William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

. (page 54 of 58)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 54 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

they are in the St Paul's of London. Comparing it with the British
cathedral, which, though longo intervallo, may well claim to be the
second in the world, the floor of St Peter's covers about five English
acres (nearly the size of the Colosseum), while that of St Paul's
occupies only two acres; and the actual bulk, or entire contents
of the former as compared to the latter, are as four to one. And
taking into account the number and splendour of the decorations
of St Peter's, we need not wonder that it is supposed to have cost,
with its monuments, gilding, and embellishments, from twelve to six-
teen millions sterling ; whereas the cost of St Paul's did not exceed
750,000 ! In the interior of these two noble buildings, the differ-
ence is scarcely less striking than between one of our old barn-like
meeting-houses and the most elegant of our modern Episcopal
churches ; but as regards the exterior, all admit that in symmetry,
purity of design, and true architectural beauty, the English is
superior to the Roman temple.' The extreme inside length of St
Paul's is 510 feet, the length of the transepts 283, and the height
to the cross 365 feet an altitude which is greatly exceeded by
the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, 404 feet

Milan Cathedral is the largest and richest of all the churches
erected in the middle ages ; and it is one in which the architect
planned to cover the largest possible space from the fewest points
of support. The interior has double rows of aisles on each- side
of the nave, thus giving a magnificent width to the structure. Being
erected between 1385 and 1440, it exhibits all the richness of archi-
tecture of that florid period. Not only is it the largest of all
medieval cathedrals (covering 108,000 square feet), but it is almost
unparalleled for beauty of effect in being built wholly of white
marble. The decoration is most lavish, the whole of the exterior
being adorned with tracery and sculpture of the richest kind. The
cathedral is 493 feet long, and 356 feet high to the top of the spire.
The marble statues are said to amount to the almost incredible
number of 4400 !

The cathedral or Duomo of Florence, begun in 1296 and finished
in 1426, is about 500 feet in length, and 384 in height to the top of
the cross ; its cupola is said to have furnished Michael Angelo with
the first idea of that of St Peter's. The well-known cathedral of


Strasburg has an interior length of 378 feet, and the height of its
spire 474 feet being, if the dimensions be accurate, little less than
that of the great Pyramid of Egypt. This spire is open work, and
combines, with the most perfect solidity, extraordinary lightness and

St Sophia at Constantinople was built by the Emperor Justinian
about 535 A. D., on the site of a small church which had been built
by Constantine. It is nearly an exact square in plan, being 250
by 235 feet, exclusive of projections called the narthex and the apse.
The exterior is more remarkable for stability and majesty than for
beauty ; but the interior is famed for its dome. This dome is very
little lower than a hemisphere, being 107 feet diameter by 46 feet
high. Beyond the great dome, east and west, are two semi-domes,
of a diameter equal to the great dome ; and these are again cut by
two smaller domes. All the pillars are of porphyry, verd antique,
or rich marble ; all the flat surfaces are covered with a mosaic of
beautifully varied slabs of marble ; and all the domes, roofs, and
other curved surfaces with mosaics on a gold ground. The effect
of the dome, semi-domes, and quarter-domes has been to give to the
centre of the church the character of a gorgeous hall 250 feet long,
ico wide, and 180 high proportions which no Gothic architect has
since attempted to equal.

St Petersburg contains one of the largest and most costly churches
in Europe ; though architectural critics are divided in opinion as to
its artistic merits. It stands in a magnificent square, bounded by
the Neva on one side, and by large public buildings on the other
three sides. This cathedral or church, St Isaac's, is the third which
has occupied the site. It was begun by the Emperor Alexander I. in
1818, and finished by Alexander II. in 1858 one architect, Mont-
ferrand, having superintended its construction from first to last.
The cathedral is a rectangle, 305 feet by 166; it covers a much
smaller area than St Paul's, and therefore, regarded as a cathedral,
is far from large ; but it is certainly to be ranked among the largest
of churches. It has the unusual feature of four magnificent porticoes,
one in the centre of each front ; these are octastyle Corinthian, and
have rich alto-rilievi in the pediment. Two towers flank the
principal fagade ; two others flank the opposite side ; and in the
centre of the whole mass is a dome. The porticoes are considered
to be the finest that have been erected in any part of Europe since
the time of the Romans. Each column consists of one single piece
of the most beautiful rose-coloured granite, 56 feet in height by
6| diameter. The entablature and nearly the whole exterior of the
building are faced with granite. The drum of the dome is surrounded
by a peristyle of twenty-four equidistant columns, each being a mono-
lith of red granite. The four towers or cupolini are bell-towers the
Russians being famous for bells in their ecclesiastical arrangements.
The interior of the church is absolutely crowded with magnificence ;


