The invention of the Christian church was one of the brilliant solutions in architectural history. This was achieved by a process of assimilating and rejecting various precedents, such as the Greek temple, the Roman public building, the private Roman house, and the synagogue. The Early Christian period saw the growth of Christianity. It was established as the state religion of the Empire under the successors of Constantine. Early Christian Architecture consisted of the basilica church developed from the Roman secular basilica. The sixth century was a time of growth for the Byzantine Empire. Many of the churches built during this time were of the basic basilica style. At least two developments began during this century. One involved small buildings with domed or niched interiors and the other the use of domed vaulting in the basilica. While it is difficult to generalize any architectural developments during this time, one of the most striking changes that can be found in many churches of this time is the use of the domed nave. The domed nave was usually used with a rectangular or Latin cross plan. The Carolingian and Ottonian (merely a continuation of Carolingian period) periods consisted of mainly the basilica also. By the end of the pre-Romanesque period, Roman stylistic elements had fused with elements from Byzantium and the Middle East, and from the Germans, the Celts, and other northern tribes in Western Europe. These various combinations created a number of local styles, called Romanesque, meaning "in the manner of the Roman." An outstanding achievement of Romanesque architects was the development of stone vaulted buildings. To support the heavy stone vaults, architects used massive walls and piers, creating a typical building plan that treated the entire structure as a complex composed of smaller units, called bays. A distinguishing feature of Romanesque style, bays are square or rectangular spaces enclosed by groin vaults and used by architects as the basic building unit. The nave in Romanesque churches was usually made higher and narrower than in earlier structures to make room for windows, called clerestory windows, in the sidewalls below the vault. Doors and windows were usually capped by round arches, and sometimes by slightly pointed arches. These openings were generally small and decorated with moldings, carvings, and sculptures.
The Early Christian architect's looked to the Roman buildings of the time to find a suitable building for their needs. The idea of using the plans of Roman places of worship such as the temple was unacceptable on principle alone. For this reason they choose another type of Roman structure to satisfy their needs-the basilica. It utilized a rectangle centered on a longitudinal axis that was internally divided into three to five sections, one central hall-the nave, and one to two side aisles on both sides of the nave. At the East end of the building was a semi-circular apse that was usually set on the outside of the rectangular shape but occasionally remained inside. The greatest of Constantine's churches was Old Saint Peter's. Where it was built was believed to where Peter, the first apostle and founder of the Roman Christian community, and been buried. It was capable of holding three to four thousand worshippers. The plan of Old Saint Peter's resembled those of Roman basilicas and audience halls. Like Roman basilicas, it had a wide central nave flanked by aisles and ending in an apse. An open colonnaded courtyard came first and worshippers entered through a narthex. Old Saint Peter's was not ornamented with lavish exterior sculptures, but had bland brick walls. The inside was, however, lavishly decorated with frescoes, mosaics and marble columns. The Early Christian basilica may be compared to the idyllic Christian, with a somber and plain exterior and a glowing and beautiful soul within.
Among all the churches built during the reign of Justinian I, or the Byzantine period, Hagia...
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