading the two following extracts regarding the Caracci
and Michael Angelo.

“The pictures here (Bologna) are to my taste far preferable
to those of Venice, for if the Venetian school surpass in coloring,
and, perhaps, in composition, the Bolognese is decidedly
superior in drawing and expression, and the Caraccis .”

“What is it that is so much admired in this artist (M. Angelo)?
Some contend for a grandeur of composition in the
lines and disposition of the figures; this, I confess, I do not
comprehend; yet, while I acknowledge the beauty of certain
forms and proportions in architecture, I cannot consistently
deny that similar merits may exist in painting, though I am
unfortunately unable to appreciate them.”

I think these passages very valuable, as showing the effect
of a contracted knowledge and false taste in painting upon an
architect’s understanding of his own art; and especially with
what curious notions, or lack of notions, about proportion, that
art has been sometimes practised. For Mr. Wood is by no
means unintelligent in his observations generally, and his criticisms
on classical art are often most valuable. But those who
love Titian better than the Caracci, and who see something to
admire in Michael Angelo, will, perhaps, be willing to proceed
with me to a charitable examination of St. Mark’s. For, although,
the present course of European events affords us some
chance of seeing the changes proposed by Mr. Wood carried
into execution, we may still esteem ourselves fortunate in hav[Pg 157]ing
first known how it was left by the builders of the eleventh

XV. The entire front is composed of an upper and lower
series of arches, enclosing spaces of wall decorated with mosaic,
and supported on ranges of shafts of which, in the lower series
of arches, there is an upper range superimposed on a lower.
Thus we have five vertical divisions of the façade; two tiers
of shafts, and the arched wall they bear, below; one tier of
shafts, and the arched wall they bear, above. In order, however,
to bind the two main divisions together, the central
lower arch (the main entrance) rises above the level of the
gallery and balustrade which crown the lateral arches.

The proportioning of the columns and walls of the lower
story is so lovely and so varied, that it would need pages of
description before it could be fully understood; but it may be
generally stated thus: The height of the lower shafts, upper
shafts, and wall, being severally expressed by , , and , then
:::: ( being the highest); and the diameter of shaft
is generally to the diameter of shaft as height is to height
, or something less, allowing for the large plinth which diminishes
the apparent height of the upper shaft: and when this is
their proportion of width, one shaft above is put above one
below, with sometimes another upper shaft interposed: but in
the extreme arches a single under shaft bears two upper, proportioned
as truly as the boughs of a tree; that is to say,
the diameter of each upper = 2/3 of lower. There being thus
the three terms of proportion gained in the lower story, the
upper, while it is only divided into two main members, in
order that the whole height may not be divided into an even
number, has the third term added in its pinnacles. So far of
the vertical division. The lateral is still more subtle. There
are seven arches in the lower story; and, calling the central
arch , and counting to the extremity, they diminish in the
alternate order , , , . The upper story has five arches, and
two added pinnacles; and these diminish in order, the
central being the largest, and the outermost the least. Hence,
while one proportion ascends, another descends, like parts in
music; and yet the pyramidal form is secured for the whole,[Pg 158]
and, which was another great point of attention, none of the
shafts of the upper arches stand over those of the lower.

XVI. It might have been thought that, by this plan, enough
variety had been secured, but the builder was not satisfied even
thus: for—and this is the point bearing on the present part of
our subject—always calling the central arch , and the lateral
ones and in succession, the northern and are considerably
wider than the southern and , but the southern is as
much wider than the northern , and lower beneath its cornice
besides; and, more than this, I hardly believe that one of the
effectively symmetrical members of the façade is actually symmetrical
with any other. I regret that I cannot state the actual
measures. I gave up the taking them upon the spot, owing to
their excessive complexity, and the embarrassment caused by
the yielding and subsidence of the arches.

Do not let it be supposed that I imagine the Byzantine
workmen to have had these various principles in their minds as
they built. I believe they built altogether from feeling, and
that it was because they did so, that there is this marvellous
life, changefulness, and subtlety running through their every
arrangement; and that we reason upon the lovely building as
we should upon some fair growth of the trees of the earth,
that know not their own beauty.

XVII. Perhaps, however, a stranger instance than any I have
yet given, of the daring variation of pretended symmetry, is
found in the front of the Cathedral of Bayeux. It consists of
five arches with steep pediments, the outermost filled, the three
central with doors; and they appear, at first, to diminish in
regular proportion from the principal one in the centre. The
two lateral doors are very curiously managed. The tympana
of their arches are filled with bas-reliefs, in four tiers; in the
lowest tier there is in each a little temple or gate containing
the principal figure (in that on the right, it is the gate of Hades
with Lucifer). This little temple is carried, like a capital, by
an isolated shaft which divides the whole arch at about 2/3 of its
breadth, the larger portion outmost; and in that larger portion
is the inner entrance door. This exact correspondence, in
the treatment of both gates, might lead us to expect a corre[Pg 159]spondence
in dimension. Not at all. The small inner northern
entrance measures, in English feet and inches, 4 ft. 7 in. from
jamb to jamb, and the southern five feet exactly. Five inches
in five feet is a considerable variation. The outer northern
porch measures, from face shaft to face shaft, 13 ft. 11 in., and
the southern, 14 ft. 6 in.; giving a difference of 7 in. on 14 ½ ft.
There are also variations in the pediment decorations not less

XVIII. I imagine I have given instances enough, though I
could multiply them indefinitely, to prove that these variations
are not mere blunders, nor carelessnesses, but the result of a
fixed scorn, if not dislike, of accuracy in measurements; and, in
most cases, I believe, of a determined resolution to work out
an effective symmetry by variations as subtle as those of Nature.
To what lengths this principle was sometimes carried,
we shall see by the very singular management of the towers of
Abbeville. I do not say it is right, still less that it is wrong,
but it is a wonderful proof of the fearlessness of a living architecture;
for, say what we will of it, that Flamboyant of France,
however morbid, was as vivid and intense in its animation as
ever any phase of mortal mind; and it would have lived till
now, if it had not taken to telling lies. I have before noticed
the general difficulty of managing even lateral division, when
it is into two equal parts, unless there be some third reconciling
member. I shall give, hereafter, more examples of the
modes in which this reconciliation is effected in towers with
double lights: the Abbeville architect put his sword to the
knot perhaps rather too sharply. Vexed by the want of unity
between his two windows he literally laid their heads together,
and so distorted their ogee curves, as to leave only one of the
trefoiled panels above, on the inner side, and three on the
outer side of each arch. The arrangement is given in Plate
XII. fig. 3. Associated with the various undulation of flamboyant
curves below, it is in the real tower hardly observed,
while it binds it into one mass in general effect. Granting it,
however, to be ugly and wrong, I like sins of the kind, for the
sake of the courage it requires to commit them. In plate II.
(part of a small chapel attached to the West front of the[Pg 160]
Cathedral of St. Lo), the reader will see an instance, from the
same architecture, of a violation of its own principles, for the
sake of a peculiar meaning. If there be any one feature which
the flamboyant architect loved to decorate richly, it was the
niche—it was what the capital is to the Corinthian order; yet
in the case before us there is an ugly beehive put in the place
of the principal niche of the arch. I am not sure if I am right
in my interpretation of its meaning, but I have little doubt
that two figures below, now broken away, once represented
an Annunciation; and on another part of the same cathedral,
I find the descent of the Spirit, encompassed by rays of light,
represented very nearly in the form of the niche in question;
which appears, therefore, to be intended for a representation
of this effulgence, while at the same time it was made a canopy
for the delicate figures below. Whether this was its meaning
or not, it is remarkable as a daring departure from the common
habits of the time.

XIX. Far more splendid is a license taken with the niche
decoration of the portal of St. Maclou at Rouen. The subject
of the tympanum bas-relief is the Last Judgment, and
the sculpture of the inferno side is carried out with a degree
of power whose fearful grotesqueness I can only describe as
a mingling of the minds of Orcagna and Hogarth. The demons
are perhaps even more awful than Orcagna’s; and, in
some of the expressions of debased humanity in its utmost
despair, the English painter is at least equalled. Not less
wild is the imagination which gives fury and fear even to the
placing of the figures. An evil angel, poised on the wing,
drives the condemned troops from before the Judgment seat;
with his left hand he drags behind him a cloud, which is
spreading like a winding-sheet over them all; but they are
urged by him so furiously, that they are driven not merely to
the extreme limit of that scene, which the sculptor confined
elsewhere within the tympanum, but out of the tympanum
and of the arch; while the flames that follow
them, bent by the blast, as it seems, of the angel’s wings, rush
into the niches also, and burst up , the
three lowermost niches being represented as all on fire, while,
[Pg 161]
instead of their usual vaulted and ribbed ceiling, there is a
demon in the roof of each, with his wings folded over it, grinning
down out of the black shadow.


XX. I have, however, given enough instances of vitality
shown in mere daring, whether wise, as surely in this last instance,
or inexpedient; but, as a single example of the Vitality
of Assimilation, the faculty which turns to its purposes all
material that is submitted to it, I would refer the reader to
the extraordinary columns of the arcade on the south side of
the Cathedral of Ferrara. A single arch of it is given in Plate
XIII. on the right. Four such columns forming a group, there
are interposed two pairs of columns, as seen on the left of the
same plate; and then come another four arches. It is a long
arcade of, I suppose, not less than forty arches, perhaps of
many more; and in the grace and simplicity of its stilted Byzantine
curves I hardly know its equal. Its like, in fancy of
column, I certainly do not know; there being hardly two correspondent,
and the architect having been ready, as it seems,
to adopt ideas and resemblances from any sources whatsoever.
The vegetation growing up the two columns is fine, though
bizarre; the distorted pillars beside it suggest images of less
agreeable character; the serpentine arrangements founded on
the usual Byzantine double knot are generally graceful; but
I was puzzled to account for the excessively ugly type of the
pillar, fig. 3, one of a group of four. It so happened, fortunately
for me, that there had been a fair in Ferrara; and,
when I had finished my sketch of the pillar, I had to get out
of the way of some merchants of miscellaneous wares, who
were removing their stall. It had been shaded by an awning
supported by poles, which, in order that the covering might
be raised or lowered according to the height of the sun, were
composed of two separate pieces, fitted to each other by a
, in which I beheld the prototype of my ugly pillar. It
will not be thought, after what I have above said of the inexpedience
of imitating anything but natural form, that I advance
this architect’s practice as altogether exemplary; yet the
humility is instructive, which condescended to such sources
for motives of thought, the boldness, which could depart so[Pg 162]
far from all established types of form, and the life and feeling,
which out of an assemblage of such quaint and uncouth
materials, could produce an harmonious piece of ecclesiastical

XXI. I have dwelt, however, perhaps, too long upon that
form of vitality which is known almost as much by its errors
as by its atonements for them. We must briefly note the
operation of it, which is always right, and always necessary,
upon those lesser details, where it can neither be superseded
by precedents, nor repressed by proprieties.

