Ancient Christian Art and Architecture

Early Christianity used the same artistic media as the surrounding Pagan culture. Introduction Early Christian art and architecture or Paleochristian art is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from the earliest period of Christianity to, depending on the definition used, sometime between 260 and 525. In practice, identifiably Christian art only survives[…]

Introduction to Religious Art and Architecture in Early Colonial Peru

We see an interplay of Inka and Peruvian works. Signaling Spanish Dominance in Cuzco, Peru The transmission of Christianity to the Andes [the longest continental mountain range in the world and form a continuous highland along the western edge of South America] was both an ideological and artistic endeavor. Early missionaries needed to construct new[…]

A Brief Introduction to the Art of Ancient Assyrian Kings

Explore the themes, symbolism, and narrative techniques used to decorate the palaces of ancient Assyria. Introduction From the 800s to the 600s B.C., the kings of Assyria built grand palaces in their capital cities, located in the land we know today as Iraq. Inside these palaces were some of the most remarkable works of sculpture[…]

How ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Inspired the Cathedral’s 19th-Century Revival

Looking nostalgically to the past, a young architect sought to revive the building as a bulwark to the uncertainty of the Industrial Revolution. On April 15, people around the world watched in horror as a voracious fire consumed the medieval wooden roof of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral and felled its spire. The following day brought[…]

Notre-Dame’s Centuries of Survival, Captured in Art

A Getty exhibition illuminates the medieval cathedral’s role in European history and spotlights wondrous objects that survived the recent fire. Introduction The world came to a collective halt on April 15, 2019, when news broke that a fire was taking over Notre-Dame, an 850-year-old cathedral in the heart of Paris. Despite its age, the cathedral[…]

An Ancient City Beneath Rome: The Catacombs of Priscilla

Rome’s underground necropolises were forgotten by the Middle Ages. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Any visitor to Rome will want to see and explore the popular historical and cultural sites – the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and, of course, the Vatican. But a large part of the city’s ancient history actually lies underground in[…]

The Renaissance in Spain

During the Renaissance, the Spanish empire also extended throughout Western Europe. Introduction We often think of globalization as a modern phenomenon, but the confluence of cultures we see today was already growing in the Spanish Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. For instance, dividing screens from Japan were imported to Mexico, where they were[…]

Exploring the Architecture of Greek World Heritage Sites

Greece, the ‘cradle of western civilization’, is home to a large number of spectacular sites from the ancient world, several of which have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Introduction These sites of great historical importance, interest, beauty, and impact do not all reflect the civilization we call Classical Greece – they range[…]

The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum

The temple known as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 438 B.CE. By the British Museum Athens and Democracy By around 500 B.C.E. ‘rule by the people,’ or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and[…]

Gardens as Pleasurable Microcosms: Comparisons and Connections

Wealthy patrons, like kings and emperors, often commissioned prominent artists and architects to design their gardens. Introduction Art is designed for a great many purposes, but much art is also, if not exclusively, designed to provide and reflect a sense of pleasure. A palace might be intended to display the power and wealth of a[…]

The Early Modern European Palaces of the Qianlong Emperor

These works represent an artistic encounter between East and West. A Controversial Auction In 2009, two eighteenth-century Chinese bronze sculptures — one representing a rat’s head and the other a rabbit’s — sold at a Christie’s auction in Paris for $40.4 million. Soon afterwards, the art world watched, stunned, as the winning bidder, Cai Mingchao,[…]

The Roman Baths in Bath: A Deep Dive into Britain’s Ancient History

There is little evidence remaining from the pre-Roman worship, as they left little footprints of their spiritual practice for us to study. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Bath, the famous spa town in Somerset England, has attracted people from near and far for centuries to its healing springs and baths. Today the city is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and[…]

The Ancient Megalithic Funerary Art of San Agustín, Colombia

These burial places formed the centers of small-scale chiefdoms and shared a set of sculptural motifs and styles. By Benjamin OswaldHistorian Introduction Beginning approximately 2000 years ago, in a rugged stretch of southwestern Colombia where the Andes split into multiple ranges and the mighty Magdalena River is born, a people created a collection of magnificent[…]

The Temple-Building Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of Medieval India

The Pratiharas were known chiefly for their patronage of art, sculpture, and temple-building. By Dr. Avantika LalHistorian, Independent Researcher Introduction The Gurjara-Pratiharas, or simply, the Pratiharas (8th century CE – 11th century CE) held their sway over western and northern India. This dynasty saw its fortunes rising under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE) who successfully defeated Arab[…]