malachite and marble, painting and gilding, sculpture and ornament,
are carried to such an excess as absolutely to weary the eye, and
destroy all idea of repose.

Every country in Europe, with few exceptions, is rich in specimens
of cathedral architecture especially England, France, Germany,
and Italy. We can only notice one more in these brief pages. The
greatest recent work of this kind in Europe is unquestionably
Cologne Cathedral. The old structure, consisting of little more than
the choir, was in progress from the I3th to the i6th century ; since
which time the works remained dormant till the beginning of
the present century, when the Germans throughout the ' Fatherland '
took up the matter with much enthusiasm. Associations were
formed, not only over the whole of Germany, but elsewhere in
Europe, to collect funds for achieving the noble work ; and the
successive kings of Prussia have taken a lively interest in the work.
The nave, aisles, and transepts were finished in 1848; the portals
in 1859 ; the central spire in 1860 ; and all the other parts are now
finished except the great towers at an expense of three-quarters of
a million sterling. When finally completed, the cathedral will be 5 1 1
feet long, 231 broad, and nearly 500 feet high to the top of the towers.
The whole is in the purest style of Gothic.

America has made one approach to the style of St Peter's, so
fine as to obtain for it the character of being the noblest ecclesi-
astical building in the New World. This is Mexico Cathedral,
begun in 1573, but not finished till 1657. It is 504 feet long, and
228 broad. The western fagade presents two bold towers 305 feet
high. The dome is curiously placed, being near the east end, an
arrangement which some authorities consider to give a magnificent
interior vista. The next best ecclesiastical building in America is
Arequipa Cathedral, Peru, built about two centuries ago, nearly
destroyed by fire in 1844, and since rebuilt nearly on the same plan
as before. The fagade is of very considerable extent, and divided
into five compartments by Corinthian pillars standing upon a low
basement, but supporting only a fragment of an entablature.


Let us glance at the palaces of a few of the European sovereigns,
as examples of a kind of structure on which much splendour has
been lavished and much cost incurred.

Versailles has been designated ' the largest and most gorgeous
palace in Europe.' It is at anyrate the largest palace in France.
It extends to the immense length of 1400 feet ; with a depth of 500
in the centre, though much less in the wings. The chapel is at the
junction of the centre group with one of the wings, and the theatre is
at the other end of the same wing. There was an old hunting-seat
at this spot belonging to Louis XIII.; Louis XIV. requested that


this old structure should be incorporated in the new building ; and
it is generally admitted that the architect, Mansard, failed somewhat
in his design for the palace, owing to this obstacle. The old
chateau or hunting-seat is a small brick building with stone dress-
ings, and this was repaired and adorned as the king's residence in
the new structure. The garden-front, however, is really the palace,
in an architectural point of view. The grand gallery, with the
square vestibules at each end, is considered to be one of the most
magnificent apartments in Europe, so rich is it in marbles and in
decoration ; although it cannot compare in dimensions with the
galleries of the Louvre. The theatre and the chapel are both very
sumptuous ; while the gardens are almost unrivalled.