I said, early in this essay, that hand-work might always be
known from machine-work; observing, however, at the same
time, that it was possible for men to turn themselves into machines,
and to reduce their labor to the machine level; but so
long as men work men, putting their heart into what they
do, and doing their best, it matters not how bad workmen they
may be, there will be that in the handling which is above all
price: it will be plainly seen that some places have been delighted
in more than others—that there has been a pause, and
a care about them; and then there will come careless bits, and
fast bits; and here the chisel will have struck hard, and there
lightly, and anon timidly; and if the man’s mind as well as
his heart went with his work, all this will be in the right
places, and each part will set off the other; and the effect of
the whole, as compared with the same design cut by a machine
or a lifeless hand, will be like that of poetry well read and
deeply felt to that of the same verses jangled by rote. There
are many to whom the difference is imperceptible; but to
those who love poetry it is everything—they had rather not
hear it at all, than hear it ill read; and to those who love Architecture,
the life and accent of the hand are everything.
They had rather not have ornament at all, than see it ill cut—deadly
cut, that is. I cannot too often repeat, it is not coarse
cutting, it is not blunt cutting, that is necessarily bad; but it
is cold cutting—the look of equal trouble everywhere—the
smooth, diffused tranquillity of heartless pains—the regularity
of a plough in a level field. The chill is more likely, indeed,
to show itself in finished work than in any other—men cool[Pg 163]
and tire as they complete: and if completeness is thought to
be vested in polish, and to be attainable by help of sand paper,
we may as well give the work to the engine-lathe at once. But
finish is simply the full rendering of the intended impression;
and finish is the rendering of a well intended
and vivid impression; and it is oftener got by rough than fine
handling. I am not sure whether it is frequently enough observed
that sculpture is not the mere cutting of the of
anything in stone; it is the cutting of the of it. Very
often the true form, in the marble, would not be in the least
like itself. The sculptor must paint with his chisel: half his
touches are not to realize, but to put power into the form: they
are touches of light and shadow; and raise a ridge, or sink a
hollow, not to represent an actual ridge or hollow, but to get a
line of light, or a spot of darkness. In a coarse way, this kind
of execution is very marked in old French woodwork; the
irises of the eyes of its chimeric monsters being cut boldly
into holes, which, variously placed, and always dark, give all
kinds of strange and startling expressions, averted and askance,
to the fantastic countenances. Perhaps the highest examples
of this kind of sculpture-painting are the works of Mino da
Fiesole; their best effects being reached by strange angular,
and seemingly rude, touches of the chisel. The lips of one of
the children on the tombs in the church of the Badia, appear
only half finished when they are seen close; yet the expression
is farther carried and more ineffable, than in any piece of marble
I have ever seen, especially considering its delicacy, and the
softness of the child-features. In a sterner kind, that of the
statues in the sacristy of St. Lorenzo equals it, and there again
by incompletion. I know no example of work in which the
forms are absolutely true and complete where such a result is
attained; in Greek sculptures is not even attempted.

XXII. It is evident that, for architectural appliances, such
masculine handling, likely as it must be to retain its effectiveness
when higher finish would be injured by time, must always
be the most expedient; and as it is impossible, even
were it desirable that the highest finish should be given to
the quantity of work which covers a large building, it will be[Pg 164]
understood how precious the intelligence must become, which
renders incompletion itself a means of additional expression;
and how great must be the difference, when the touches are
rude and few, between those of a careless and those of a regardful
mind. It is not easy to retain anything of their character
in a copy; yet the reader will find one or two illustrative
points in the examples, given in Plate XIV., from the
bas-reliefs of the north of Rouen Cathedral. There are three
square pedestals under the three main niches on each side of
it, and one in the centre; each of these being on two sides
decorated with five quatrefoiled panels. There are thus seventy
quatrefoils in the lower ornament of the gate alone, without
counting those of the outer course round it, and of the
pedestals outside: each quatrefoil is filled with a bas-relief,
the whole reaching to something above a man’s height. A
modern architect would, of course, have made all the five
quatrefoils of each pedestal-side equal: not so the Mediæval.
The general form being apparently a quatrefoil composed of
semicircles on the sides of a square, it will be found on examination
that none of the arcs are semicircles, and none of
the basic figures squares. The latter are rhomboids, having
their acute or obtuse angles uppermost according to their
larger or smaller size; and the arcs upon their sides slide
into such places as they can get in the angles of the enclosing
parallelogram, leaving intervals, at each of the four angles, of
various shapes, which are filled each by an animal. The size
of the whole panel being thus varied, the two lowest of the five
are tall, the next two short, and the uppermost a little higher
than the lowest; while in the course of bas-reliefs which surrounds
the gate, calling either of the two lowest (which are
equal), , and either of the next two , and the fifth and sixth
and , then (the largest): ::::::. It is wonderful
how much of the grace of the whole depends on these variations.

XXIII. Each of the angles, it was said, is filled by an animal.
There are thus 70 x 4=280 animals, all different, in the
mere fillings of the intervals of the bas-reliefs. Three of these
intervals, with their beasts, actual size, the curves being traced
upon the stone, I have given in Plate XIV.

[Pg 165]


I say nothing of their general design, or of the lines of
the wings and scales, which are perhaps, unless in those of
the central dragon, not much above the usual commonplaces
of good ornamental work; but there is an evidence in the
features of thoughtfulness and fancy which is not common, at
least now-a-days. The upper creature on the left is biting
something, the form of which is hardly traceable in the defaced
stone—but biting he is; and the reader cannot but recognise
in the peculiarly reverted eye the expression which is
never seen, as I think, but in the eye of a dog gnawing something
in jest, and preparing to start away with it: the meaning
of the glance, so far as it can be marked by the mere incision
of the chisel, will be felt by comparing it with the eye
of the couchant figure on the right, in its gloomy and angry
brooding. The plan of this head, and the nod of the cap
over its brow, are fine; but there is a little touch above the
hand especially well meant: the fellow is vexed and puzzled
in his malice; and his hand is pressed hard on his cheek
bone, and the flesh of the cheek is under the eye by
the pressure. The whole, indeed, looks wretchedly coarse,
when it is seen on a scale in which it is naturally compared
with delicate figure etchings; but considering it as a mere
filling of an interstice on the outside of a cathedral gate, and
as one of more than three hundred (for in my estimate I did
not include the outer pedestals), it proves very noble vitality
in the art of the time.

XXIV. I believe the right question to ask, respecting all
ornament, is simply this: Was it done with enjoyment—was
the carver happy while he was about it? It may be the hardest
work possible, and the harder because so much pleasure
was taken in it; but it must have been happy too, or it will
not be living. How much of the stone mason’s toil this condition
would exclude I hardly venture to consider, but the
condition is absolute. There is a Gothic church lately built
near Rouen, vile enough, indeed, in its general composition,
but excessively rich in detail; many of the details are designed
with taste, and all evidently by a man who has studied old
work closely. But it is all as dead as leaves in December;[Pg 166]
there is not one tender touch, not one warm stroke, on the
whole façade. The men who did it hated it, and were thankful
when it was done. And so long as they do so they are
merely loading your walls with shapes of clay: the garlands
of everlastings in Père la Chaise are more cheerful ornaments.
You cannot get the feeling by paying for it—money will not
buy life. I am not sure even that you can get it by watching
or waiting for it. It is true that here and there a workman
may be found who has it in him, but he does not rest contented
in the inferior work—he struggles forward into an
Academician; and from the mass of available handicraftsmen
the power is gone—how recoverable I know not: this only I
know, that all expense devoted to sculptural ornament, in the
present condition of that power, comes literally under the
head of Sacrifice for the sacrifice’s sake, or worse. I believe
the only manner of rich ornament that is open to us is the
geometrical color-mosaic, and that much might result from our
strenuously taking up this mode of design. But, at all events,
one thing we have in our power—the doing without machine
ornament and cast-iron work. All the stamped metals, and
artificial stones, and imitation woods and bronzes, over the
invention of which we hear daily exultation—all the short, and
cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honor—are
just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered
road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser—they
will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of
enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings,
colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And
most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do any
thing into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain
work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously;
other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily:
neither is to be done by halves or shifts, but with a will;
and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.
Perhaps all that we have to do is meant for nothing more than
an exercise of the heart and of the will, and is useless in itself;
but, at all events, the little use it has may well be spared if it
is not worth putting our hands and our strength to. It does[Pg 167]
not become our immortality to take an ease inconsistent with
its authority, nor to suffer any instruments with which it can
dispense, to come between it and the things it rules: and he
who would form the creations of his own mind by any other
instrument than his own hand, would, also, if he might, give
grinding organs to Heaven’s angels, to make their music easier.
There is dreaming enough, and earthiness enough, and sensuality
enough in human existence without our turning the few
glowing moments of it into mechanism; and since our life
must at the best be but a vapor that appears for a little time
and then vanishes away, let it at least appear as a cloud in the
height of Heaven, not as the thick darkness that broods over
the blast of the Furnace, and rolling of the Wheel.



I. Among the hours of his life to which the writer looks
back with peculiar gratitude, as having been marked by more
than ordinary fulness of joy or clearness of teaching, is one
passed, now some years ago, near time of sunset, among the
broken masses of pine forest which skirt the course of the
Ain, above the village of Champagnole, in the Jura. It is a
spot which has all the solemnity, with none of the savageness,
of the Alps; where there is a sense of a great power beginning
to be manifested in the earth, and of a deep and majestic
concord in the rise of the long low lines of piny hills; the
first utterance of those mighty mountain symphonies, soon to
be more loudly lifted and wildly broken along the battlements
of the Alps. But their strength is as yet restrained; and the
far-reaching ridges of pastoral mountain succeed each other,
like the long and sighing swell which moves over quiet waters
from some far-off stormy sea. And there is a deep tenderness
pervading that vast monotony. The destructive forces and
the stern expression of the central ranges are alike withdrawn.
No frost-ploughed, dust-encumbered paths of ancient glacier[Pg 168]
fret the soft Jura pastures; no splintered heaps of ruin break
the fair ranks of her forests; no pale, defiled, or furious rivers
rend their rude and changeful ways among her rocks. Patiently,
eddy by eddy, the clear green streams wind along their
well-known beds; and under the dark quietness of the undisturbed
pines, there spring up, year by year, such company of
joyful flowers as I know not the like of among all the blessings
of the earth. It was Spring time, too; and all were coming
forth in clusters crowded for very love; there was room
enough for all, but they crushed their leaves into all manner
of strange shapes only to be nearer each other. There was
the wood anemone, star after star, closing every now and then
into nebulæ: and there was the oxalis, troop by troop like
virginal processions of the Mois de Marie, the dark vertical
clefts in the limestone choked up with them as with heavy
snow, and touched with ivy on the edges—ivy as light and
lovely as the vine; and ever and anon, a blue gush of violets,
and cowslip bells in sunny places; and in the more open
ground, the vetch, and comfrey, and mezereon, and the small
sapphire buds of the Polygala Alpina, and the wild strawberry,
just a blossom or two, all showered amidst the golden softness
of deep, warm, amber-colored moss. I came out presently on
the edge of the ravine; the solemn murmur of its waters rose
suddenly from beneath, mixed with the singing of the thrushes
among the pine boughs; and, on the opposite side of the
valley, walled all along as it was by grey cliffs of limestone,
there was a hawk sailing slowly off their brow, touching them
nearly with his wings, and with the shadows of the pines
flickering upon his plumage from above; but with a fall of a
hundred fathoms under his breast, and the curling pools of the
green river gliding and glittering dizzily beneath him, their
foam globes moving with him as he flew. It would be difficult
to conceive a scene less dependent upon any other interest
than that of its own secluded and serious beauty; but the
writer well remembers the sudden blankness and chill which
were cast upon it when he endeavored, in order more strictly
to arrive at the sources of its impressiveness, to imagine it, for
a moment, a scene in some aboriginal forest of the New Con[Pg 169]tinent.
The flowers in an instant lost their light, the river its
music15; the hills became oppressively desolate; a heaviness
in the boughs of the darkened forest showed how much of
their former power had been dependent upon a life which was
not theirs, how much of the glory of the imperishable, or continually
renewed, creation is reflected from things more precious
in their memories than it, in its renewing. Those ever
springing flowers and ever flowing streams had been dyed by
the deep colors of human endurance, valor, and virtue; and
the crests of the sable hills that rose against the evening sky
received a deeper worship, because their far shadows fell eastward
over the iron wall of Joux and the four-square keep of

II. It is as the centralisation and protectress of this sacred
influence, that Architecture is to be regarded by us with the
most serious thought. We may live without her, and worship
without her, but we cannot remember without her. How cold
is all history how lifeless all imagery, compared to that which
the living nation writes, and the uncorrupted marble bears!
how many pages of doubtful record might we not often spare,
for a few stones left one upon another! The ambition of the
old Babel builders was well directed for this world: there are
but two strong conquerors of the forgetfulness of men, Poetry
and Architecture; and the latter in some sort includes the
former, and is mightier in its reality; it is well to have, not
only what men have thought and felt, but what their hands
have handled, and their strength wrought, and their eyes
beheld, all the days of their life. The age of Homer is surrounded
with darkness, his very personality with doubt. Not
so that of Pericles: and the day is coming when we shall confess,
that we have learned more of Greece out of the crumbled
fragments of her sculpture than even from her sweet singers
or soldier historians. And if indeed there be any profit in our
knowledge of the past, or any joy in the thought of being remembered
hereafter, which can give strength to present exertion,
or patience to present endurance, there are two duties
respecting national architecture whose importance it is impossible
to overrate; the first, to render the architecture of the[Pg 170]
day historical; and, the second, to preserve, as the most precious
of inheritances, that of past ages.