Yakushiji and Ryoanji: A History of Two Japanese Buddhist Temples

Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction by monks in 552 CE. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Yakushiji Overview The Yakushiji temple, located in Nara, Japan, is the headquarters of the Buddhist Hosso sect and one of the most important temples in the country. Originally founded in 680 CE at Fujiwara-kyo but then relocated[…]

The Hippodrome of Constantinople: Sports and Entertainment in Ancient Byzantium

Many important Roman cities had an arena which hosted thrilling chariot races and more for public entertainment. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Hippodrome of Constantinople was an arena used for chariot racing throughout the Byzantine period. First built during the reign of Roman emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century CE, the structure was[…]

The Mystery of Fort Ancient Culture: The Great Serpent Mound

The 1,000-year-old mound conforms to the natural topography of the site. A Serpent 1300 Feet Long The Great Serpent Mound in rural, southwestern Ohio is the largest serpent effigy in the world. Numerous mounds were made by the ancient Native American cultures that flourished along the fertile valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri[…]

A Brief History of the Cultures of Asia

In Asia, because of its huge land mass and multiple diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Overview Historians divide history into large and small units in order to make characteristics and changes clear to themselves and to students. It’s important to remember that any historical period is a construction and a simplification. In Asia,[…]

Contemporary Native American Architecture

The variety of native traditions, available materials, and architectural expertise has given the continent new and culturally sensitive architectural forms during the last two generations. Design and Heritage You are a member of one of the midwestern nations of Native Americans. Your ancestors had no permanent architecture because they were nomadic hunter-gatherers (see photo below).[…]

Finding the Hidden Hellenism in Melbourne’s Architecture

Take a tour through Melbourne with a Greek lens and discover the rich Hellenic influences that shape the city. Introduction Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population outside of Europe. Since the earliest instances of Greek migration in the mid-19th century, the Greek community has been a great contributor to the richness of[…]

Itinerant View Takers: Topographic Artists in Early Modern England

Examining how topographical views were often the result of artists touring in Britain and beyond. The lawyer Sir William Burrell, planning a history of Sussex which he never completed, commissioned over the period 1780 to 1791 a series of illustrative drawings from James Lambert, a local watercolourist, and from Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, an immigrant from Switzerland.[…]

The German-American Family Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

In creating an icon, Washington Roebling and his kin realized dreams that Europe never could fulfill. By Erica Wagner The Brooklyn Bridge was truly an American project embodying a certain American ideal. And people celebrated that fact from the start. On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge—after 14 years of construction—was opened at last. The[…]

The Kingly Pursuits of Herod during the Augustan Period

Herod built on a Roman scale. King Herod had a substantial architectural heritage to his name in the Levant by the time of his death in 4 BCE. As one of Rome’s most loyal client kings, he incorporated much Roman-style architecture throughout the lands he ruled. He visited Rome in 40 BCE and returned two[…]

Baalbek: Temple of Jupiter in Ancient Rome

Baalbek is a town in the northern Bekaa valley, the site of the largest sanctuary in the Roman world. The greatest temple of Baalbek was dedicated to a god who was, at various periods in history, called Ba’al, Hadad, Helios, Zeus, or Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus. According to Macrobius, the cult statue had been taken from Egypt, was[…]

Design Principles of Early Stone Pagodas in Ancient Korean Architecture

The ancients constructed the pagodas complying with design principles based on the arithmetic and geometric proportional systems. By Dr. Juhwan Cha, Professor of Architecture, Tsinghua UniversityBy Dr. Young Jae Kim, Professor of Architecture, Korea National University of Cultural Heritage Abstract Ancient books on East Asian mathematics introduced to the Korean Peninsula enrich our understanding of[…]

The Theodosian Walls of Ancient Byzantium

The fortifications were the largest and strongest ever built in either the ancient or medieval worlds. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Theodosian Walls are the fortifications of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, which were first built during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450 CE). Sometimes known as the Theodosian Long Walls, they built upon[…]

Ancient Greek Temples of Sicily

Greek temples are one of the earliest well-defined expressions of what we now recognize as the Western tradition in architecture. Introduction There are at least a thousand reasons to visit Sicily, the great island – indeed the largest in the Mediterranean – that forms the triangular football to the boot that is the Italian peninsula. They are all[…]

A Route 66 Road Trip through Indigenous Homelands

Seeking out the histories and communities that existed before Route 66 and that survive still today. By Shoshi Parks The wind is so powerful on top of the mesa that even hours after I’ve returned to the valley below, I’ll be wiping its ancient sand from the cracks and crevices of my skin. In the[…]