The Greek cross type

The Greek cross with its equal arms refers, as has been stated earlier, to a balance in the division of the ground plan. This architectural equilibrium might reflect a similar mood or setting in other areas as well. The tomb of martyr-bishop Babylas in Antioch (Syria) is a fine example of this design (fig. 185). Babylas became bishop of Antioch during the reign of Emperor Gordianus (238 – 244). His martyrion dated from 381 AD.


Fig. 185 – The ground plan of the Kaoussie Church, also known as the martyrion of Saint Babylas, in Antioch (Syria) is drawn as a Greek cross. The central square was the focal point, where a platform for the clergy was placed next to the sarcophagus of the saint.

The bishop was made prisoner during the Decian persecution (AD 250), a cruel time during the Second Major Approach (SMA) in the Roman cultural period (see fig. 88) and died from his sufferings. Babylas’ relicts rose to fame after his body had been translated by Gallus in 351 and silenced the nearby oracle of Apollo at Daphne (a suburb of Antioch). The Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (360 – 363) ordered the Christians in 362 to remove his shrine. That very night, the temple of Apollo was struck by lightning and burned. The emperor himself was killed one year later while fighting against the Persians.

The Church of the Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs at Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan) is another good example of a cross-shaped design (fig. 186). This church was built in 464 AD.


Fig. 186 – The plan of the Church of the Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs in Jerash (Gerasa, Jordan) has the layout of a Greek cross within a square, with an apse towards the east.

The cross-shaped church (martyrium) of Qal’at Sam’an (the mansion of St. Simeon the Stylite) – about forty kilometers west of Aleppo – is one of the better-known places of worship in Syria. It consisted (originally) of four basilicas built out from an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass (fig. 187). In the center of the court still stands the base of St. Simeon’s column, but the actual pillar is gone.


Fig. 187  – This plan of the Convent and Church of St. Simeon Stylites, after de Vogüé (1867-77) is given in his book Architecture civile et religieuse de la Syrie Centrale’. The base of St. Simeon’s pillar (C) is the centre-point of four basilicas (A – D) directed to the directions of the compass (north to the left).


(Photos: Marten Kuilman,  1999)

St. Simeon, living in the early fifth century AD, was a shepherd, who had a visionary dream to suffer for Christ. He chained himself by the neck to a pillar and became in due course a local celebrity, attracting believers from near and afar. Theodoret, the bishop of Cyrus in Syria, mentioned pilgrims from as far as Persia, Ethiopia, Spain and even Britain. In praying, ‘he bent his body so that his forehead almost touched his feet’. And a spectator at the time counted more than twelve hundred repetitions of this movement. Simeon only took one scanty meal per week and fasted through the season of Lent. When he died in 459, after spending thirty-six years on his pillar, an enormous church was built around the column. The church was finished in 490 AD and rated at the time as the largest church in the world (fig. 188), with a unique tetradic design.


Fig. 188 – This reconstruction of the church of Qal’at Sim’an (St. Simeon) was given by D. Krencker.

The churches of the fifth century were generally characterized by a mixed style composed of Graeco-Roman and Oriental elements. The early type of churches in Rome and Byzantium consisted of basilica-like buildings with a nave supported on columns and an atrium. Such buildings continued to be erected in the sixth century outside the main centers, in places like Ravenna, in Istria and in Africa. Vaulted basilicas sprung up all over Asia Minor, Syria, Africa and Constantinople. DAVIES (1952) noted that the cruciform church became universal in the East, and not the domed basilica.

An interesting area, as far as cruciform church building is concerned, is the southeastern part of Turkey, known as the areas of Lycaonia and Cappadocia. The cross-shaped plan, almost always the crux commissa (T- or Tau-cross), was employed all over the central plateau and many examples are to be found in southern Lycaonia, to the north of the Taurus Range in the Kara Dagh (Asia Minor). The basilica appears here widely, mainly in two forms: the true basilica and the barn church. The cruciform ground plan predominates in Cappadocia.

Bin Bir Kilisse was originally a Byzantine city, which was called by the British archaeologist and female adventurer Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926) the ‘City of a Thousand and One Churches’ (RAMSEY & BELL, 1909). This number might be exaggerated – in fact, there are forty-eight churches numbered and described in the book – but the area contains, nevertheless, a formidable concentration of churches, mainly dating from the fifth to the eleventh century. The area of Bin Bir Kilisse can be seen as a major fore post in the advance of Christianity towards the west. Its architecture carries the message of division thinking locked in stone, and it is well worth unraveling this early propagation of faith.

The ruins in the Kara Dagh (Black Mountain) area feature a wide variety of ground plans and carry the hallmark of searching and experiment. The abundant presence of the motif of the Greek cross does suggest a devotion spirit towards this sign (and its significance). Church No. 8, with a ground plan based on an octagon within a Greek cross (fig. 189) qualifies for a direct tetradic inspiration. The church – which was quite perfect in 1826 (De Laborde’s sketches), but ruined in 1905 – is the best example of tetradic architecture among the group of ‘Thousand and One Churches’.


Fig. 189 – The ground plan of Church No. 8 in the Bin Bir Kilisse area (SE Turkey) is a combination of a Greek cross and an inscribed octagonal. This church is, according to Gertrude Bell (1909; p. 432), part of the earlier Maden Sheher group and can be dated before 800 AD.