The famous palaces of the Louvre and the Tuileries have gradu-
ally been so linked together as to become almost one. There
had for many centuries been a palace for the kings of France
at the spot where the Louvre now stands ; but the present struc-
ture was commenced by Francis I. about 1540. The south-west
angle was the part first commenced. Catherine de Me"dicis, a few
years later, began the Tuileries from the design of Philibert de
I'Orme. The original plan was for a rectangular block, 860 feet by
550, with a square court in the centre and smaller courts nearer
the sides. Only the garden facade, however, was finished by
its foundress. During the time of Henri Quatre the fagade was
extended to the excessive length of 1000 feet, by the addition of two
pavilions at the ends. Louis XIV. afterwards raised the height of
the whole fagade, to make it correspond better with the length, and
with the pavilions of Flore and Marsan at the ends. Among the
works of Henri Quatre was the commencement of a gallery to con-
nect the Louvre with the Tuileries. It was in the reign of Louis
XIV. that an effort was seriously made to finish the Louvre ; and
the eastern facade, by Perrault, is considered to be a very favourable
specimen of the architecture of that period in France. Very little
more was effected until recently, when Napoleon III. resolved to
make the Louvre and the Tuileries as nearly as possible parts of one
vast building. The space that used to separate the two palaces,
called the Place du Carrousel, is a vast square of 930 feet by 850 ; but
this is now enclosed by new buildings on the north and south.
Another court, called the Place Napoleon, is 600 feet by 400, and
this is bounded on the north and south by new buildings still more
palatial. The result of all this is, that the Louvre and the Tuileries,
in whatever way the interior is occupied, now really form one enor-
mous palace so far as the exterior is concerned, about 600 feet along
the west end (Tuileries), 300 on the east end (Louvre), and no less
than 1 100 feet on the north and south sides, facing the Rue de Rivoli
and the Seine.

The most famous civil structure in Spain is unquestionably the
Royal Palace of EscuriaL Commenced in 1563 by Gianbattista, it


was finished several years afterwards by Herrera. Externally the
vast mass is singularly destitute of grandeur in design ; but the inner
lagades around the several courts, and the church in the middle of
the whole, are much finer. The quadrangular mass is 680 feet long
by 520 wide, or, with certain outworks, 744 by 580. The shorter
sides or flanks are little more than plain granite walls pierced
with five stories of unornamented square windows, 'with as little
design and as little ornament as one generally finds in a Man-
chester cotton-mill ; ; but the main fagade is a little more diversified
by columns, arches, and pediments. A multitude of courts in
the interior, and passages leading from one court to another,
have given rise to a story that the Escurial was built in the form
of a gridiron, to typify the martyrdom of St Lawrence ; but this idea
has not been traced to any authentic source. The great feature
of the interior is the church, a grand cathedral-like structure, 320
feet long by 200 wide. The western fagade has two bold flanking
towers ; and in the centre of the pile is a dome, not so large as some
others in Europe, but grand in its general appearance. The church
is square in plan, and is divided into a sort of Greek cross by
the four great piers and arches of the dome. One of the finest
features in the building is what is called the Court of the College,
about 140 feet square, with an arcaded cloister in two stories running
round its four sides. The central entrance in the main front leads
to a well-proportioned atrium or court ; on one side of which is the
college, on the other a monastery, and at the further end the church ;
and beyond the church are the state apartments of the palace.

The Caserta, or royal palace, at Naples is one of the largest palaces
in Europe, being 766 feet long, 500 wide, and 125 high to the top of
the balustrade. It was built about a century ago, from the plans of
Vanvitelli. Each angle is surmounted by a square pavilion, and a
dome crowns the centre. The design is uniform throughout all the
four fagades, presenting a four-storied range of Italian character.
Even the centre of each fagade is only slightly broken by a pediment.
It is, in fact, something like a Pall Mall club-house of unprecedentedly
large dimensions. The mass of the interior is divided into four
equal courts or open quadrangles by two ranges of buildings, which
contain the state apartments. This arrangement is somewhat
remarkable, leaving the whole of the exterior buildings visible to the
outer world, to the officers and subordinates of the household. The
interior courts present more architectural richness than the exterior
facades. Naples no longer being the residence of a sovereign, the
Caserta is shorn of some of its importance.

St Petersburg has been called ' a city of palaces ;' no other capital
in Europe presenting so numerous an array of vast palatial edifices.
Even the barracks for the soldiery, and the offices for the government,
are quite palatial in character. True, many of these buildings are
only of brick, with ornaments of stucco ; but nevertheless the


aggregate effect is unquestionably majestic. The finest of the build-
ings is the Imperial Winter Palace, commenced about a century ago
on the plans of Rastrelli, and gradually brought to its present state.
It is 731 feet long, by 584 wide; being a hollow square, it has a
rectangular court in the centre, 385 feet by 300. The main fagade
is on the banks of the Neva. It is nevertheless an unsatisfactory
specimen of architecture, striking only for its vastness. The palace
of the Grand-duke Michael, though smaller in size, is considered by
men of taste to be superior in design and general effect. All the
offices and domestic buildings are placed in the wings, leaving a
magnificent central block wholly for the imperial family and suite.
The staircase in this block is one of the grandest in Europe ; it is in
the entrance-hall, a noble apartment 80 feet square, and the whole
height of the building.