III. It is in the first of these two directions that Memory
may truly be said to be the Sixth Lamp of Architecture; for
it is in becoming memorial or monumental that a true perfection
is attained by civil and domestic buildings; and this partly
as they are, with such a view, built in a more stable manner,
and partly as their decorations are consequently animated by a
metaphorical or historical meaning.

As regards domestic buildings, there must always be a certain
limitation to views of this kind in the power, as well as in
the hearts, of men; still I cannot but think it an evil sign of
a people when their houses are built to last for one generation
only. There is a sanctity in a good man’s house which cannot
be renewed in every tenement that rises on its ruins: and I
believe that good men would generally feel this; and that
having spent their lives happily and honorably, they would be
grieved at the close of them to think that the place of their
earthly abode, which had seen, and seemed almost to sympathise
in all their honor, their gladness, or their suffering,—that
this, with all the record it bare of them, and all of material
things that they had loved and ruled over, and set the stamp
of themselves upon—was to be swept away, as soon as there
was room made for them in the grave; that no respect was to
be shown to it, no affection felt for it, no good to be drawn
from it by their children; that though there was a monument
in the church, there was no warm monument in the heart and
house to them; that all that they ever treasured was despised,
and the places that had sheltered and comforted them were
dragged down to the dust. I say that a good man would fear
this; and that, far more, a good son, a noble descendant, would
fear doing it to his father’s house. I say that if men lived like
men indeed, their houses would be temples—temples which we
should hardly dare to injure, and in which it would make us
holy to be permitted to live; and there must be a strange dissolution
of natural affection, a strange unthankfulness for all
that homes have given and parents taught, a strange consciousness
that we have been unfaithful to our fathers’ honor, or that[Pg 171]
our own lives are not such as would make our dwellings sacred
to our children, when each man would fain build to himself,
and build for the little revolution of his own life only. And I
look upon those pitiful concretions of lime and clay which
spring up in mildewed forwardness out of the kneaded fields
about our capital—upon those thin, tottering, foundationless
shells of splintered wood and imitated stone—upon those
gloomy rows of formalised minuteness, alike without difference
and without fellowship, as solitary as similar—not merely with
the careless disgust of an offended eye, not merely with sorrow
for a desecrated landscape, but with a painful foreboding
that the roots of our national greatness must be deeply cankered
when they are thus loosely struck in their native ground;
that those comfortless and unhonored dwellings are the signs
of a great and spreading spirit of popular discontent; that
they mark the time when every man’s aim is to be in some
more elevated sphere than his natural one, and every man’s
past life is his habitual scorn; when men build in the hope of
leaving the places they have built, and live in the hope of forgetting
the years that they have lived; when the comfort, the
peace, the religion of home have ceased to be felt; and the
crowded tenements of a struggling and restless population differ
only from the tents of the Arab or the Gipsy by their less
healthy openness to the air of heaven, and less happy choice of
their spot of earth; by their sacrifice of liberty without the
gain of rest, and of stability without the luxury of change.

IV. This is no slight, no consequenceless evil: it is ominous,
infectious, and fecund of other fault and misfortune.
When men do not love their hearths, nor reverence their
thresholds, it is a sign that they have dishonored both, and that
they have never acknowledged the true universality of that
Christian worship which was indeed to supersede the idolatry,
but not the piety, of the pagan. Our God is a household
God, as well as a heavenly one; He has an altar in every
man’s dwelling; let men look to it when they rend it lightly
and pour out its ashes. It is not a question of mere ocular
delight, it is no question of intellectual pride, or of cultivated
and critical fancy, how, and with what aspect of durability[Pg 172]
and of completeness, the domestic buildings of a nation shall
be raised. It is one of those moral duties, not with more
impunity to be neglected because the perception of them depends
on a finely toned and balanced conscientiousness, to
build our dwellings with care, and patience, and fondness,
and diligent completion, and with a view to their duration at
least for such a period as, in the ordinary course of national
revolutions, might be supposed likely to extend to the entire
alteration of the direction of local interests. This at the
least; but it would be better if, in every possible instance,
men built their own houses on a scale commensurate rather
with their condition at the commencement, than their attainments
at the termination, of their worldly career; and built
them to stand as long as human work at its strongest can be
hoped to stand; recording to their children what they have
been, and from what, if so it had been permitted them, they
had risen. And when houses are thus built, we may have
that true domestic architecture, the beginning of all other,
which does not disdain to treat with respect and thoughtfulness
the small habitation as well as the large, and which invests
with the dignity of contented manhood the narrowness
of worldly circumstance.

V. I look to this spirit of honorable, proud, peaceful self-possession,
this abiding wisdom of contented life, as probably
one of the chief sources of great intellectual power in all ages,
and beyond dispute as the very primal source of the great
architecture of old Italy and France. To this day, the interest
of their fairest cities depends, not on the isolated richness of
palaces, but on the cherished and exquisite decoration of
even the smallest tenements of their proud periods. The
most elaborate piece of architecture in Venice is a small house
at the head of the Grand Canal, consisting of a ground floor
with two stories above, three windows in the first, and two in
the second. Many of the most exquisite buildings are on
the narrower canals, and of no larger dimensions. One of
the most interesting pieces of fifteenth century architecture in
North Italy, is a small house in a back street, behind the
market-place of Vicenza; it bears date 1481, and the motto,[Pg 173]
; it has also only a ground floor and
two stories, with three windows in each, separated by rich
flower-work, and with balconies, supported, the central one
by an eagle with open wings, the lateral ones by winged
griffins standing on cornucopiæ. The idea that a house must
be large in order to be well built, is altogether of modern
growth, and is parallel with the idea, that no picture can be
historical, except of a size admitting figures larger than life.

VI. I would have, then, our ordinary dwelling-houses built
to last, and built to be lovely; as rich and full of pleasantness
as may be, within and without; with what degree of likeness
to each other in style and manner, I will say presently, under
another head; but, at all events, with such differences as might
suit and express each man’s character and occupation, and
partly his history. This right over the house, I conceive, belongs
to its first builder, and is to be respected by his children;
and it would be well that blank stones should be left in places,
to be inscribed with a summary of his life and of its experience,
raising thus the habitation into a kind of monument, and
developing, into more systematic instructiveness, that good
custom which was of old universal, and which still remains
among some of the Swiss and Germans, of acknowledging the
grace of God’s permission to build and possess a quiet
resting-place, in such sweet words as may well close our speaking of
these things. I have taken them from the front of a cottage
lately built among the green pastures which descend from the
village of Grindelwald to the lower glacier:—

“Mit herzlichem Vertrauen
Hat Johannes Mooter und Maria Rubi
Dieses Haus bauen lassen.
Der liebe Gott woll uns bewahren
Vor allem Unglück und Gefahren,
Und es in Segen lassen stehn
Auf der Reise durch diese Jammerzeit
Nach dem himmlischen Paradiese,
Wo alle Frommen wohnen,
Da wird Gott sie belohnen
Mit der Friedenskrone
Zu alle Ewigkeit.”

[Pg 174]

VII. In public buildings the historical purpose should be
still more definite. It is one of the advantages of Gothic
architecture,—I use the word Gothic in the most extended
sense as broadly opposed to classical,—that it admits of a richness
of record altogether unlimited. Its minute and multitudinous
sculptural decorations afford means of expressing,
either symbolically or literally, all that need be known of national
feeling or achievement. More decoration will, indeed,
be usually required than can take so elevated a character; and
much, even in the most thoughtful periods, has been left to
the freedom of fancy, or suffered to consist of mere repetitions
of some national bearing or symbol. It is, however, generally
unwise, even in mere surface ornament, to surrender the power
and privilege of variety which the spirit of Gothic architecture
admits; much more in important features—capitals of columns
or bosses, and string-courses, as of course in all confessed
bas-reliefs. Better the rudest work that tells a story or records
a fact, than the richest without meaning. There should not
be a single ornament put upon great civic buildings, without
some intellectual intention. Actual representation of history
has in modern times been checked by a difficulty, mean indeed,
but steadfast: that of unmanageable costume; nevertheless,
by a sufficiently bold imaginative treatment, and frank
use of symbols, all such obstacles may be vanquished; not
perhaps in the degree necessary to produce sculpture in itself
satisfactory, but at all events so as to enable it to become a
grand and expressive element of architectural composition.
Take, for example, the management of the capitals of the ducal
palace at Venice. History, as such, was indeed entrusted to
the painters of its interior, but every capital of its arcades was
filled with meaning. The large one, the corner stone of the
whole, next the entrance, was devoted to the symbolisation of
Abstract Justice; above it is a sculpture of the Judgment of
Solomon, remarkable for a beautiful subjection in its treatment
to its decorative purpose. The figures, if the subject
had been entirely composed of them, would have awkwardly
interrupted the line of the angle, and diminished its apparent
strength; and therefore in the midst of them, entirely without[Pg 175]
relation to them, and indeed actually between the executioner
and interceding mother, there rises the ribbed trunk of a massy
tree, which supports and continues the shaft of the angle, and
whose leaves above overshadow and enrich the whole. The
capital below bears among its leafage a throned figure of Justice,
Trajan doing justice to the widow, Aristotle “che die
legge,” and one or two other subjects now unintelligible from
decay. The capitals next in order represent the virtues and
vices in succession, as preservative or destructive of national
peace and power, concluding with Faith, with the inscription
“Fides optima in Deo est.” A figure is seen on the opposite
side of the capital, worshipping the sun. After these, one or
two capitals are fancifully decorated with birds (Plate V.), and
then come a series representing, first the various fruits, then
the national costumes, and then the animals of the various
countries subject to Venetian rule.

VIII. Now, not to speak of any more important public
building, let us imagine our own India House adorned in this
way, by historical or symbolical sculpture: massively built in
the first place; then chased with bas-reliefs of our Indian battles,
and fretted with carvings of Oriental foliage, or inlaid with
Oriental stones; and the more important members of its decoration
composed of groups of Indian life and landscape, and
prominently expressing the phantasms of Hindoo worship in
their subjection to the Cross. Would not one such work be
better than a thousand histories? If, however, we have not
the invention necessary for such efforts, or if, which is probably
one of the most noble excuses we can offer for our deficiency
in such matters, we have less pleasure in talking about
ourselves, even in marble, than the Continental nations, at least
we have no excuse for any want of care in the points which insure
the building’s endurance. And as this question is one of
great interest in its relations to the choice of various modes of
decoration, it will be necessary to enter into it at some length.