The small chapel on Mahaletch (highest point of the Kara Dagh) and chapel No. 12 have ground plans, which are also based on the Greek cross. To these may be added the chapel of No. 44, with elaborate niching. The plan of this chapel is the sole instance in the Kara Dagh of the crux immissa (fig. 190). Chapel No. 44 has an elaborated decoration of the lintels and jambs, consisting of an eight-pointed star and a row of diamonds. Furthermore, the usual Greek cross in a medallion, which is present in many other ruins, is found here. The memorial chapel (No. 37) has traces of a fresco in the apse.

The experiments in architectural forms came to a halt with the conquest of Asia Minor by the Seljuks (1072). The amalgamation of different styles had given rise to shapes like the basilica, barn church, T-shaped cruciform,  cross-in-square and the trifoliate apsed chapel. All these forms were present in the southeastern region of Turkey. They could no longer be a creative force on its own once they were cut from its eastern sources.

Bell (1909, p. 300) remarked that: ‘from the eleventh century onwards one type of ecclesiastical architecture became almost universally pre-dominant in the Eastern Church, and has remained so until this day. This type is the five-domed cruciform employed by the Comneni, i.e., the church in which the interior Greek cross is emphasized on the outside by the raised cross-shape of the barrel vaults.’ So the formal four-fold design came out victoriously, as far as historical visibility is concerned, but at the cost of further great inventions.


Fig. 190 – Some of the churches in the Kara Dagh region of SE Turkey based on a Greek cross. 1. The small chapel on Malaletch, the highest point of the Kara Dagh, is part of a (ruined) monastery; 2. Building No. 12 is a small chapel on the side of a larger church (No. 21); 3. Chapel No. 44 is part of a group of buildings (monastery) in Deghile; 4. The memorial chapel No. 37 is cruciform with a stilted apse. The keystone of the arch over the apse bears a Greek cross and an inscription.

Gertrude Bell (fig. 191) traveled to Turkey in March 1907 and worked with the archaeologist Sir William Ramsey. She took photographs of the ruins and captured the remains as a permanent record, because many of the churches have since been decayed or destroyed. In fact, deterioration was already noticed between the years 1907 and 1909. The Gertrude Bell Project, initiated by the University of Newcastle on Tyne, did an excellent job to make her letters (sixteen hundred), diaries (sixteen) and seven thousand photographs accessible to a greater public on their website.

bellFig. 191 – Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926). ‘The Uncrowned Queen of Iraq’.

Bell ventured again to the Middle East in January 1909 and met T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935; later known as Lawrence of Arabia and writer of ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’), who was working as an archaeologist in the Hittite city of Carchemmish. During the First World War, she was in Basra (captured by the British forces in November 1914) and played a key-role in Arabic intelligence matters. Baghdad was taken by the British troops in March 10, 1917.

After the war, she was asked (by Winston Churchill) to advise on the political situation in Iraq. King Faisal, the deposed King of Syria, was shown around in the country to  become its new leader, on instigation of Gertrude Bell.  This position earned her the nickname of ‘The Uncrowned Queen of Iraq’. She continued  with  her  archaeological excavations in the country and became the inspiration of the newly founded Baghdad Archaeological Museum, which was opened in June 1926. Just a month later – on July 12, 1926 – Bell died, possibly due to an overdose of sleeping pills.

The variety of building styles in Asia Minor in the Byzantine Empire disappeared after the Seljuk conquest and the ‘Comneni’- type of cruciform churches took its place. The ‘architectural sterility’ (Bell) of the interior Greek cross design took over from the end of the eleventh century. Further study in the historical setting of the ecclesiastical architecture in Asia Minor – and also its relations with Europe and the Middle East – has to be performed in order to place these developments in a wider context.

The first (and virtually the last) person, who ventured on this terrain was the controversial scholar Josef Strzygowski (1862 – 1941). He emphasized the importance of eastern influences on European architecture, and played down its classical (Greek and Roman) origins. In his comparison of the architecture of Armenia and Europe, he drew lines from the old Christian churches of the Caucasus to their (later) European counterparts.

Unfortunately, his theories were fed by a vigorous sense of nationalism. Ethnic ideas were of the heart of his art history and gave way to strong anti-Semitic notions. Sympathy for the Nazi-ideology towards the end of his life sealed his scientific credibility. This personal fate should not withhold other scientists to study the material anew in a more genuine setting. Christina MARANCI (2001) pointed in her book to the right direction.

Some geographical connections between tetradic elements are suggested in figure 192. The church plan based on the Greek cross and the aisled tetraconch churches are essential features in the Middle east. The Iranian Plateau (E) is the genetic origin of the Persian squinch, a dome placed on a square base).


Fig. 192 – A map of the areas in the Middle East and part of Africa gives the localization of particular areas with church plans based on the Greek cross (+) and aisled tetraconch churches (Δ).

Armenia is situated on the northern side of the Caucasus Mountains  (area C in fig. 192) and is another of the relevant areas with tetradic inspired architecture (MARANCI, 2001). The history of Armenia is interesting, because it was the first nation formally to adopt Christianity. King Tiridates III became a Christian in 301 and made the creed to a state religion – which was ten years before the ruler of the Roman Empire (Constantine) decided to introduce a half-hearted tolerance.

Later, despite periods of autonomy, Armenia was part of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian and Ottoman. In recent years, there was a conflict with neighboring Muslim Azerbaijan over the enclave Nagoya-Karabakh. This primarily Armenian-populated region was assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. The locations of the center points of the Christian culture are given in fig. 193.