The Kremlin at Moscow is a far more remarkable structure, or
rather group of structures, than anything at St Petersburg. It was
built five hundred years ago, but has been frequently rebuilt since.
It is surrounded with a wall from 12 to 16 feet thick, and from 28 to
50 feet high, with battlements, embrasures, numerous towers, and
five gates. The chief buildings within the walls are the Palace of
the Czars and the Cathedral. The latter is not large as a cathedral,
but is adorned with profuse magnificence ; there are more than two
thousand paintings on the walls, of angels, apostles, saints, martyrs,
czars, czarinas, and patriarchs ; and there are numerous highly prized
relics. Besides this cathedral, in which the czars are solemnly
crowned, there are no less than thirty-one churches within the
Kremlin, three of which are known as the cathedrals of St Michael,
the Annunciation, and the Transfiguration ; the first of these contains
the tombs of the Russian sovereigns and grand-dukes, for many cen-
turies. The Kremlin is, in short, an imperial palace embedded in a
mass of imperial cathedrals and churches.

The only palace in England worthy of being compared with those
on, the continent is one which illustrates castellated as well as
palatial architecture. Windsor Castle is most magnificently situated
on the brow of a hill overlooking the Thames. The Round Tower
or Keep is a sort of centre, with the royal apartments on one
side, and various adjuncts on the other. The keep is not perfectly
circular, being 102 feet in one direction by 93 in the other, and rising
So feet above a kind of mound on which it stands, with a watch-
tower 25 feet high. Starting from this keep, and proceeding from
right to left round the buildings which surround the royal court or
quadrangle, we come in succession to St George's Gateway ; Edward
III.'s and George IV.'s Gateways, between Lancaster and York
Towers; South Turret; and Victoria Tower. Then we come to the
east front, where are Clarence Tower ; Chester Tower, with the state
drawing-room ; and Prince of Wales's Tower, with the state dining-
room. Next, on the north side, are Brunswick Tower, an octagon



38 feet in diameter externally, by TOO feet ; Cornwall Tower, with the
ball-room, 90 feet by 32 ; Waterloo Gallery, 95 feet by 46 ; George
IV.'s Tower; the State Staircase, 50 feet by 36; Henry VII.'s
Building ; Queen Elizabeth's Gallery ; and Norman Tower and
Gateway, which bring us round again to the keep. The quad-
rangle frontages of this vast range of building present numerous
vestibules and corridors connected with the state apartments, and
with the private apartments of the royal family. Some of these
apartments are furnished with palatial magnificence ; and the clus-
tering of buildings, varying in date from the Norman times down to
those of Victoria, give to this castle a historical interest scarcely
paralleled by any other in Europe. But this is not all. On the
western side of the keep are St George's Hall and the Royal Chapel,
on which much cost has been lavished ; and there are a vast number
of subsidiary buildings, which render the whole castle a small town
in itself. The stables, erected at a cost of 70,000, form quite a
distinct structure at a short distance from the castle, and are
unquestionably the most magnificent' stables in England.


The Palace of Westminster, or Houses of Parliament, is the
grandest modern Gothic building in England, and the grandest
structure ever devoted to the sittings of a legislative body. Indeed,
it is doubtful whether there is another Gothic edifice in the world
covering so large an area. The old legislative buildings were burned
down in 1834; the present, from the plans of Sir Charles Barry, were
commenced after two or three years' delay and consideration, and
are not even finished now ; nor can they be brought into harmony
with the complete design until a total sum of 3,000,000 has been
spent on them. The building, in its present form, extends 900 feet
in length along the river-front, but about 1000 feet in a line with the
Clock-tower. The eastern or river front is a magnificent display of
Gothic work traceried windows, carved mullions, niches, statues,
pinnacles, and ornaments being lavished in a degree unequalled in
any other modern building in Europe. The statues and the shields-
of-arms alone form almost an epitome of the history of England.
The whole building covers an area of nearly eight acres, and com-
prises the enormous number of noo apartments and 100 staircases.
In a building of such vast magnitude, it is necessary to have many
interior open quadrangles or courts, to afford window-light. These
(beginning at the northern end) are the Speaker's Court, Star-
chamber Court, Commons' Court, Cloister Court, Commons' Inner
Court, St Stephen's Court, Peers' Court, Peers' Inner Court, Judges'
Court, Chancellor's Court, and Royal Court. Besides the two main
chambers the House of Lords and the House of Commons the
chief apartments and halls are the Queen's Robing-room, the Royal


