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Solomonic column

Solomonic column

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The Solomonic column, also called Barley-sugar column, is a helical
Helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

, characterized by a spiraling twisting shaft like a corkscrew. It is not signified by a specific capital
Capital (architecture)
In architecture the capital forms the topmost member of a column . It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface...

 style and may be crowned with any design, for example, a Roman Doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 solomonic, Corinthian
Corinthian order
The Corinthian order is one of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric and Ionic. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order...

 solomonic or Ionic
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

 solomonic column.

Etymology and origin


Unlike the classical example of Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

 of ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, which has a turned shaft decorated with a single continuous helical
Helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 band of low-reliefs depicting Trajan’s military might in battle, the twisted column is known to be an eastern motif taken into Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to...

 and decoration. Twist-fluted columns were a feature of some eastern architecture of Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

.
In the 4th century, Constantine the Great brought a set of columns to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and gave them to the original St. Peter's Basilica
Old Saint Peter's Basilica
Old Saint Peter's Basilica was the building that stood, from the 4th to 16th centuries, on the spot where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica, built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero, began during the reign of emperor Constantine I...

 for reuse in the high altar and presbytery
Presbytery (architecture)
The presbytery is the name for an area in a church building which is reserved for the clergy.In the oldest church it is separated by short walls, by small columns and pilasters in the Renaissance ones; it can also be raised, being reachable by a few steps, usually with railings....

; The Donation of Constantine, a painting from Raphael's workshop, shows these columns in their original location. According to tradition, these columns came from the "Temple of Solomon", even though Solomon's temple was the First Temple, built in the 10th century BCE and destroyed in 586 BCE, not the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

, destroyed in 70 CE. These columns, now considered to have been made in the 2nd century CE, became known as "Solomonic". In actuality, the columns probably came from neither temple. Constantine is recorded as having brought them de Grecias i.e., from Greece, and they are archaeologically documented as having been cut from Greek marble. A small number of Roman examples of similar columns are known. All that can firmly be said is that they are early and, because they have no Christian iconography in the carving and their early date (before the construction of elaborate churches), are presumably reused from some non-church building. The columns have distinct sections that alternate from ridged to smooth with sculpted grape leaves.

Some of these columns remained on the altar until the old structure of St. Peter's was torn down in the 16th century. While removed from the altar, eight of these columns remain part of the structure of St. Peter's. Two columns were placed below the pendentive
Pendentive
A pendentive is a constructive device permitting the placing of a circular dome over a square room or an elliptical dome over a rectangular room. The pendentives, which are triangular segments of a sphere, taper to points at the bottom and spread at the top to establish the continuous circular or...

s on each of the four piers
Pier (architecture)
In architecture, a pier is an upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge. Sections of wall between openings function as piers. The simplest cross section of the pier is square, or rectangular, although other shapes are also common, such as the richly articulated piers of Donato...

 beneath the dome. Another column can now be observed up close in the St. Peter's Treasury Museum. Other columns from this set of twelve have been lost over the course of time.

If these columns really were from one of the Temples in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

, the spiral pattern may have represented the oak tree which was the first Ark of the Covenant
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant , also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in Book of Exodus as solely containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed...

, mentioned in Joshua 24:26 http://www.ecclsoc.org/ET.29.pdf. These columns have sections of twist-fluting alternating with wide bands of foliated reliefs.

From Byzantine examples, the Solomonic column passed to Western Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

. In Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 some columns also featured spiraling elements twisted round each other like hawser. Such variety adding life to an arcade is combined with Cosmatesque
Cosmatesque
Cosmatesque, or Cosmati, is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of Medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings. It was used most extensively for the decoration of church floors, but was also used to decorate church walls, pulpits, and bishop's thrones...

 spiralling inlays in the cloister of St. John Lateran. These arcades were prominent in Rome and may have influenced the baroque Solomonic column.

