‘Floors and ceilings in early Christian basilicas in Rome’

Abstract

Valeriani was invited to contribute to this volume following the publication of her 2006 monograph, ‘Kirchendächer in Rom - Capriate Ecclesiae’, which has subsequently been regularly cited in the field of construction history (e.g. Klein 2012, Holzer 2009, Zalewski 2009). The research presented in this chapter develops the above work to make an original argument about the link between roof structures and ceilings, which in turn influence enormously the spacial qualities of church interiors of early Christian origin. The space of the early Christian basilica is usually characterised as being ‘closed’ by a richly decorated horizontal surface reflecting the light, but Valeriani shows how a darker, less defined space which might be described as a ‘forest’ of beams and timbers was actually common. Valeriani’s work presents research in Roman archives (Vatican and individual churches), as well as her analysis of early modern printed sources, and new fieldwork, to show how some of the prevailing ideas about early Christian basilicas were formed in the Renaissance and in the 18th century. Valeriani’s approach is to consider in detail the technical solutions adopted to achieve different spatial effects. In this, she supports the general aim of this much-praised volume, the second in a series edited by Gargiani which sets out to develop a new approach to the history of architecture, one that concentrates on a history of construction problems, thereby de-constructing the history of architecture into the history of its constitutive parts. She has been invited to present on this theme at various institutions, including the Institute of Structural Engineers, London and the University of Hamburg (2008), and at the Istitituto Storia della Cultura Materiale (Genova, 2012). Valeriani’s work on a closely-related topic was published as ‘Behind the Façade: Elias Holl and the Italian influence on building techniques in Augsburg’ in ‘architectura’ (2008)

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This paper was published in Royal College of Art Research Repository.

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