Fig. 193 – A map of central Armenia with some of the more important architectural features centered on the capital Erivan (Yerevan), after Karoly GOMBOS (1974).

The apostles St. Thaddeus and Bartholomew had preached in Armenia around 100 AD and legend goes that King Trdat (Tiridates) III begun persecuting Christians at the end of the third century. However, the king became insane and could only be cured by St. Gregory the Illuminator, who was in prison in Khor Virap. The King recovered and declared Christianity a state religion in 301 AD. A church was built in Vagharshapat and called ‘Echmiadzin’ (meaning ‘the descent of the Only-Begotten (Son of Lord)’ in Armenian). The Echmiadzin Cathedral had a long history, starting just after the mythical initiation (303 AD), and becoming the Mother church of the Holy See in the 480’s. The main dome was rebuilt in 1627. The under-ground site of the pagan worship is still present.

The majority of the cruciform churches of Armenia dated from the seventh to the tenth century. The initial ground plan was often extended with a square or an octagon. The ‘Armenian’ type of church building stands out as a tribute to tetradic architecture. They also qualify for a more specific definition of quadralectic architecture:

Quadralectic architecture implies a particular kind of building, which uses the graphical expressions of circle, cross, square and octagonal to create a new form of visibility.

The St. Hripsime (618) and St. Gayane (630) at Vagharshapat – only a short distance from the Echmiadzin Cathedral – are examples of such complete and complicated designs. A dome covers the octagonal center bay. Apses terminate four cross arms. In the diagonals appear four steep and narrow cylindrical corner niches (fig. 194).


Fig. 194 – Some of the key churches in Armenia indicate the flexibility of the cross design, which started in the seventh century AD and continued nearly unchanged into the tenth century. A. The St. Hripsime (618 AD); B. St. Gayane (630), both in Vagharshapat and C. The church in Bagaran (631).

The small (6 x 7.5 meters) and delicate chapel in the town of Ashtarak (Aragatsotn region), called Karmravor (or Garmravor, meaning ‘reddish hue’), is almost intact with even the red tiled roof preserved (fig. 195).


Fig. 195 – The small cruciform-central planned chapel of Karmravor in the village of Ashtarak (Armenia) dated from the seventh century. It is still in a good state of preservation.

The plan is laid out as a cross with the semi-circular (horseshoe) high alter in the east apse. There is no exact date of construction known, but the style of building suggests the seventh century. Some reconstruction work was done in the 1950’s, but the overall condition of the chapel is excellent. There are four squinches above the central square that complete the octagon of the drum and eight small squinches are used between the drum and cupola.

Other churches of a similar type are the St. Mariane of Artik, the Saint Stephanos of Lmbatavank (also near Artik, with splendid frescoes in the interior), St. Astwacacin of Talin and Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) of Voskepar. These little gems of architecture stand out as marker points of early Christian architecture.

The cathedral of Zwarthnotz (‘Place of Angels’) was built in the seventh century (642 – 652). The church had a circular plan and featured an internal four-fold symmetry (see fig. 173). The original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 930 AD. Scholars disagree how to restore the foundations. ‘The wedding-cake restoration in most tourist books, three stories high with gallery, is unprecedented and probably incorrect’ (Brady KIESLING, 1999). It seems likely that the church of Zwarthnotz was a further development of the ‘Hripsime’-type, with North Syrian influences. Beyond the church are the ruins of Nerses’ palace and a wine press. Behind the wine press is a Chalcolithic tell, making the place to an archeological story book.

It fits in this context that this church acted as a blueprint of the Temple of the Grail, which figured in the first modern version of the legend ‘Conte de Grail’, as told by Chrétien de Troyes around 1189. Wolfram of Eschenbach translated the story shortly thereafter, around the year 1207. The twelfth-century writer Albrecht von Scharfenberg gave in his version of Wolfram’s ‘Titurel’ (The Younger Titurel) a description of some architectural features in the legend (TIMMERMAN, 2000).

The story of the Grail is still very much alive in the mind of the Christian Armenians. Furthermore, the Biblical story of Noah and the Arc, which landed on the Mount Ararat, has a formative influence. On several places, it is possible today to buy a white dove and let it free, just like Noah did when he left the arch.

The Armenian style of church building can also be found in the neighboring country of Georgia. The chapel of Kvétéra is an impressive example of tetradic architecture (fig. 196). Erzsébet CSEMEGI-TOMPOS (1975) and Patrick DONABEDIAN (1989) gave summaries of the religious architecture in Georgia. Most plans have a Greek cross as their point of departure, but the theme is – just like in Armenia – subject to great variation (fig. 197).


Fig. 196 – A tetraconch plan of the chapel of Kvétéra (in the Akmeta region of Georgia). The Kvetera Church is erected on the top of a hill and believed to date from the first half of the tenth century.


Fig. 197 – Architectural variations in a number of churches in Georgia with a ground plan based on the Greek cross (after DONABEDIAN, 1989). Other divisions in the ground plan occur – like the hexagon church in Katskhi – but they are an exception. 1. The tetracone church in Manglissi; 2. Samtavissi; 3. The Sveti- Tskhoveli Cathedral at Mzcheta; 4. Bitchvinta (Pitsounda); 5. Mokvi; 6. Cathedral of King Bagrat, Koutaïssi; 7. Ichkhan; 8. Khakhoul.