In the 16th century Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

 depicted these columns in his tapestry cartoon The Healing of the Lame at the Beautiful Gate (illustration, above right), and Anthony Blunt
Anthony Blunt
Anthony Frederick Blunt , was a British art historian who was exposed as a Soviet spy late in his life.Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Surveyor of the King's Pictures and London...

 noticed them in Bagnocavallo's Circumcision at the Louvre and in some Roman altars, such as one in Santo Spirito in Sassia, but their full-scale use in actual architecture was rare: Giulio Romano
Giulio Romano
Giulio Romano was an Italian painter and architect. A pupil of Raphael, his stylistic deviations from high Renaissance classicism help define the 16th-century style known as Mannerism...

 employed a version as half-columns decoratively superimposed against a wall in the Cortile della Cavallerizza of the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (1538-39).

In Baroque architecture



The Solomonic column was revived as a feature of Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

. The twisted S-curve shaft gives energy and dynamism to the traditional column form which fits these qualities that are characteristically Baroque.

Easily the best-known Solomonic columns are the colossal bronze Composite columns
Composite order
The composite order is a mixed order, combining the volutes of the Ionic order capital with the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order. The composite order volutes are larger, however, and the composite order also has echinus molding with egg-and-dart ornamentation between the volutes...

 by Bernini in his Baldacchino at St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

. The construction of the baldachin
Baldachin
A baldachin, or baldaquin , is a canopy of state over an altar or throne. It had its beginnings as a cloth canopy, but in other cases it is a sturdy, permanent architectural feature, particularly over high altars in cathedrals, where such a structure is more correctly called a ciborium when it is...

, actually a ciborium
Ciborium (architecture)
In ecclesiastical architecture, a ciborium is a canopy or covering supported by columns, freestanding in the sanctuary, that stands over and covers the altar in a basilica or other church. It may also be known by the more general term of baldachin, though ciborium is often considered more correct...

, which was finished in 1633, required that the original ones of Constantine be moved.

During the succeeding century, Solomonic columns were commonly used in altar
Altar
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship...

s, furniture, and other parts of design. Sculpted vines were sometimes carved into the spiralling cavetto of the twisting columns, or made of metal, such as gilt bronze. In an ecclesiastical context such ornament may be read as symbolic of the wine used in the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

.

Peter Paul Rubens employed Solomonic columns in tapestry designs, ca 1626 http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibits/rubens/exhibition/church8detail2.html, where he provided a variant of an Ionic capital
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

 for the columns as Raphael had done, and rusticated
Rustication (architecture)
thumb|upright|Two different styles of rustication in the [[Palazzo Medici-Riccardi]] in [[Florence]].In classical architecture rustication is an architectural feature that contrasts in texture with the smoothly finished, squared block masonry surfaces called ashlar...

 and Solomonic columns appear in the architecture of his paintings with such consistency and in such variety that Anthony Blunt thought is would be pointless to give a complete list.

The columns became popular in Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 including southern Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. The Solomonic column spread to Spain at about the same time as Bernini was making his new columns, and from Spain to Spanish colonies
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 in the Americas, where the salomónica was often used in churches as an indispensable element of the Churrigueresque
Churrigueresque
Churrigueresque refers to a Spanish Baroque style of elaborate sculptural architectural ornament which emerged as a manner of stucco decoration in Spain in the late 17th century and was used up to about 1750, marked by extreme, expressive and florid decorative detailing, normally found above the...

 style. The design was most infrequently used in Britain
Early Modern Britain
Early modern Britain is the history of the island of Great Britain, roughly corresponding to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Major historical events in Early Modern British history include the English Renaissance, the English Reformation and Scottish Reformation, the English Civil War, the...

, the south porch of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, being the only exterior example found by Robert Durman (Durman 2002), and was still rare in English interior design, an example noted by Durman is the funerary monument for Helena, Lady Gorges (died 1635) at Salisbury
Salisbury
Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England and the only city in the county. It is the second largest settlement in the county...

 perhaps the sole use.

After 1660, such twist-turned columns became a familiar feature in the legs of French, Dutch and English furniture, and on the glazed doors that protected the dials of late 17th- and early 18th-century bracket and longcase clocks. English collectors and dealers sometimes call these twist-turned members "barley sugar
Barley sugar
Barley sugar is a traditional variety of British boiled sweet, or hard candy, yellow or orange in colour with an extract of barley added as flavouring...

twists" after the type of sweet traditionally sold in this shape.

External links