Year of Palladio

Churches

For churches, Americans have tended favor the Gothic over the classical, yet we have hundreds of churches throughout the country patterned after James Gibbsís St. Martin-in-the-Fields, one of the first Anglican churches designed specifically for Protestant worship _. Characterized by its porticoed temple form and multi-tiered steeple, St. Martin became the model for numerous colonial urban churches as well as for many early New England meeting houses. These established a widely accepted pattern for American churches, particularly in the 20th century. As a consequence, churches of the St. Martin type can be found almost any city in the country and are still being built today. A particularly faithful and refined 20th-century version is All Souls Unitarian Church on Meridian Hill in Washington, D.C. Like St. Martin, itís a pure Corinthian temple but with a fanciful classical steeple to signal that itís a church _(Figure 79).

In contrast to our Gothic Revival behemoths, classical churches of truly heroic scale are much less numerous in America. Nevertheless, a precedent was set as early as 1821 with the completion of Benjamin Henry Latrobeís Baltimore Cathedral, embellished with a Pantheon-like dome and fronted with one of the countryís earliest great classical porticoes, albeit employing the Greek Ionic order of the Erectheion, which would have been unknown to Palladio _. Later prodigious examples of classical houses of worship worthy of mention are the domed chapel of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and the 1906 Mother Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston _(Figure 82 and Figure 83), topped also with a vast dome and fronted by a curved portico suggestive of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, illustrated by Palladio. Most cities, however, can boast a literate classical-style church or two. A suave example is John Russell Popeís 1926 University Baptist Church in Baltimore, set off by a Roman Ionic portico and a topped by a dome reminiscent of the Baptistery of Constantine— a building measured and drawn by Palladio (Figure 84).

Figure 78
Figure 78
Figure 79
Figure 79
Figure 80
Figure 80
Figure 81
Figure 81
Figure 82
Figure 82
Figure 83
Figure 83
Figure 84
Figure 84

Museums | Churches | Railroad Stations

Download PDF | Back to Index | Back to Essays