Ilma REISSNER (1989) gives further useful information on the architecture of Georgian churches. She pointed to the long history of building in the country going back to the fourth millennium BC. A typical feature of the Georgian architecture is the pyramid-shaped roof construction of a wooden house, the so-called ‘Gwirgwini’ (see fig. 287).

The growth of Christianity of Georgia gave new impulses to the local architecture, which found inspiration in Syrian examples. The churches were often built over the old pagan places of worship. The earliest sacred buildings of the fourth century AD consisted of wood and had a basilica-shape. Some of these foundations can still be found in the cathedral of Swete Zchoweli in Mzcheta (see the darker area just southwest of the narthex in fig. 197, No. 3). Reissner suggested that the early-Christian churches might have been influenced by the architecture of the Zoroastrian fire temples (like the one in the city of Ani, fig. 163).

The dome churches, using the indigenous ‘Darbasi’-type of houses (with the ‘gwirgwini’ roof construction) as their example, became soon more prominent.  New variations of the dome-structure were tried in the following ages, with a preference for the cross-, tetraconch- or triconch-types. The relative large tetraconch church of Manglisi dated originally of the last quarter of the fifth century, but was enlarged in the eleventh century. Another complicated tetraconch church was the cathedral of Ninozminda (in Kacheti, eastern province of Georgia), dating of the second half of the sixth century. The climax of the early Georgian architecture was reached in the Dschwari (= cross) Church of Mzcheta (fig. 198).


Fig. 198 – The ground plan of the tetraconch Dschwari (Cross) Church near  Mzcheta (Georgia) is an admirable example of quadralectic architecture. The church was built towards the end of the sixth century, although a ninth century age could not be excluded (based on the support structure of the dome).

The Church of the Cross (Dchwari Church) in Mzcheta was built on an old pagan site, which was claimed for Christianity by the holy man Nino in the fourth century. The building of the church took place between 586 and 605 AD and extended its influence into Armenia, where the St. Hripsime in Etschmiadsin (618 AD) is nearly identical. Other smaller versions of the ‘Dschwari’-type in Georgia can be found in the monastery of Dsweli (Old) Schuamta Church in Kacheti, the cathedral of Martwili in Western Georgia and the Sioni Church in Ateni.

Ulrich BOCK (1988) had serious doubts about the dating of the present Dschwari Church as a six/seventh century structure. He favored a construction date in the late ninth century. He reckoned that  ‘it was only by that time possible to construct a cupola of more than five meters on a freestanding construction system (BOCK, 1988; p. 102). The introduction of the pendentive system, as was used in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople at the beginning of the sixth century, took place in the Trans-Caucasian area at the boundary of the ninth and tenth century (according to the Georgian art historian G.N. Tschubinaschwili).

The gawit was a building with a specific ground plan, which was initially restricted to Armenia. It became a common feature of the monasteries of the twelfth and thirteenth century. The gawit has a quadratic or near-quadratic form with four pillars, dividing the inner area in nine compartments. A dome with a circular opening often covers the central area. The gawit could be used for several purposes like a gathering place for the layman, a burial place for high officials (Schamatun), or a teaching area/library of the monastic school (fig. 199). Sometimes two quadratic spaces were joined to become an elongated refektorium (dining room).


Fig. 199 – The church complex on the island of Aghthamar in Lake Van (Turkey) has a so-called gawit built on its western side. The gawit is an independent tetradic structure, generated by crossing a double pair of parallel lines. The impression of the ground plan (consisting of a pattern of 3 x 3 compartments) becomes three-fold, rather than four-fold.

The relation between the Armenian/Georgian churches and Byzantium (Constantinople) has been a point of scientific interest for a long time. The earlier mentioned Austrian historian Josef Strygowski saw a direct cultural impulse from east to west, but his research contained a political component. Gertrude Bell, who used Strygowski ‘s book ‘Kleinasien ein Neuland der Kunstgeschichte’ as ‘a constant companion during many weeks at Maden Sheher’, was more careful in her judgement.

She was convinced that ‘the problem of the cruciform must be studied in Asia Minor; there, and apparently there only, was the plan universally adopted at a very early period, and there it received its first developments’ (RAMSAY & BELL, 1909; p. 428). She agreed that the cross-in-square design was the most typical architectural form of Armenia, but did not want to make an announcement with regards to influences. ‘Whether Armenia borrowed from Constantinople or Constantinople from Armenia, I do not venture to decide’.

The matter of influence was further investigated in an article by Christina MARANCI (2001) in relation to the building of the church of Zwarthnotz (Zuart’noc). Maranci pointed to the complicated political and theological situation in the Armenian area at the middle of the seventh century. Two types of Christianity (the Orthodox and the Syriac type) were engaged in an ideological struggle for supremacy in Armenia.

The disagreement is, so it seems, a different mental stance in elementary division thinking. The early years of Christianity – sprung up in the last quarter of the Third and following Fourth Quadrant of the Roman Empire – were characterized by a search for the right form of division thinking. The one-, two-, three- and four-division could be employed side-by-side without interfering with each other. However, in its confrontation with other creeds (like Mithraism) the attention had to a distinct identity. Therefore, lower division thinking became ever more important as a tool to mark the psychological boundaries.

The establishment of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) was the first indication of a move away from (higher) tetradic thinking. The problems came to ahead in the early fifth century when the identity of Jesus, as the Son of God, was separated from his human being. Nestorius (c. 386 – c. 451), a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia in Antioch, brought the supposed duality to a confrontation. He stated that Christ, as the Son of God, could not have suffered on the cross, and therefore, must have been a separate entity from Christ-the-man.