Gallery, the Norman Arch, the Prince's Chamber, St Stephen's Porch,
St Stephen's Hall, the Central Hall, the Peer's Lobby, the Commons'
Lobby, Conference Rooms, and Refreshment Rooms. The Victoria
Tower, at the south-west angle, is one of the finest Gothic towers in the
world, being 340 feet high by 75 feet square. The Central Tower, over
the beautiful octagonal Central Hall, is 300 feet high. The Clock-
tower, 320 feet high by 40 feet square, contains the celebrated bell
weighing 14 tons, and a clock which is now considered to be the most
accurate of all the great clocks in Europe, having dials 30 feet in
diameter (12 feet larger than those of St Paul's). The chamber in
which the Peers meet (popularly known as the ' House of Lords'')
is so lavishly decorated as to be almost oppressive in its grandeur ;
sculpture, carving, bronze-work, gilding, painting, and stained glass
are so combined as to leave scarcely a square inch of plain surface >
while the windows are so high up and so deeply stained as to leave
the chamber insufficiently lighted. The dimensions are 97 feet
long, 45 feet high, and 45 feet wide. The House of Commons
(35 feet shorter than the House of Lords, but the same height and
breadth) is much plainer, but is now found to be too small for its
intended purpose. The Royal or Victoria Gallery contains two
magnificent water-glass fresco paintings by Mr Maclise ; there are
six other large frescoes in the Peers' Chamber by Maclise, Dyce,
Cope, and Horsley ; in the corridors on either side of the Central
Hall are frescoes on subjects from the history of England, by Ward,
Pickersgill, Cross, and other painters ; while in the Upper Waiting-
hall are subjects from Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton,
Dryden, Pope, and other poets. In St 'Stephen's Hall are statues
of twelve statesmen whose eloquence adorned parliament in past days
Hampden, Falkland, Clarendon, Selden, Walpole, Somers, Mans-
field, Chatham, Fox, Pitt, Burke, and Grattan. Taken altogether,
this sumptuous building is one of which the nation has reason to be
proud, albeit there is a want of space in some of the rooms, and of
light in still more.

The finest civil or secular building in America is perhaps the
Capitol or legislative palace at Washington. The eastern or prin-
cipal front consists of a centre 352 feet wide, and two wings which
increase the total fagade to 75 1 feet. Each of the three portions
has a rich Corinthian portico. In the centre of the whole mass
is a dome resting on a drum or tambour, the latter surrounded by a
circular colonnade. This dome, when finished, will be 130 feet
diameter by 310 feet high ; and under it is a fine circular rotunda.
The chambers for the two Houses of the legislature are far larger
than those of our English legislative palace one being 139 feet by
93, and the other 112 by 82.




In imitation of the ancients, the moderns have often erected
monuments, trophies, statues, and the like ; but these, though often
of exquisite workmanship, are generally of inferior dimensions. Of
this class, the London Monument is one of the most remarkable. It
is a column of the Doric order, erected to perpetuate the memory
of the fire of London in 1666, which broke out near the place where
it stands ; and was begun, according to a design of Sir Christopher
Wren, in 1671, and finished in 1676. It is 15 feet in diameter, and
202 feet high from the ground ; it stands upon a pedestal 40 feet
high and 21 feet square. On the cap of the pedestal are four
dragons, the supporters of the city arms, and between them trophies,
with symbols of regality, arts, sciences, and commerce. Within
is a spiral staircase of black marble, containing 345 steps, with
iron rails leading to a balcony, which encompasses a cone 32 feet high,
and supporting a blazing urn of gilded brass.

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 54 of 58)