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Please look again at ground plans of the Parthenon and Amiens Cathedral. As we move from Ancient Greek to Medieval architecture, consider how architecture (from Greek to Medieval) may be evolving along similar lines as Greek sculpture was evolving. If this were the case, does the design of the Parthenon seem closest to the Archaic, the classical, or the Hellenistic? And Amiens? If you were to compare the Parthenon with one sculpture we’ve seen so far in class, which one would it be, and why? Likewise for Amiens, which sculpture would you compare this to?
Please Note: Do not let the fact that the Parthenon was designed during the Classical period in Greek art mislead you! We are not asking what period the Parthenon belongs to in the simple sense. Instead, we are asking how you would describe the Parthenon’s spatial tendencies and spatial tendencies of Amiens (St. Cecilia’s) in comparison to each other. Are there aspects of the Parthenon that seem most like the Archaic, the Classical, or the Hellenistic?
This will require that you recall the tell-tale traits of each period. For example, perpendicularity, parallelism, symmetry and frontality were important to Archaic sculpture, while realism was a key aspect of the Hellenistic; and, the Classical places a strong emphasis on diagonality, with a strong sense of idealism fused to a relatively naturalistic conception of a human figure. But above all else, we were talking about how, as sculpture proceeds forward in time, there is a tendency to move toward a greater and greater degree of openness. So the question here is: what are the architectural features that describe a more contained/closed space versus one that is more open? What, in other words, makes for a greater division between inside and outside, and what helps to connect the two realms?
As you compare and contrast these two examples, be sure to take into account the spatial shifts (from the Greek temple to the Gothic church) that Anthony stressed in the St. Cecilia’s video. Keep in mind that St. Cecilia’s is an example comparable to Amiens. In addition, be precise in making formal observations. Use words such as “doorways,” “windows,” “walls,” “columns,” and so on. Precision comes from employing concrete terms that give the reader a vivid mental; picture of what you are describing. Do not simply say that the Parthenon is “like” one of the Greek sculptures we studied, but say how.
Finally, how may the organization of these sacred buildings be used to help better understand each culture’s understanding of their relationship to God and to the universe as a whole? Keep in mind that, with both buildings, the interior has a special quality about it, in that it is a sacred precinct, while the world outside the building is, generally, more secular; though there may be room to discuss the fact that the Parthenon exists within a larger sacred precinct that is the Acropolis.


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