The main stream of the Christian Church was opposed to this limited interpretation and rejected the ‘simple’ view at the Council of Ephesus, in 431 AD. Cyril of Alexandria, as their spokesman, envisaged a situation in which ‘One is the nature of the Incarnate Logos’. The Nestorian brand of Christianity resulted in a schism between the Assyrian Church of the east and the Byzantine Church of the west.

However, the seeds of oppositional lower division thinking had been sowed and a new heresy arose soon thereafter, based on the same theme of Christ’s supposed ‘dual’ identity. The Monophysites (Greek: mone physis, one nature) believed that the human nature (of Christ) was completely absorbed by the Divine. This one-sided view – but now from the other side – could also not be tolerated by the Church and was the main theme at the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451.

The orthodox Catholic doctrine spoke out against the heresy of Eutyches, the principal representative of Monophysism, and could still maintain its ‘neutral’, higher division stance against theological statements inspired by the force of lower division thinking.

The Armenian Christians of the seventh century, considering themselves as the representatives of the ‘true faith of St. Gregory’, condemned the doctrine of Monophysism, but also objected to the Orthodox doctrine as proclaimed in Chalcedon.

This independent spiritual development came under growing pressure, because the geographical position of Armenia made the country a potential victim of Byzantine and Arab aggression. In particular the Arabs’ raids throughout Asia Minor became an acute danger towards the middle of the seventh century. The ferocious attack of the Arab forces on the Armenian town of Duin, which was the capital of Armenia from the fourth to the thirteenth century, resulted in the massacre of the entire population. A full-scale invasion of the country took place in the ensuing twelve years (643/44 – 656).

Nerses III became the ruler (catholicos) of the Christian community in these troubled times. He was inclined to follow a pro-Byzantine course and planned to convert Armenia to the council of Chalcedon. These intentions became even more obvious, when king Constans came over from Constantinople and Nerses had the Armenian clergy converted to Orthodoxy by forced communion.

The construction of the church of Zwarthnotz, generally dated between 642 and 652, can be seen as a politically inspired architectural statement. Certain elements point to local tradition, others to the style of the victorious Arabs or have references to Syria (Apamea). And the church is, last but not least, a demonstration of the alliance with the Greek-speaking neighbors and the churches of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus (p. 311, fig. 246) and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Area A in fig. 192).

The latter church (Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom; fig. 200) has to be included in the chapter on churches based on a ground plan of a Greek cross, but its chequered history has left little evidence of an original four-fold intention of the ground plan. The Hagia Sophia is now, in fact, qualified as a transitional type of domed basilica. The building is one of the surviving monuments of Justinian’s reign in Constantinople and was built between 532 – 537 AD. The consecration by Patriarch Menas took place on December 27, 537.

The central dome, with a diameter of about thirty-three meters, is the spherical representation of the circle and can be seen as the unlimited universe of the First Quadrant. The structure – which is slightly smaller than the dome of the Pantheon in Rome – is carried on four pendentives: i.e. concave triangular sections of masonry. They solve the problem of setting the circular base of the dome on a rectangular base. The weight of the dome passes through the pendentives to four massive piers at the corners. The number four is important for the structural setting of the church, but is not directly reflected in the ground plan. The latter consists of a square 3 x 3 grid, with measurements  of 77 x 79 meters.

The (Greek) cross, identified as a geometric feature of the Second Quadrant, is hidden in the central section of the 3 x 3 grid of the ground plan. The basilica-like extension of the nave points to a preference of the designers to the Third Quadrant. The four massive piers at the corners, the four arches and – bring the spirit of the four-fold to the foreground and subsequently to the Fourth Quadrant. To these can be added the four minarets – although conceived in a complete different time span – which were added after the Turkish conquest in 1453. The actual ideas and division-preferences of the architects Isidorus of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, who were also professors of geometry at the University of Constantinople, will remain a mystery.

The Hagia Sophia is – as en enigmatic building – a pendant of the Roman Pantheon. The latter building was identified as a marker point on the boundary of the Third and Fourth Quadrant of the Roman Empire (see the CF-graph of the Roman cultural period as given in fig. 88). The Pantheon opens the richness of the visibility of the Fourth Quadrant. The Church of the Holy Wisdom in Constantinople, on the other hand, takes its historical position at the end of the visibility period of the Fourth Quadrant – or even outside the realm of its visible visibility (the subjective boundary of 500 AD).


Fig. 200 – A section and plan of the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sophia) in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) indicate the complicated construction of the church. The building took place during the reign of Justinian in the years 532 – 537 AD. Its temporal position – shortly after the termination of the (Western) Roman Empire and within the yet invisible stage of the European cultural period – adds to the mysteries of its roots.

The Hagia Sophia Church is just as much part of a new period of visibility of the European cultural period as it is the echo of its Roman past.  This position in place and time as a portentous nucleus of cultural visibility which took the name of ‘Europe’ in the eighth century – makes the Hagia Sophia such in an intriguing piece of architecture.

The architectural elements of the one (the dome), two (the extension of the nave, the hidden Greek cross), three (the grid ground plan) and four (the pendentives and piers) are ‘fighting’ for internal supremacy in the building. This ‘clash’ of geometric forms takes place in time, which is – on the one hand – part of the broken Roman Empire and – on the other hand – forms a marker point in the – as yet unidentified – European cultural period.