IX. The benevolent regards and purposes of men in masses
seldom can be supposed to extend beyond their own generation.
They may look to posterity as an audience, may hope
for its attention, and labor for its praise: they may trust to[Pg 176]
its recognition of unacknowledged merit, and demand its justice
for contemporary wrong. But all this is mere selfishness,
and does not involve the slightest regard to, or consideration
of, the interest of those by whose numbers we would fain swell
the circle of our flatterers, and by whose authority we would
gladly support our presently disputed claims. The idea of
self-denial for the sake of posterity, of practising present economy
for the sake of debtors yet unborn, of planting forests
that our descendants may live under their shade, or of raising
cities for future nations to inhabit, never, I suppose, efficiently
takes place among publicly recognised motives of exertion.
Yet these are not the less our duties; nor is our part fitly
sustained upon the earth, unless the range of our intended
and deliberate usefulness include not only the companions,
but the successors, of our pilgrimage. God has lent us the
earth for our life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to
those who are to come after us, and whose names are already
written in the book of creation, as to us; and we have no
right, by anything that we do or neglect, to involve them in
unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which it
was in our power to bequeath. And this the more, because it
is one of the appointed conditions of the labor of men that, in
proportion to the time between the seed-sowing and the harvest,
is the fulness of the fruit; and that generally, therefore,
the farther off we place our aim, and the less we desire to be
ourselves the witnesses of what we have labored for, the more
wide and rich will be the measure of our success. Men cannot
benefit those that are with them as they can benefit those
who come after them; and of all the pulpits from which human
voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so
far as from the grave.

X. Nor is there, indeed, any present loss, in such respect,
for futurity. Every human action gains in honor, in grace, in
all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come.
It is the far sight, the quiet and confident patience, that, above
all other attributes, separate man from man, and near him to
his Maker; and there is no action nor art, whose majesty we
may not measure by this test. Therefore, when we build, let[Pg 177]
us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight,
nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our
descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone
on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held
sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men
will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of
them, “See! this our fathers did for us.” For, indeed, the
greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, or in its gold.
Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness,
of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval
or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long
been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their
lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the
transitional character of all things, in the strength which,
through the lapse of seasons and times, and the decline and
birth of dynasties, and the changing of the face of the earth,
and of the limits of the sea, maintains its sculptured shapeliness
for a time insuperable, connects forgotten and following
ages with each other, and half constitutes the identity, as it
concentrates the sympathy, of nations; it is in that golden
stain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and color,
and preciousness of architecture; and it is not until a building
has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted with
the fame, and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have
been witnesses of suffering, and its pillars rise out of the shadows
of death, that its existence, more lasting as it is than that
of the natural objects of the world around it, can be gifted
with even so much as these possess of language and of life.

XI. For that period, then, we must build; not, indeed, refusing
to ourselves the delight of present completion, nor hesitating
to follow such portions of character as may depend
upon delicacy of execution to the highest perfection of which
they are capable, even although we may know that in the
course of years such details must perish; but taking care that
for work of this kind we sacrifice no enduring quality, and
that the building shall not depend for its impressiveness upon
anything that is perishable. This would, indeed, be the law
of good composition under any circumstances, the arrange[Pg 178]ment
of the larger masses being always a matter of greater
importance than the treatment of the smaller; but in architecture
there is much in that very treatment which is skilful
or otherwise in proportion to its just regard to the probable
effects of time: and (which is still more to be considered)
there is a beauty in those effects themselves, which nothing
else can replace, and which it is our wisdom to consult and
to desire. For though, hitherto, we have been speaking of
the sentiment of age only, there is an actual beauty in the
marks of it, such and so great as to have become not unfrequently
the subject of especial choice among certain schools
of art, and to have impressed upon those schools the character
usually and loosely expressed by the term “picturesque.”
It is of some importance to our present purpose to determine
the true meaning of this expression, as it is now generally
used; for there is a principle to be developed from that use
which, while it has occultly been the ground of much that is
true and just in our judgment of art, has never been so far
understood as to become definitely serviceable. Probably
no word in the language (exclusive of theological expressions),
has been the subject of so frequent or so prolonged
dispute; yet none remained more vague in their acceptance,
and it seems to me to be a matter of no small interest to investigate
the essence of that idea which all feel, and (to appearance)
with respect to similar things, and yet which every
attempt to define has, as I believe, ended either in mere enumeration
of the effects and objects to which the term has been
attached, or else in attempts at abstraction more palpably
nugatory than any which have disgraced metaphysical investigation
on other subjects. A recent critic on Art, for instance,
has gravely advanced the theory that the essence of the picturesque
consists in the expression of “universal decay.” It
would be curious to see the result of an attempt to illustrate
this idea of the picturesque, in a painting of dead flowers
and decayed fruit, and equally curious to trace the steps of
any reasoning which, on such a theory, should account for the
picturesqueness of an ass colt as opposed to a horse foal. But
there is much excuse for even the most utter failure in rea[Pg 179]sonings
of this kind, since the subject is, indeed, one of the
most obscure of all that may legitimately be submitted to
human reason; and the idea is itself so varied in the minds
of different men, according to their subjects of study, that no
definition can be expected to embrace more than a certain
number of its infinitely multiplied forms.

XII. That peculiar character, however, which separates the
picturesque from the characters of subject belonging to the
higher walks of art (and this is all that is necessary for our
present purpose to define), may be shortly and decisively expressed.
Picturesqueness, in this sense, is .
Of course all sublimity, as well as all beauty, is, in the
simple etymological sense, picturesque, that is to say, fit to
become the subject of a picture; and all sublimity is, even in
the peculiar sense which I am endeavoring to develope, picturesque,
as opposed to beauty; that is to say, there is more
picturesqueness in the subject of Michael Angelo than of Perugino,
in proportion to the prevalence of the sublime element
over the beautiful. But that character, of which the extreme
pursuit is generally admitted to be degrading to art, is
sublimity; , a sublimity dependent on the accidents,
or on the least essential characters, of the objects to which it
belongs; and the picturesque is . Two ideas,
therefore, are essential to picturesqueness,—the first, that of
sublimity (for pure beauty is not picturesque at all, and becomes
so only as the sublime element mixes with it), and the
second, the subordinate or parasitical position of that sublimity.
Of course, therefore, whatever characters of line or shade
or expression are productive of sublimity, will become productive
of picturesqueness; what these characters are I shall
endeavor hereafter to show at length; but, among those which
are generally acknowledged, I may name angular and broken
lines, vigorous oppositions of light and shadow, and grave,
deep, or boldly contrasted color; and all these are in a still
higher degree effective, when, by resemblance or association,
they remind us of objects on which a true and essential sub[Pg 180]limity
exists, as of rocks or mountains, or stormy clouds or
waves. Now if these characters, or any others of a higher and
more abstract sublimity, be found in the very heart and substance
of what we contemplate, as the sublimity of Michael
Angelo depends on the expression of mental character in his
figures far more than even on the noble lines of their arrangement,
the art which represents such characters cannot be
properly called picturesque: but, if they be found in the accidental
or external qualities, the distinctive picturesque will
be the result.

XIII. Thus, in the treatment of the features of the human
face by Francia or Angelico, the shadows are employed only
to make the contours of the features thoroughly felt; and to
those features themselves the mind of the observer is exclusively
directed (that is to say, to the essential characters of
the thing represented). All power and all sublimity rest on
these; the shadows are used only for the sake of the features.
On the contrary, by Rembrandt, Salvator, or Caravaggio, the
features are used ; and the attention
is directed, and the power of the painter addressed to
characters of accidental light and shade cast across or around
those features. In the case of Rembrandt there is often an
essential sublimity in invention and expression besides, and
always a high degree of it in the light and shade itself; but
it is for the most part parasitical or engrafted sublimity as
regards the subject of the painting, and, just so far, picturesque.

XIV. Again, in the management of the sculptures of the
Parthenon, shadow is frequently employed as a dark field on
which the forms are drawn. This is visibly the case in the
metopes, and must have been nearly as much so in the pediment.
But the use of that shadow is entirely to show the
confines of the figures; and it is to , and not to the
shapes of the shadows behind them, that the art and the eye
are addressed. The figures themselves are conceived as much
as possible in full light, aided by bright reflections; they are
drawn exactly as, on vases, white figures on a dark ground:
and the sculptors have dispensed with, or even struggled to[Pg 181]
avoid, all shadows which were not absolutely necessary to the
explaining of the form. On the contrary, in Gothic sculpture,
the shadow becomes itself a subject of thought. It is considered
as a dark color, to be arranged in certain agreeable
masses; the figures are very frequently made even subordinate
to the placing of its divisions: and their costume is enriched
at the expense of the forms underneath, in order to increase
the complexity and variety of the points of shade. There are
thus, both in sculpture and painting, two, in some sort, opposite
schools, of which the one follows for its subject the essential
forms of things, and the other the accidental lights and
shades upon them. There are various degrees of their contrariety:
middle steps, as in the works of Correggio, and all
degrees of nobility and of degradation in the several manners:
but the one is always recognised as the pure, and the other
as the picturesque school. Portions of picturesque treatment
will be found in Greek work, and of pure and unpicturesque
in Gothic; and in both there are countless instances, as pre-eminently
in the works of Michael Angelo, in which shadows
become valuable as media of expression, and therefore take
rank among essential characteristics. Into these multitudinous
distinctions and exceptions I cannot now enter, desiring
only to prove the broad applicability of the general definition.

XV. Again, the distinction will be found to exist, not only
between forms and shades as subjects of choice, but between
essential and inessential forms. One of the chief distinctions
between the dramatic and picturesque schools of sculpture is
found in the treatment of the hair. By the artists of the time
of Pericles it was considered as an excrescence,16 indicated by
few and rude lines, and subordinated in every particular to
the principality of the features and person. How completely
this was an artistical, not a national idea, it is unnecessary to
prove. We need but remember the employment of the Lacedæmonians,
reported by the Persian spy on the evening before
the battle of Thermopylæ, or glance at any Homeric
description of ideal form, to see how purely was
the law which reduced the markings of the hair, lest, under
the necessary disadvantages of material, they should interfere[Pg 182]
with the distinctness of the personal forms. On the contrary,
in later sculpture, the hair receives almost the principal care
of the workman; and while the features and limbs are clumsily
and bluntly executed, the hair is curled and twisted, cut
into bold and shadowy projections, and arranged in masses
elaborately ornamental: there is true sublimity in the lines
and the chiaroscuro of these masses, but it is, as regards the
creature represented, parasitical, and therefore picturesque.
In the same sense we may understand the application of the
term to modern animal painting, distinguished as it has been
by peculiar attention to the colors, lustre, and texture of
skin; nor is it in art alone that the definition will hold. In
animals themselves, when their sublimity depends upon their
muscular forms or motions, or necessary and principal attributes,
as perhaps more than all others in the horse, we do
not call them picturesque, but consider them as peculiarly fit
to be associated with pure historical subject. Exactly in
proportion as their character of sublimity passes into excrescences;—into
mane and beard as in the lion, into horns as in
the stag, into shaggy hide as in the instance above given of
the ass colt, into variegation as in the zebra, or into plumage,—they
become picturesque, and are so in art exactly in proportion
to the prominence of these excrescential characters.
It may often be most expedient that they should be prominent;
often there is in them the highest degree of majesty,
as in those of the leopard and boar; and in the hands of
men like Tintoret and Rubens, such attributes become means
of deepening the very highest and most ideal impressions.
But the picturesque direction of their thoughts is always distinctly
recognizable, as clinging to the surface, to the less
essential character, and as developing out of this a sublimity
different from that of the creature itself; a sublimity which
is, in a sort, common to all the objects of creation, and the
same in its constituent elements, whether it be sought in the
clefts and folds of shaggy hair, or in the chasms and rents of
rocks, or in the hanging of thickets or hill sides, or in the
alternations of gaiety and gloom in the variegation of the
shell, the plume, or the cloud.[Pg 183]

