False-Front Fad

In architecture, the Renaissance was a bit of a fad.  Suddenly, the Gothic style represented barbarity and uncouth, crude, and deficient aesthetics.  Later on, John Ruskin would disagree, and deplore the wholesale abandonment of medieval styles and craftsmanship in favor of the reigning form of the classical temple front.

The changes in church facades show the faddish aspect of the Humanist wave in all its glory.

Here’s a church front in Padua:  simple brick, with the shape of a standard Roman Basilica – high central aisle with two lower sides aisles.

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Here is a huge church in Venice with roughly the same form, but some gothic ornament added.

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The Renaissance came, found facades of brick, and like Augustus and Rome, left them of marble.  Pagan temple facades abound, covering the brickwork of the Christian temples.  Architects worked for generations on novel combinations of columns, pediments, hiding the form of the basilica or reflecting it in the shape of the facade.  This example pretty much masks the side aisles with a nearly square front.

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Eventually the thrill of imitating the ancients began to wear thin, and architects went in search of new excitement, including dynamic Baroque styling, and little ‘jokes’ that their sophisticated patrons would enjoy.  Notice the pediment over the main front door that is broken into three pieces, something that would have made Palladio vomit.

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