Fig. 201 – Germigny-des-Prés (France), built in 805 AD.

The Carolingian oratory in Germigny-des-Prés, hundred and thirty kilometers south of Paris (France) is one of the first and true statements of  European church building in its own right (fig. 201/ 202). This little church, along the border of the Loire, was built by Theodulf, an adviser of Charlemagne, in 805 or 806 AD.

Théodulf started with the ground plan of a Greek cross. Later additions and modifications followed after a fire in the ninth century and included the filling of the corners and  the four apses. The general impression of  the plan changed in this process from a four-fold  cross to a three-fold grid. The name of the church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, is at present more appropriate. The magnificent mosaic in the eastern apse dates from the ninth century and fits into a rich Byzantine tradition. The mosaic was rediscovered in 1820 and subsequently restored.

The mosaic shows two angels – representing the Christian people and the Jewish nation – point to the Ark of the Covenant guarded by two cherubs (making up a total of four). The hand of God (dextera Dei) is in a central position between the heads of the two larger Cherubim.

Ann FREEMAN and Paul MEYVAERT (2001) believed that Theodulf’s journey to Rome, shortly before the building of Germigny-des-Prés, had a formative effect on the use and symbolism of the mosaic in the oratory. Theodulf visited the Holy City from the end of November 800 until the early or mid-February 801. He saw, among the further treasures of the city, the S. Maria Maggiore (with scenes of the Ark of the Covenant) and the SS. Cosma e Damiano, with mosaics showing Christ and the river Jordan and the four large angels on the triumphal arch.

The authors further suggested that the composition of the Opus Caroli (Libri Carolini) for Charlemagne, between AD 791 and 793, led to Theodulf’s appointment as bishop of Orleans and abbot of the Monastery of Fleury. John BECKWITH (1964/1987) had earlier noticed their suggestion that chapter 20 of Book I of the Opus Caroli – describing Salomon’s Temple – were inspirational to the symbolic imagery of the mosaic. The treatise might have acted as a spiritual source when he constructed the small oratory of Germigny-des-Prés near his abbatial country residence.


Fig. 202 – The Church of the Holy Trinity in Germigny-des-Prés in the Loire Valley (France). The church, as it stands today in the center of the small village, was built in 805 AD and has been subject to several reconstruction stages in the eleventh, fifteenth, sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the original ground plan of a Greek cross can still be recognized.

The historical period between 600 and 800 AD is a time of fermentation and increasing visibility in the geographical area, which is now called Europe. The Christian faith originated from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and survived its growing pains and rivalry in the first centuries AD. Its identity was shaped in the encounter with the Roman rulers, dualistic-orientated Mithraism and non-hierarchical Gnostics. It found in Europe – with its Celtic roots – a new terrain of expansion.

The creation of the visible visibility of ‘Europe’ as a cultural entity employed at least two distinct traditions. The first source of inspiration was indigenous and used the spiritual and material remains of the Celtic culture. The historic heartland of this culture was located in the central part of the continent, near Hallstätt (Austria) and La Tène (near the city of Neuchatel in Switzerland). The former centre had its prominence between 1000 and 500 BC, while the cultural visibility of the latter is divided in three periods: La Tène I (450 – 250 BC), La Tène II (250 – 100 BC) and La Tène III (from 100 BC). The Celtic power in Europe reached its peak around 300 BC and had its greatest geographic extension in the second century BC. The whole of the land track, from Ireland to Istanbul, could be called ‘Celtic’ at that time.

The second source of the young European community in their search for personal imaginary was found in the remnants of the Roman Empire. The political power of Rome had broken down in the middle of the fifth century AD, but its architectural traces were distributed over the greater parts of the former Empire. Furthermore, the Roman jurisdictional system and its hierarchical social structures were embedded in the society. The efficiency of the system was noted in the collective memory.

The friction between the Nestorian brand of Christianity – practiced in the Celtic countries of Western Europe (Spain, Brittany, Britain and Ireland) – and the orthodox, Roman-controlled areas of Middle Europe, is one of the most intriguing events. It took place just before the visibility-as-unity of Europe materialized. The differences in the interpretation of the Christian faith between the Celtic and the Roman parts of Europe can be traced back to the fourth century and was, more or less, ‘resolved’ (at least in Britain) at the Synod of Whitby, in 663/664.

Michael BAIGENT et al. (1988) wrote an informative book on this matter, pointing to the late-fourth century preacher Priscillian, who was murdered as a heretic in 386 AD in Trier (Germany). His body was moved back to Spain and was laid to rest in Galicia. His burial place became, in the following centuries, a center of pilgrimage for a ‘Celtic’ type of Christians. The Celtic tribes had moved to the northwestern shores of Spain from Britain and Wales in the fifth and sixth century AD.

Priscillian originated from Avila (Spain) and believed in a non-Roman type of Christianity. He denied the Trinity and rejected the narrative of Creation. His belief included elements of Gnostic Manicheism, Jewish numerology and Kabbala. His type of thinking, with a distinct Eastern/Mesopotamian flavor, put an emphasis on dualistic features. The kingdoms of Light and Darkness, salvation from the domination of matter and a sympathy for asceticism were part of his faith. His mission came in contact with the Roman-orientated dogmas in Germany, which let to his demise.