XVI. Now, to return to our immediate subject, it so happens
that, in architecture, the superinduced and accidental
beauty is most commonly inconsistent with the preservation
of original character, and the picturesque is therefore sought
in ruin, and supposed to consist in decay. Whereas, even
when so sought, it consists in the mere sublimity of the
rents, or fractures, or stains, or vegetation, which assimilate
the architecture with the work of Nature, and bestow upon it
those circumstances of color and form which are universally
beloved by the eye of man. So far as this is done, to the extinction
of the true characters of the architecture, it is picturesque,
and the artist who looks to the stem of the ivy instead
of the shaft of the pillar, is carrying out in more daring
freedom the debased sculptor’s choice of the hair instead of the
countenance. But so far as it can be rendered consistent
with the inherent character, the picturesque or extraneous
sublimity of architecture has just this of nobler function in it
than that of any other object whatsoever, that it is an exponent
of age, of that in which, as has been said, the greatest
glory of a building consists; and, therefore, the external
signs of this glory, having power and purpose greater than
any belonging to their mere sensible beauty, may be considered
as taking rank among pure and essential character; so
essential to my mind, that I think a building cannot be considered
as in its prime until four or five centuries have passed
over it; and that the entire choice and arrangement of its
details should have reference to their appearance after that
period, so that none should be admitted which would suffer
material injury either by the weather-staining, or the mechanical
degradation which the lapse of such a period would

XVII. It is not my purpose to enter into any of the questions
which the application of this principle involves. They
are of too great interest and complexity to be even touched
upon within my present limits, but this is broadly to be noticed,
that those styles of architecture which are picturesque
in the sense above explained with respect to sculpture, that
is to say, whose decoration depends on the arrangement of[Pg 184]
points of shade rather than on purity of outline, do not suffer,
but commonly gain in richness of effect when their details
are partly worn away; hence such styles, pre-eminently that
of French Gothic, should always be adopted when the materials
to be employed are liable to degradation, as brick, sandstone,
or soft limestone; and styles in any degree dependent
on purity of line, as the Italian Gothic, must be practised altogether
in hard and undecomposing materials, granite serpentine,
or crystalline marbles. There can be no doubt that
the nature of the accessible materials influenced the formation
of both styles; and it should still more authoritatively
determine our choice of either.

XVIII. It does not belong to my present plan to consider
at length the second head of duty of which I have above
spoken; the preservation of the architecture we possess: but
a few words may be forgiven, as especially necessary in modern
times. Neither by the public, nor by those who have the
care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word
understood. It means the most total destruction
which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no
remnants can be gathered; a destruction accompanied with
false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive
ourselves in this important matter; it is , as impossible
as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever
been great or beautiful in architecture. That which I have
above insisted upon as the life of the whole, that spirit which
is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, never can
be recalled. Another spirit may be given by another time,
and it is then a new building; but the spirit of the dead
workman cannot be summoned up, and commanded to direct
other hands, and other thoughts. And as for direct and simple
copying, it is palpably impossible. What copying can there
be of surfaces that have been worn half an inch down? The
whole finish of the work was in the half inch that is gone; if
you attempt to restore that finish, you do it conjecturally; if
you copy what is left, granting fidelity to be possible (and
what care, or watchfulness, or cost can secure it?), how is the
new work better than the old? There was yet in the old[Pg 185]
life, some mysterious suggestion of what it had been,
and of what it had lost; some sweetness in the gentle lines
which rain and sun had wrought. There can be none in the
brute hardness of the new carving. Look at the animals which
I have given in Plate 14, as an instance of living work, and
suppose the markings of the scales and hair once worn away,
or the wrinkles of the brows, and who shall ever restore
them? The first step to restoration (I have seen it, and that
again and again, seen it on the Baptistery of Pisa, seen it on
the Casa d’ Oro at Venice, seen it on the Cathedral of Lisieux),
is to dash the old work to pieces; the second is usually to
put up the cheapest and basest imitation which can escape detection,
but in all cases, however careful, and however labored,
an imitation still, a cold model of such parts as be modelled,
with conjectural supplements; and my experience has as yet
furnished me with only one instance, that of the Palais de
Justice at Rouen, in which even this, the utmost degree of
fidelity which is possible, has been attained or even attempted.

XIX. Do not let us talk then of restoration. The thing is
a Lie from beginning to end. You may make a model of a
building as you may of a corpse, and your model may have
the shell of the old walls within it as your cast might have the
skeleton, with what advantage I neither see nor care; but the
old building is destroyed, and that more totally and mercilessly
than if it had sunk into a heap of dust, or melted into a mass
of clay: more has been gleaned out of desolated Nineveh than
ever will be out of re-built Milan. But, it is said, there may
come a necessity for restoration! Granted. Look the necessity
full in the face, and understand it on its own terms. It is
a necessity for destruction. Accept it as such, pull the building
down, throw its stones into neglected corners, make ballast
of them, or mortar, if you will; but do it honestly, and do not
set up a Lie in their place. And look that necessity in the face
before it comes, and you may prevent it. The principle of
modern times (a principle which I believe, at least in France,
to be , in order to find
themselves work, as the abbey of St. Ouen was pulled down by
the magistrates of the town by way of giving work to some[Pg 186]
vagrants,) is to neglect buildings first, and restore them afterwards.
Take proper care of your monuments, and you will
not need to restore them. A few sheets of lead put in time
upon the roof, a few dead leaves and sticks swept in time out
of a water-course, will save both roof and walls from ruin.
Watch an old building with an anxious care; guard it as best
you may, and at cost from every influence of dilapidation.
Count its stones as you would jewels of a crown; set watches
about it as if at the gates of a besieged city; bind it together
with iron where it loosens; stay it with timber where it declines;
do not care about the unsightliness of the aid; better
a crutch than a lost limb; and do this tenderly, and reverently,
and continually, and many a generation will still be born and
pass away beneath its shadow. Its evil day must come at last;
but let it come declaredly and openly, and let no dishonoring
and false substitute deprive it of the funeral offices of memory.

XX. Of more wanton or ignorant ravage it is vain to speak;
my words will not reach those who commit them, and yet, be
it heard or not, I must not leave the truth unstated, that it is
again no question of expediency or feeling whether we shall
preserve the buildings of past times or not. They are not ours. They belong
partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations
of mankind who are to follow us. The dead have still
their right in them: that which they labored for, the praise of
achievement or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever
else it might be which in those buildings they intended to
be permanent, we have no right to obliterate. What we have
ourselves built, we are at liberty to throw down; but what
other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish,
their right over does not pass away with their death;
still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested
in us only. It belongs to all their successors. It may hereafter
be a subject of sorrow, or a cause of injury, to millions,
that we have consulted our present convenience by casting
down such buildings as we choose to dispense with. That
sorrow, that loss we have no right to inflict. Did the cathedral
of Avranches belong to the mob who destroyed it, any[Pg 187]
more than it did to us, who walk in sorrow to and fro over its
foundation? Neither does any building whatever belong to
those mobs who do violence to it. For a mob it is, and must
be always; it matters not whether enraged, or in deliberate
folly; whether countless, or sitting in committees; the people
who destroy anything causelessly are a mob, and Architecture
is always destroyed causelessly. A fair building is necessarily
worth the ground it stands upon, and will be so until central
Africa and America shall have become as populous as Middlesex;
nor is any cause whatever valid as a ground for its destruction.
If ever valid, certainly not now when the place
both of the past and future is too much usurped in our minds
by the restless and discontented present. The very quietness
of nature is gradually withdrawn from us; thousands who
once in their necessarily prolonged travel were subjected to
an influence, from the silent sky and slumbering fields, more
effectual than known or confessed, now bear with them even
there the ceaseless fever of their life; and along the iron veins
that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the fiery
pulses of its exertions, hotter and faster every hour. All
vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into
the central cities; the country is passed over like a green sea
by narrow bridges, and we are thrown back in continually
closer crowds upon the city gates. The only influence which
can in any wise take the place of that of the woods and
fields, is the power of ancient Architecture. Do not part with
it for the sake of the formal square, or of the fenced and
planted walk, nor of the goodly street nor opened quay. The
pride of a city is not in these. Leave them to the crowd;
but remember that there will surely be some within the circuit
of the disquieted walls who would ask for some other
spots than these wherein to walk; for some other forms to
meet their sight familiarly: like him who sat so often where
the sun struck from the west, to watch the lines of the dome
of Florence drawn on the deep sky, or like those, his Hosts,
who could bear daily to behold, from their palace chambers,
the places where their fathers lay at rest, at the meeting of
the dark streets of Verona.

[Pg 188]



I. It has been my endeavor to show in the preceding pages
how every form of noble architecture is in some sort the
embodiment of the Polity, Life, History, and Religious Faith
of nations. Once or twice in doing this, I have named a
principle to which I would now assign a definite place among
those which direct that embodiment; the last place, not only
as that to which its own humility would incline, but rather as
belonging to it in the aspect of the crowning grace of all the
rest; that principle, I mean, to which Polity owes its stability,
Life its happiness, Faith its acceptance, Creation its

Nor is it the least among the sources of more serious satisfaction
which I have found in the pursuit of a subject that at
first appeared to bear but slightly on the grave interests of
mankind, that the conditions of material perfection which it
leads me in conclusion to consider, furnish a strange proof
how false is the conception, how frantic the pursuit, of that
treacherous phantom which men call Liberty; most treacherous,
indeed, of all phantoms; for the feeblest ray of reason
might surely show us, that not only its attainment, but its
being, was impossible. There is no such thing in the universe.
There can never be. The stars have it not; the earth
has it not; the sea has it not; and we men have the mockery
and semblance of it only for our heaviest punishment.

In one of the noblest poems17 for its imagery and its music
belonging to the recent school of our literature, the writer
has sought in the aspect of inanimate nature the expression of
that Liberty which, having once loved, he had seen among
men in its true dyes of darkness. But with what strange
fallacy of interpretation! since in one noble line of his invocation
he has contradicted the assumptions of the rest, and acknowledged
the presence of a subjection, surely not less severe
because eternal? How could he otherwise? since i[Pg 189]f
there be any one principle more widely than another confessed
by every utterance, or more sternly than another imprinted
on every atom, of the visible creation, that principle is
not Liberty, but Law.