The Roman Catholic Church considered the development of these mystical ideas as heretical and viewed them as a treat to their own power. The Church brought in the worship of S. Jacob, the brother of Jesus, as a counter-measure. Santiago de Compostela – or the Church of S. Jacob – was transformed into a stronghold of the Church to combat Priscillianism and the influence of the Celta Church of Galicia.

The village of Bretona, some hundred and fifty kilometers east of Santiago de Compostela, was originally a settlement of the before-mentioned British Celtic colonists, who came to Galicia in the population movements after the breakdown of the Roman Empire. The name ‘Bretona’ still is a reference to those early settlers. This village, situated on an existing castro (an Iron Age hill fort), became in the sixth century the center of the ‘Celtic’ brand of Christianity in northwestern Spain.

The church of Santa Maria (fig. 203) is a silent witness of a spiritual battle in the Christian Church between the more intellectual, four-fold vision (with two-fold undertone) and the hierarchical, three-fold outlook.  The church of Bretona looks, in all its simplicity, like a looser compared to the splendor of the Church of S. Jacob in Compostela. But it might represent, on the other hand, the true spirit of Christianity.


Fig. 203 – The Church of S. Maria in Bretona (Galicia, Northwestern Spain) is a remembrance to a specific, ‘Celtic’ type of Christianity, which flourished here until the sixth or seventh century AD.

It is a notable fact that the growing pains of the (later qualified) entity of Europe took place in the ages of ‘invisibility’ and at its geographic fringes. The fundamental differences in division thinking were sorted out in the First Quadrant (a state of invisible invisibility), which lasted from 1 – 600 AD and in the following hundred and fifty years of invisible visibility of the Second Quadrant (600 – 750). The critical areas in this clash of opinions were the above-mentioned ‘Celtic’ orientated countries – who had received their brand of Christianity ‘over sea’ – and the message of Syrian missionaries, who had brought Christianity ‘over land’ to Turkey (Asia Minor) and the Caucasus.

The ‘local’ visibility of what later became the great and general visibility of the European cultural period took place in these very areas away from the (Roman) center. The Book of Durrow (around 650 AD), the Lindisfarne Gospels (700 AD) and the Book of Kells (around 800 AD) were composed at a time that Europe was still in its ‘Dark Ages’. It is important to realize, from a historic point of view, that the foundations of the churches in Byzantium (Hagia Sophia), Asia Minor and the Caucasian area were laid down before European ‘visibility’ started.

A beautiful example of a Greek cross layout (in German: Vier Konchen Kirche) can be found in the church of Tartlau (or Prejmer) in Transsylvania (Rumania). This little village, with a maximum of two thousand two hundred inhabitants in 1920, is the most eastern German-speaking settlement in the Siebenbürgen (Central Rumania). The church building (fig. 204) started by the Order of the Knights around 1225, after examples of similar churches on the route to the Holy Land. The German settlers finished the building in the Late Gothic style of the Rhineland after the expulsion of the Knights.


Fig. 204 – The church of Tartlau (Prejmer) in Rumania was built by the Order of the Knights (Teutonic Knights) around 1225 following the layout of the Greek cross.

Later modifications included the changing of the ground plan into a more elongated Latin cross and the building of a wall around the church, to protect the church from the attacks from the Turks and other intruders (fig. 205). The rambling hordes of Mongols, Tartars, Cosecs, Moldavians and Turks destroyed the place around fifty times, but every time the inhabitants restored the damage as well. The wall around the church originated from the thirteenth century, but found its present state in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The circular wall includes storehouses, which are four stories high. An extensive restoration took place between 1962 – 1970.


Fig. 205 – An aerial view of Prejmer (in German: Tartlau in Siebenbürgen), Central Rumania, gives the exceptional position of the church within a fortress. The church was modeled after churches in Jerusalem. The ground plan is based on a Greek cross, but was later extended to a Latin cross.

One of the most interesting geographical areas of prominence of the Greek cross design can be found near Lasta in the province of Wollo, Ethiopia (area D in fig. 192). Near a small town called Lalibela (or Roha, meaning ‘a site with plentiful supplies of water’) there are a number of churches hewn out of the red volcanic tuff. The extensive use of the Greek cross and other forms of tetradic symbolism (like the swastika) are a prominent feature.

Lalibela was once the capital of the Zagwe (Zaguë) Dynasty, which lasted from the tenth to thirteenth century AD and it is generally assumed that the churches date from that period. The Zagwe Dynasty followed the Aksumite Empire, which lasted from about the first millennium BC until 800 AD. During this latter extended period a specific building style was developed, like the timber constructions (which can also be found in Anatolia, Turkey). Elements of these wood constructions were in a later stage transposed in the sculpture of rocks in the monolithic churches.

Ethiopia had turned to Christianity in the early fourth century under the influence of the trade relations with Syrian and Hellenistic merchants. The Aksum king Ezana declared the teachings of Christ as the state religion in 327 AD. This change was reflected in the inscriptions of coins, where the sun, moon or stars were replaced by the cross. The early Christians were, in their search for identity, prone to lower division thinking, and expressed themselves in forms of asceticism and repudiation of luxury.

The situation became more pressing when the Islam brought its own brand of extremism and non-tolerance to the area in the seventh century. Christians retreated into the Ethiopian highlands after the collapse of the Aksumite Empire, and they could  resist the increasing expansionism of the militant Islam. They isolated themselves and their faith in a unique civilization. The monastic settlement of Lalibela has a total of thirteen churches, which can be characterized as ‘a Holy Heritage built by Angels’.