II. The enthusiast would reply that by Liberty he meant
the Law of Liberty. Then why use the single and misunderstood
word? If by liberty you mean chastisement of the passions,
discipline of the intellect, subjection of the will; if you
mean the fear of inflicting, the shame of committing a wrong;
if you mean respect for all who are in authority, and consideration
for all who are in dependence; veneration for the
good, mercy to the evil, sympathy with the weak; if you mean
watchfulness over all thoughts, temperance in all pleasures,
and perseverance in all toils; if you mean, in a word, that
Service which is defined in the liturgy of the English church
to be perfect Freedom, why do you name this by the same
word by which the luxurious mean license, and the reckless
mean change; by which the rogue means rapine, and the fool
equality, by which the proud mean anarchy, and the malignant
mean violence? Call it by any name rather than this, but its
best and truest is, Obedience. Obedience is, indeed, founded
on a kind of freedom, else its would become mere subjugation,
but that freedom is only granted that obedience may be more
perfect; and thus, while a measure of license is necessary to
exhibit the individual energies of things, the fairness and
pleasantness and perfection of them all consist in their Restraint.
Compare a river that has burst its banks with one
that is bound by them, and the clouds that are scattered over
the face of the whole heaven with those that are marshalled
into ranks and orders by its winds. So that though restraint,
utter and unrelaxing, can never be comely, this is not because
it is in itself an evil, but only because, when too great, it overpowers
the nature of the thing restrained, and so counteracts
the other laws of which that nature is itself composed. And
the balance wherein consists the fairness of creation is between
the laws of life and being in the things governed and
the laws of general sway to which they are subjected; and the
suspension or infringement of either kind of law, or, literally,[Pg 190]
disorder, is equivalent to, and synonymous with, disease;
while the increase of both honor and beauty is habitually on
the side of restraint (or the action of superior law) rather than
of character (or the action of inherent law). The noblest
word in the catalogue of social virtue is “Loyalty,” and the
sweetest which men have learned in the pastures of the wilderness
is “Fold.”

III. Nor is this all; but we may observe, that exactly in
proportion to the majesty of things in the scale of being, is
the completeness of their obedience to the laws that are set
over them. Gravitation is less quietly, less instantly obeyed
by a grain of dust than it is by the sun and moon; and the
ocean falls and flows under influences which the lake and
river do not recognize. So also in estimating the dignity of
any action or occupation of men, there is perhaps no better
test than the question “are its laws strait?” For their severity
will probably be commensurate with the greatness of
the numbers whose labor it concentrates or whose interest it

This severity must be singular, therefore, in the case of
that art, above all others, whose productions are the most vast
and the most common; which requires for its practice the co-operation
of bodies of men, and for its perfection the perseverance
of successive generations. And taking into account
also what we have before so often observed of Architecture,
her continual influence over the emotions of daily life, and her
realism, as opposed to the two sister arts which are in comparison
but the picturing of stories and of dreams, we might
beforehand expect that we should find her healthy state and
action dependent on far more severe laws than theirs; that the
license which they extend to the workings of individual mind
would be withdrawn by her; and that, in assertion of the relations
which she holds with all that is universally important
to man, she would set forth, by her own majestic subjection,
some likeness of that on which man’s social happiness and
power depend. We might, therefore, without the light of
experience, conclude, that Architecture never could flourish
except when it was subjected to a national law as strict and[Pg 191]
as minutely authoritative as the laws which regulate religion,
policy, and social relations; nay, even more authoritative than
these, because both capable of more enforcement, as over
more passive matter; and needing more enforcement, as the
purest type not of one law nor of another, but of the common
authority of all. But in this matter experience speaks more
loudly than reason. If there be any one condition which, in
watching the progress of architecture, we see distinct and
general; if, amidst the counter evidence of success attending
opposite accidents of character and circumstance, any one
conclusion may be constantly and indisputably drawn, it is
this; that the architecture of a nation is great only when it is
as universal and as established as its language; and when provincial
differences of style are nothing more than so many dialects.
Other necessities are matters of doubt: nations have
been alike successful in their architecture in times of poverty
and of wealth; in times of war and of peace; in times of barbarism
and of refinement; under governments the most liberal
or the most arbitrary; but this one condition has been
constant, this one requirement clear in all places and at all
times, that the work shall be that of a school, that no individual
caprice shall dispense with, or materially vary, accepted
types and customary decorations; and that from the cottage
to the palace, and from the chapel to the basilica, and from
the garden fence to the fortress wall, every member and feature
of the architecture of the nation shall be as commonly
current, as frankly accepted, as its language or its coin.

IV. A day never passes without our hearing our English
architects called upon to be original, and to invent a new style:
about as sensible and necessary an exhortation as to ask of a
man who has never had rags enough on his back to keep out
cold, to invent a new mode of cutting a coat. Give him a
whole coat first, and let him concern himself about the fashion
of it afterwards. We want no new style of architecture. Who
wants a new style of painting or sculpture? But we want
some style. It is of marvellously little importance, if we have
a code of laws and they be good laws, whether they be new or
old, foreign or native, Roman or Saxon, or Norman or Eng[Pg 192]lish
laws. But it is of considerable importance that we should
have a code of laws of one kind or another, and that code accepted
and enforced from one side of the island to another,
and not one law made ground of judgment at York and another
in Exeter. And in like manner it does not matter one
marble splinter whether we have an old or new architecture,
but it matters everything whether we have an architecture
truly so called or not; that is, whether an architecture whose
laws might be taught at our schools from Cornwall to Northumberland,
as we teach English spelling and English grammar,
or an architecture which is to be invented fresh every
time we build a workhouse or a parish school. There seems
to me to be a wonderful misunderstanding among the majority
of architects at the present day as to the very nature and
meaning of Originality, and of all wherein it consists. Originality
in expression does not depend on invention of new words;
nor originality in poetry on invention of new measures; nor,
in painting, on invention of new colors, or new modes of using
them. The chords of music, the harmonies of color, the general
principles of the arrangement of sculptural masses, have
been determined long ago, and, in all probability, cannot be
added to any more than they can be altered. Granting that
they may be, such additions or alterations are much more the
work of time and of multitudes than of individual inventors.
We may have one Van Eyck, who will be known as the introducer
of a new style once in ten centuries, but he himself
will trace his invention to some accidental bye-play or pursuit;
and the use of that invention will depend altogether on the
popular necessities or instincts of the period. Originality depends
on nothing of the kind. A man who has the gift, will
take up any style that is going, the style of his day, and will
work in that, and be great in that, and make everything that
he does in it look as fresh as if every thought of it had just
come down from heaven. I do not say that he will not take
liberties with his materials, or with his rules: I do not say
that strange changes will not sometimes be wrought by his
efforts, or his fancies, in both. But those changes will be instructive,
natural, facile, though sometimes marvellous; they[Pg 193]
will never be sought after as things necessary to his dignity
or to his independence; and those liberties will be like the
liberties that a great speaker takes with the language, not a
defiance of its rules for the sake of singularity; but inevitable,
uncalculated, and brilliant consequences of an effort to express
what the language, without such infraction, could not. There
may be times when, as I have above described, the life of an
art is manifested in its changes, and in its refusal of ancient
limitations: so there are in the life of an insect; and there is
great interest in the state of both the art and the insect at
those periods when, by their natural progress and constitutional
power, such changes are about to be wrought. But as
that would be both an uncomfortable and foolish caterpillar
which, instead of being contented with a caterpillar’s life and
feeding on caterpillar’s food, was always striving to turn itself
into a chrysalis; and as that would be an unhappy chrysalis
which should lie awake at night and roll restlessly in its
cocoon, in efforts to turn itself prematurely into a moth; so
will that art be unhappy and unprosperous which, instead of
supporting itself on the food, and contenting itself with the
customs which have been enough for the support and guidance
of other arts before it and like it, is struggling and fretting
under the natural limitations of its existence, and striving
to become something other than it is. And though it is the
nobility of the highest creatures to look forward to, and partly
to understand the changes which are appointed for them, preparing
for them beforehand; and if, as is usual with
changes, they be into a higher state, even desiring them, and
rejoicing in the hope of them, yet it is the strength of every
creature, be it changeful or not, to rest for the time being,
contented with the conditions of its existence, and striving
only to bring about the changes which it desires, by fulfilling
to the uttermost the duties for which its present state is
appointed and continued.

V. Neither originality, therefore, nor change, good though
both may be, and this is commonly a most merciful and enthusiastic
supposition with respect to either, are ever to be
sought in themselves, or can ever be healthily obtained by any[Pg 194]
struggle or rebellion against common laws. We want neither
the one nor the other. The forms of architecture already
known are good enough for us, and for far better than any of
us: and it will be time enough to think of changing them for
better when we can use them as they are. But there are
some things which we not only want, but cannot do without;
and which all the struggling and raving in the world, nay
more, which all the real talent and resolution in England, will
never enable us to do without: and these are Obedience,
Unity, Fellowship, and Order. And all our schools of design,
and committees of tastes; all our academies and lectures, and
journalisms, and essays; all the sacrifices which we are beginning
to make, all the truth which there is in our English nature,
all the power of our English will, and the life of our
English intellect, will in this matter be as useless as efforts
and emotions in a dream, unless we are contented to submit
architecture and all art, like other things, to English law.

VI. I say architecture and all art; for I believe architecture
must be the beginning of arts, and that the others must follow
her in their time and order; and I think the prosperity
of our schools of painting and sculpture, in which no one will
deny the life, though many the health, depends upon that of
our architecture. I think that all will languish until that
takes the lead, and (this I do not , but I proclaim, as
confidently as I would assert the necessity, for the safety of
society, of an understood and strongly administered legal government)
our architecture languish, and that in the very
dust, until the first principle of common sense be manfully
obeyed, and an universal system of form and workmanship be
everywhere adopted and enforced. It may be said that this
is impossible. It may be so—I fear it is so: I have nothing
to do with the possibility or impossibility of it; I simply
know and assert the necessity of it. If it be impossible, English
art is impossible. Give it up at once. You are wasting
time, and money, and energy upon it, and though you exhaust
centuries and treasuries, and break hearts for it, you
will never raise it above the merest dilettanteism. Think not
of it. It is a dangerous vanity, a mere gulph in which genius[Pg 195]
after genius will be swallowed up, and it will not close. And
so it will continue to be, unless the one bold and broad step be
taken at the beginning. We shall not manufacture art out of
pottery and printed stuffs; we shall not reason out art by our
philosophy; we shall not stumble upon art by our experiments,
not create it by our fancies: I do not say that we can
even build it out of brick and stone; but there is a chance
for us in these, and there is none else; and that chance rests
on the bare possibility of obtaining the consent, both of
architects and of the public, to choose a style, and to use it

VII. How surely its principles ought at first to be limited,
we may easily determine by the consideration of the necessary
modes of teaching any other branch of general knowledge.
When we begin to teach children writing, we force
them to absolute copyism, and require absolute accuracy in
the formation of the letters; as they obtain command of the
received modes of literal expression, we cannot prevent their
falling into such variations as are consistent with their feeling,
their circumstances, or their characters. So, when a boy
is first taught to write Latin, an authority is required of him
for every expression he uses; as he becomes master of the
language he may take a license, and feel his right to do so
without any authority, and yet write better Latin than when
he borrowed every separate expression. In the same way our
architects would have to be taught to write the accepted style.
We must first determine what buildings are to be considered
Augustan in their authority; their modes of construction and
laws of proportion are to be studied with the most penetrating
care; then the different forms and uses of their decorations
are to be classed and catalogued, as a German grammarian
classes the powers of prepositions; and under this
absolute, irrefragable authority, we are to begin to work;
admitting not so much as an alteration in the depth of a
cavetto, or the breadth of a fillet. Then, when our sight is
once accustomed to the grammatical forms and arrangements,
and our thoughts familiar with the expression of them all;
when we can speak this dead language naturally, and apply it[Pg 196]
to whatever ideas we have to render, that is to say, to every
practical purpose of life; then, and not till then, a license
might be permitted; and individual authority allowed to
change or to add to the received forms, always within certain
limits; the decorations, especially, might be made subjects of
variable fancy, and enriched with ideas either original or
taken from other schools. And thus in process of time and
by a great national movement, it might come to pass, that a
new style should arise, as language itself changes; we might
perhaps come to speak Italian instead of Latin, or to speak
modern instead of old English; but this would be a matter
of entire indifference, and a matter, besides, which no determination
or desire could either hasten or prevent. That
alone which it is in our power to obtain, and which it is our
duty to desire, is an unanimous style of some kind, and such
comprehension and practice of it as would enable us to adapt
its features to the peculiar character of every several building,
large or small, domestic, civil, or ecclesiastical. I have said
that it was immaterial what style was adopted, so far as regards
the room for originality which its developement would
admit: it is not so, however, when we take into consideration
the far more important questions of the facility of adaptation
to general purposes, and of the sympathy with which this or that
style would be popularly regarded. The choice of Classical
or Gothic, again using the latter term in its broadest sense,
may be questionable when it regards some single and considerable
public building; but I cannot conceive it questionable,
for an instant, when it regards modern uses in general: I
cannot conceive any architect insane enough to project the
vulgarization of Greek architecture. Neither can it be rationally
questionable whether we should adopt early or late, original
or derivative Gothic: if the latter were chosen, it must be
either some impotent and ugly degradation, like our own
Tudor, or else a style whose grammatical laws it would be
nearly impossible to limit or arrange, like the French Flamboyant.
We are equally precluded from adopting styles essentially
infantine or barbarous, however Herculean their infancy,
or majestic their outlawry, such as our own Norman,[Pg 197]
or the Lombard Romanesque. The choice would lie I think
between four styles:—1. The Pisan Romanesque; 2. The
early Gothic of the Western Italian Republics, advanced as
far and as fast as our art would enable us to the Gothic of
Giotto; 3. The Venetian Gothic in its purest developement;
4. The English earliest decorated. The most natural, perhaps
the safest choice, would be of the last, well fenced from
chance of again stiffening into the perpendicular; and perhaps
enriched by some mingling of decorative elements from
the exquisite decorated Gothic of France, of which, in such
cases, it would be needful to accept some well known examples,
as the North door of Rouen and the church of St.
Urbain at Troyes, for final and limiting authorities on the
side of decoration.

VIII. It is almost impossible for us to conceive, in our present
state of doubt and ignorance, the sudden dawn of intelligence
and fancy, the rapidly increasing sense of power and
facility, and, in its , of Freedom, which such wholesome
restraint would instantly cause throughout the whole
circle of the arts. Freed from the agitation and embarrassment
of that liberty of choice which is the cause of half the
discomforts of the world; freed from the accompanying necessity
of studying all past, present, or even possible styles;
and enabled, by concentration of individual, and co-operation
of multitudinous energy, to penetrate into the uttermost secrets
of the adopted style, the architect would find his whole
understanding enlarged, his practical knowledge certain and
ready to hand, and his imagination playful and vigorous, as a
child’s would be within a walled garden, who would sit down
and shudder if he were left free in a fenceless plain. How
many and how bright would be the results in every direction
of interest, not to the arts merely, but to national happiness
and virtue, it would be as difficult to preconceive as it would
seem extravagant to state: but the first, perhaps the least, of
them would be an increased sense of fellowship among ourselves,
a cementing of every patriotic bond of union, a proud
and happy recognition of our affection for and sympathy with
each other, and our willingness in all things to submit our[Pg 198]selves
to every law that would advance the interest of the community;
a barrier, also, the best conceivable, to the unhappy
rivalry of the upper and middle classes, in houses, furniture,
and establishments; and even a check to much of what is
as vain as it is painful in the oppositions of religious parties
respecting matters of ritual. These, I say, would be the first
consequences. Economy increased tenfold, as it would be by
the simplicity of practice; domestic comforts uninterfered
with by the caprice and mistakes of architects ignorant of the
capacities of the styles they use, and all the symmetry and
sightliness of our harmonized streets and public buildings,
are things of slighter account in the catalogue of benefits.
But it would be mere enthusiasm to endeavor to trace them
farther. I have suffered myself too long to indulge in the
speculative statement of requirements which perhaps we have
more immediate and more serious work than to supply, and
of feelings which it may be only contingently in our power to
recover. I should be unjustly thought unaware of the difficulty
of what I have proposed, or of the unimportance of the
whole subject as compared with many which are brought home
to our interests and fixed upon our consideration by the wild
course of the present century. But of difficulty and of importance
it is for others to judge. I have limited myself to
the simple statement of what, if we desire to have architecture,
we MUST primarily endeavor to feel and do: but then it may
not be desirable for us to have architecture at all. There are
many who feel it to be so; many who sacrifice much to that
end; and I am sorry to see their energies wasted and their
lives disquieted in vain. I have stated, therefore, the only
ways in which that end is attainable, without venturing even
to express an opinion as to its real desirableness. I have an
opinion, and the zeal with which I have spoken may sometimes
have betrayed it, but I hold to it with no confidence. I
know too well the undue importance which the study that
every man follows must assume in his own eyes, to trust my
own impressions of the dignity of that of Architecture; and
yet I think I cannot be utterly mistaken in regarding it as at
least useful in the sense of a National employment. I am con[Pg 199]firmed
in this impression by what I see passing among the
states of Europe at this instant. All the horror, distress, and
tumult which oppress the foreign nations, are traceable,
among the other secondary causes through which God is working
out His will upon them, to the simple one of their not
having enough to do. I am not blind to the distress among
their operatives; nor do I deny the nearer and visibly active
causes of the movement: the recklessness of villany in the
leaders of revolt, the absence of common moral principle in
the upper classes, and of common courage and honesty in the
heads of governments. But these causes themselves are ultimately
traceable to a deeper and simpler one: the recklessness
of the demagogue, the immorality of the middle class, and the
effeminacy and treachery of the noble, are traceable in all these
nations to the commonest and most fruitful cause of calamity
in households—idleness. We think too much in our benevolent
efforts, more multiplied and more vain day by day, of
bettering men by giving them advice and instruction. There
are few who will take either: the chief thing they need is occupation.
I do not mean work in the sense of bread,—I mean
work in the sense of mental interest; for those who either
are placed above the necessity of labor for their bread, or who
will not work although they should. There is a vast quantity
of idle energy among European nations at this time, which
ought to go into handicrafts; there are multitudes of idle
semi-gentlemen who ought to be shoemakers and carpenters;
but since they will not be these so long as they can help it,
the business of the philanthropist is to find them some other
employment than disturbing governments. It is of no use
to tell them they are fools, and that they will only make themselves
miserable in the end as well as others: if they have
nothing else to do, they will do mischief; and the man who
will not work, and who has no means of intellectual pleasure,
is as sure to become an instrument of evil as if he had sold himself
bodily to Satan. I have myself seen enough of the daily
life of the young educated men of France and Italy, to account
for, as it deserves, the deepest national suffering and
degradation; and though, for the most part, our commerce[Pg 200]
and our natural habits of industry preserve us from a similar
paralysis, yet it would be wise to consider whether the
forms of employment which we chiefly adopt or promote, are
as well calculated as they might be to improve and elevate

We have just spent, for instance, a hundred and fifty millions,
with which we have paid men for digging ground from
one place and depositing it in another. We have formed a
large class of men, the railway navvies, especially reckless,
unmanageable, and dangerous. We have maintained besides
(let us state the benefits as fairly as possible) a number of iron
founders in an unhealthy and painful employment; we have
developed (this is at least good) a very large amount of mechanical
ingenuity; and we have, in fine, attained the power
of going fast from one place to another. Meantime we have
had no mental interest or concern ourselves in the operations
we have set on foot, but have been left to the usual vanities
and cares of our existence. Suppose, on the other hand, that
we had employed the same sums in building beautiful houses
and churches. We should have maintained the same number
of men, not in driving wheelbarrows, but in a distinctly technical,
if not intellectual, employment, and those who were
more intelligent among them would have been especially
happy in that employment, as having room in it for the developement
of their fancy, and being directed by it to that observation
of beauty which, associated with the pursuit of natural
science, at present forms the enjoyment of many of the
more intelligent manufacturing operatives. Of mechanical ingenuity,
there is, I imagine, at least as much required to build
a cathedral as to cut a tunnel or contrive a locomotive: we
should, therefore, have developed as much science, while the
artistical element of intellect would have been added to the
gain. Meantime we should ourselves have been made happier
and wiser by the interest we should have taken in the work
with which we were personally concerned; and when all was
done, instead of the very doubtful advantage of the power of
going fast from place to place, we should have had the certain
advantage of increased pleasure in stopping at home.[Pg 201]

IX. There are many other less capacious, but more constant,
channels of expenditure, quite as disputable in their
beneficial tendency; and we are, perhaps, hardly enough in
the habit of inquiring, with respect to any particular form of
luxury or any customary appliance of life, whether the kind
of employment it gives to the operative or the dependant be
as healthy and fitting an employment as we might otherwise
provide for him. It is not enough to find men absolute subsistence;
we should think of the manner of life which our
demands necessitate; and endeavor, as far as may be, to
make all our needs such as may, in the supply of them, raise,
as well as feed, the poor. It is far better to give work which
is above the men, than to educate the men to be above their
work. It may be doubted, for instance, whether the habits
of luxury, which necessitate a large train of men servants, be
a wholesome form of expenditure; and more, whether the
pursuits which have a tendency to enlarge the class of the
jockey and the groom be a philanthropic form of mental occupation.
So again, consider the large number of men whose
lives are employed by civilized nations in cutting facets upon
jewels. There is much dexterity of hand, patience, and ingenuity
thus bestowed, which are simply burned out in the blaze
of the tiara, without, so far as I see, bestowing any pleasure
upon those who wear or who behold, at all compensatory for
the loss of life and mental power which are involved in the
employment of the workman. He would be far more healthily
and happily sustained by being set to carve stone; certain
qualities of his mind, for which there is no room in his present
occupation, would develope themselves in the nobler; and I
believe that most women would, in the end, prefer the pleasure
of having built a church, or contributed to the adornment
of a cathedral, to the pride of bearing a certain quantity of
adamant on their foreheads.

X. I could pursue this subject willingly, but I have some
strange notions about it which it is perhaps wiser not loosely
to set down. I content myself with finally reasserting, what
has been throughout the burden of the preceding pages, that
whatever rank, or whatever importance, may be attributed or[Pg 202]
attached to their immediate subject, there is at least some
value in the analogies with which its pursuit has presented us,
and some instruction in the frequent reference of its commonest
necessities to the mighty laws, in the sense and scope of
which all men are Builders, whom every hour sees laying the
stubble or the stone.

I have paused, not once nor twice, as I wrote, and often have
checked the course of what might otherwise have been importunate
persuasion, as the thought has crossed me, how soon
all Architecture may be vain, except that which is not made
with hands. There is something ominous in the light which
has enabled us to look back with disdain upon the ages among
whose lovely vestiges we have been wandering. I could smile
when I hear the hopeful exultation of many, at the new reach
of worldly science, and vigor of worldly effort; as if we were
again at the beginning of days. There is thunder on the horizon
as well as dawn. The sun was risen upon the earth
when Lot entered into Zoar.

[Pg 203]


Note I.

Page 21.

The probability is indeed slight in comparison, but it a probability
nevertheless, and one which is daily on the increase. I trust that I
may not be thought to underrate the danger of such sympathy, though
I speak lightly of the chance of it. I have confidence in the central
religious body of the English and Scottish people, as being not only
untainted with Romanism, but immoveably adverse to it: and, however
strangely and swiftly the heresy of the Protestant and victory of
the Papist may seem to be extending among us, I feel assured that
there are barriers in the living faith of this nation which neither can
overpass. Yet this confidence is only in the ultimate faithfulness of a
few, not in the security of the nation from the sin and the punishment
of partial apostasy. Both have, indeed, in some sort, been committed
and suffered already; and, in expressing my belief of the close connection
of the distress and burden which the mass of the people at present
sustain, with the encouragement which, in various directions, has been
given to the Papist, do not let me be called superstitious or irrational.
No man was ever more inclined than I, both by natural disposition and
by many ties of early association, to a sympathy with the principles
and forms of the Romanist Church; and there is much in its discipline
which conscientiously, as well as sympathetically, I could love and advocate.
But, in confessing this strength of affectionate prejudice,
surely I vindicate more respect for my firmly expressed belief, that the
entire doctrine and system of that Church is in the fullest sense anti-Christian;
that its lying and idolatrous Power is the darkest plague
that ever held commission to hurt the Earth; that all those yearnings
for unity and fellowship, and common obedience, which have been the
root of our late heresies, are as false in their grounds as fatal in their
termination; that we never can have the remotest fellowship with the
utterers of that fearful Falsehood, and live; that we have nothing to
look to from them but treacherous hostility; and that, exactly in proportion
to the sternness of our separation from them, will be not only[Pg 204]
the spiritual but the temporal blessings granted by God to this country.
How close has been the correspondence hitherto between the degree of
resistance to Romanism marked in our national acts, and the honor
with which those acts have been crowned, has been sufficiently proved
in a short essay by a writer whose investigations into the influence of
Religion upon the fate of Nations have been singularly earnest and successful—a
writer with whom I faithfully and firmly believe that England
will never be prosperous again, and that the honor of her arms
will be tarnished, and her commerce blighted, and her national character
degraded, until the Romanist is expelled from the place which
has impiously been conceded to him among her legislators. “Whatever
be the lot of those to whom error is an inheritance, woe be to the
man and the people to whom it is an adoption. If England, free above
all other nations, sustained amidst the trials which have covered Europe,
before her eyes, with burning and slaughter, and enlightened by
the fullest knowledge of divine truth, shall refuse fidelity to the compact
by which those matchless privileges have been given, her condemnation
will not linger. She has already made one step full of danger.
She has committed the capital error of mistaking that for a purely political
question which was a purely religious one. Her foot already hangs
over the edge of the precipice. It must be retracted, or the empire is but
a name. In the clouds and darkness which seem to be deepening on
all human policy—in the gathering tumults of Europe, and the feverish
discontents at home—it may be even difficult to discern where the
power yet lives to erect the fallen majesty of the constitution once more.
But there are mighty means in sincerity; and if no miracle was ever
wrought for the faithless and despairing, the country that will help itself
will never be left destitute of the help of Heaven” (Historical Essays,
by the Rev. Dr. Croly, 1842). The first of these essays, “England
the Fortress of Christianity,” I most earnestly recommend to the
meditation of those who doubt that a special punishment is inflicted by
the Deity upon all national crime, and perhaps, of all such crime most
instantly upon the betrayal on the part of England of the truth and faith
with which she has been entrusted.

Note II.

Page 25.


Much attention has lately been directed to the subject of religious
art, and we are now in possession of all kinds of interpretations and
classifications of it, and of the leading facts of its history. But the
greatest question of all connected with it remains entirely unanswered,[Pg 205]
What good did it do to real religion? There is no subject into which I
should so much rejoice to see a serious and conscientious inquiry instituted
as this; an inquiry neither undertaken in artistical enthusiasm
nor in monkish sympathy, but dogged, merciless and fearless. I love
the religious art of Italy as well as most men, but there is a wide difference
between loving it as a manifestation of individual feeling, and
looking to it as an instrument of popular benefit. I have not knowledge
enough to form even the shadow of an opinion on this latter point, and
I should be most grateful to any one who would put it in my power to
do so. There are, as it seems to me, three distinct questions to be considered:
the first, What has been the effect of external splendor on
the genuineness and earnestness of Christian worship? the second, What
the use of pictorial or sculptural representation in the communication of
Christian historical knowledge, or excitement of affectionate imagination?
the third, What the influence of the practice of religious art on
the life of the artist?

In answering these inquiries, we should have to consider separately
every collateral influence and circumstance; and, by a most subtle
analysis, to eliminate the real effect of art from the effects of the abuses
with which it was associated. This could be done only by a Christian;
not a man who would fall in love with a sweet color or sweet expression,
but who would look for true faith and consistent life as the object
of all. It never has been done yet, and the question remains a subject
of vain and endless contention between parties of opposite prejudices
and temperaments.

Note III.

Page 26.

I have often been surprised at the supposition that Romanism, In its
present condition, could either patronise art or profit by it. The noble
painted windows of St. Maclou at Rouen, and many other churches in
France, are entirely blocked up behind the altars by the erection of
huge gilded wooden sunbeams, with interspersed cherubs.

Note IV.

Page 33.

I have certainly not examined the seven hundred and four traceries
(four to each niche) so as to be sure that none are alike; but they have
the aspect of continual variation, and even the roses of the pendants of
the small groined niche roofs are all of different patterns.

[Pg 206]

Note V.

Page 43.


They are noticed by Mr. Whewell as forming the figure of the fleur-de-lis,
always a mark, when in tracery bars, of the most debased flamboyant.
It occurs in the central tower of Bayeux, very richly in the buttresses
of St. Gervais at Falaise, and in the small niches of some of the
domestic buildings at Rouen. Nor is it only the tower of St. Ouen
which is overrated. Its nave is a base imitation, in the flamboyant period,
of an early Gothic arrangement; the niches on its piers are barbarisms;
there is a huge square shaft run through the ceiling of the
aisles to support the nave piers, the ugliest excrescence I ever saw on
a Gothic building; the traceries of the nave are the most insipid and
faded flamboyant; those of the transept clerestory present a singularly
distorted condition of perpendicular; even the elaborate door of the
south transept is, for its fine period, extravagant and almost grotesque
in its foliation and pendants. There is nothing truly fine in the church
but the choir, the light triforium, and tall clerestory, the circle of Eastern
chapels, the details of sculpture, and the general lightness of proportion;
these merits being seen to the utmost advantage by the freedom
of the body of the church from all incumbrance.

Note VI.

Page 43.

Compare Iliad Σ. 1. 219 with Odyssey Ω. 1. 5—10.

Note VII.

Page 44.


Except in Chaucer’s noble temple of Mars.

“And dounward from an hill under a bent,
Ther stood the temple of Mars, armipotent,
Wrought all of burned stele, of which th’ entree
Was longe and streite, and gastly for to see.
And thereout came a rage and swiche a vise,
That it made all the gates for to rise.
The northern light in at the dore shone,
For window on the wall ne was ther none,
Thurgh which men mighten any light discerne
The dore was all of athamant eterne,
[Pg 207]Yclenched overthwart and ende long
With yren tough, and for to make it strong,
Every piler the temple to sustene
Was tonne-gret, of yren bright and shene.”

There is, by the bye, an exquisite piece of architectural color just before:

“And northward, in a turret on the wall
An oratorie riche for to see,
In worship of Diane of Chastitee.”

Note VIII.

Page 44.

“This way of tying walls together with iron, instead of making them
of that substance and form, that they shall naturally poise themselves
upon their buttment, is against the rules of good architecture, not only
because iron is corruptible by rust, but because it is fallacious, having
unequal veins in the metal, some places of the same bar being three
times stronger than others, and yet all sound to appearance.” Survey
of Salisbury Cathedral in 1668, by Sir C. Wren. For my own part, I
think it better work to bind a tower with iron, than to support a false
dome by a brick pyramid.

Note IX.

Page 60.

Plate III.

In this plate, figures 4, 5, and 6, are glazed windows, but fig. 2 is the
open light of a belfry tower, and figures 1 and 3 are in triforia, the latter
also occurring filled, on the central tower of Coutances.

Note X.

Page 94.

The reader cannot but observe agreeableness, as a mere arrangement of
shade, which especially belongs to the “sacred trefoil.” I do not think
that the element of foliation has been enough insisted upon in its intimate
relations with the power of Gothic work. If I were asked what[Pg 208]
was the most distinctive feature of its perfect style, I should say the
Trefoil. It is the very soul of it; and I think the loveliest Gothic is
always formed upon simple and bold tracings of it, taking place between
the blank lancet arch on the one hand, and the overcharged cinquefoiled
arch on the other.

Note XI.

Page 95.


The plate represents one of the lateral windows of the third story of
the Palazzo Foscari. It was drawn from the opposite side of the Grand
Canal, and the lines of its traceries are therefore given as they appear in
somewhat distant effect. It shows only segments of the characteristic
quatrefoils of the central windows. I found by measurement their construction
exceedingly simple. Four circles are drawn in contact within
the large circle. Two tangential lines are then drawn to each opposite
pair, enclosing the four circles in a hollow cross. An inner circle struck
through the intersections of the circles by the tangents, truncates the

Note XII.

Page 124.


Not absolutely so. There are variations partly accidental (or at least
compelled by the architect’s effort to recover the vertical), between
the sides of the stories; and the upper and lower story are taller than
the rest. There is, however, an apparent equality between five out of
the eight tiers.

Note XIII.

Page 133.


It should be observed, however, that any pattern which gives opponent
lines in its parts, may be arranged on lines parallel with the main
structure. Thus, rows of diamonds, like spots on a snake’s back, or the
bones on a sturgeon, are exquisitely applied both to vertical and spiral
columns. The loveliest instances of such decoration that I know, are
the pillars of the cloister of St. John Lateran, lately illustrated by Mr.
Digby Wyatt, in his most valuable and faithful work on antique mosaic.

[Pg 209]

Note XIV.

Page 139.

On the cover of this volume the reader will find some figure outlines
of the same period and character, from the floor of San Miniato at Florence.
I have to thank its designer, Mr. W. Harry Rogers, for his intelligent
arrangement of them, and graceful adaptation of the connecting
arabesque. (Stamp on cloth cover of edition.)

Note XV.

Page 169.


Yet not all their light, nor all their music. Compare Modern Painters,
vol. ii. sec. 1. chap. iv. SECTION 8.

Note XVI.

Page 181.


This subordination was first remarked to me by a friend, whose profound
knowledge of Greek art will not, I trust, be reserved always for
the advantage of his friends only: Mr. C. Newton, of the British Museum.

Note XVII.

Page 188.


Coleridge’s Ode to France:

“Ye Clouds! that far above me float and pause,
Whose pathless march no mortal may control!
Ye Ocean-Waves! that wheresoe’er ye roll,
Yield homage only to eternal laws!
Ye Woods! that listen to the night-birds singing.
Midway the smooth and perilous slope reclined,
Save when your own imperious branches swinging,
Have made a solemn music of the wind!
Where, like a man beloved of God,
Through glooms, which never woodman trod,
How oft, pursuing fancies holy,
My moonlight way o’er flowering weeds I wound,
Inspired, beyond the guess of folly,
[Pg 210]By each rude shape and wild unconquerable sound!
O ye loud Waves! and O ye Forests high!
And O ye Clouds that far above me soared!
Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky!
Yea, everything that is and will be free!
Bear witness for me, wheresoe’er ye be,
With what deep worship I have still adored
The spirit of divinest Liberty.”

Noble verse, but erring thought: contrast George Herbert:—

“Slight those who say amidst their sickly healths,
Thou livest by rule. What doth not so but man?
Houses are built by rule and Commonwealths.
Entice the trusty sun, if that you can,
From his ecliptic line; beckon the sky.
Who lives by rule then, keeps good company.

“Who keeps no guard upon himself is slack,
And rots to nothing at the next great thaw;
Man is a shop of rules: a well-truss’d pack
Whose every parcel underwrites a law.
Lose not thyself, nor give thy humors way;
God gave them to thee under lock and key.”

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