The name ‘Lalabeda’ already appeared in the mappa mundi published by the Venetian Fra Mauro in 1459 (GERVERS, 2005; note 84). A Portuguese priest, Father Francisco Alvares, visited the rock-cut churches and monolithic sites in 1521. He described ten churches in considerable detail in his ‘Historiale description de l’Ethiope’ (Antwerp, 1558) (fig. 206).


Fig. 206 – This plan of the church Emmanuel in Abuguna (Ethiopia) was given by the Portuguese traveler Francisco Alvarez.

Irmgard BIDDER (1958) gave an early report of the area, which had seen little Western attention apart from a failed Italian occupation by Mussolini just before the Second World War (GARRETT, 1938). The use of poison gas and heavy artillery fire on the Ethiopians with bow and arrows, and the bombing the Red Cross units, did not help to create a stable relationship with the country.  Bidder divided the churches of Lalibela in three groups, according to their geographical position (fig. 207):


Fig. 207 – The position of the churches in Lalibela as given by Irmgard Bidder (1958). 1. First Group (four churches); 2. Second Group (six churches); 3. Giorgis Church (one church); 4. Course of the River Jordan; 5. Road through the village; 6. Village with two-storey stone houses.

1. The NE section consists of a group of four orientated churches named Betä (Bjet) Emanuel, Betä Mercurios and Betä Libanos;

2. In the NW section lies the second group of churches around the Grave of Adam, consisting of the double-church Betä Golgotha and Betä Mikael (with the Trinity Crypt), Betä Mariam and the large Betä Medhane-Alem;

3. The single church of Betä Giorgis in the SE section, which is the most elegant and well-known example of the rock churches (fig. 208).


Fig. 208 – An aerial view of the Betä Giyorgis (House of St. George) in the Lalibela Complex (Ethiopia). This church is one of the four com-pletely free-standing rock-hew churches in the complex, which are only attached to the surrounding rock by their bases. The cubic form of the church (12 x 12 x 12 meter) has a pattern of Greek crosses with equal arms on the ‘roof’ of the building.

Bidder believed – without much substantial evidence – that the holy places at Lalibela were much older than the Christian churches and must have been cult places of early pagan communities. These suggestions, just like some of her ‘cosmic’ interpretations, might be scientifically unfounded, but her contribution to the ‘discovery’ of Lalibela, supported by a wealth of well-illustrated material, is considerable.

More recent investigations by Jacqueline PIRENNE (1984) – delivered at the Eighth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Abeba – suggested that inscriptions found in the complex could represent a mystical commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John.  This interpretation – based on a comparison of decorative elements – has since also been questioned by the scientific community (MUNRO-HAY, 2002).

The most comprehensive and informative book about the Ethiopian rock churches is written by Georg GERSTER (1970) and is called ‘Churches in Rock’. He pointed to the oldest church of Ethiopia in the monastery Dabra Damo. The principal church is the  Enda Abuna Aragawi, which  was visited by the German Aksum expedition of 1906 and studied by the Italian archeologist A. Mordini (publication in 1960). The church is of the basilica type and seems to favor the three-division. The intricate decorations of the metopen (wooden frames), on the other hand, are a tribute to tetradic decoration (fig. 209). They are dated (by GERSTER, 1968; p. 74) between the seventh and the eleventh century. Mordini placed them in the eighth century. The age of the church itself is difficult to estimate, either from a pre-Christian era of the Aksum Empire with renovations in the twelfth and fourteenth century, or from the ninth or tenth century (Buxton).


Fig. 209 – These tetradic decorations of wood panels can be seen in the Enda Abuna Aragawi, the largest church in the Dabra Damos monastery complex in the northern province of Tegre (between Adwa and Addigrat), Ethiopia.

Other medieval rock churches in the province of Tegre (Tigray), south of Addigrat – over hundred in number – are known, but are still largely terra incognita in scientific terms.  The mountainous landscape of Garalta (‘ein äthiopischen Arizona’) yielded some of the finest examples of Christian architecture, like the Maria (Enda Maryam) and Daniel (Enda Abuna Daneel) Churches in Qorqor (seven to fourteenth century), the Maria Church in Dabra Seyon (last part of the fourteenth century) and many more.

Georg Gerster described the group of churches of Lalibela (or in his spelling: Lalibala) in detail and called them ‘Ein Neues Jerusalem im Bergland’. Unfortunately, Gerster used another way of numbering the three main areas: Bidder’s Group 1-2-3 is comparable with Gerster’s Group 2-1-3. The plans and excellent perspective drawings of the churches are by Lino Bianchi Barriviera (1906 – 1985), an Italian painter and engraver, who published on the subject in the early sixties of the twentieth century. He traveled in Ethiopia in 1939, when the country was occupied by the Italians and was a member of an archaeological expedition under the guidance of Prof. A. Augusto Monti della Corte.

The Betä Madhane Alam (the Church of the Redeemer of the World) is the most impressive of the rock churches of Group 1 (in Bidder’s classification) and Group 2 (in Gerster’s sequence). A unit of 33.7 x 23.7 x 11.5 meter was sculptured from the rock in the shape of a columned church (fig. 210). The church might be a copy of the Zions Church in Aksum, which was destroyed in the raids by the Muslim Somali troops between 1527 and 1543. These troops, under the leadership of Emir of Harar, left a trail of destruction of the Christian places of worship in the name of the Holy War. Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al-Gazi, known as Gran (‘left-hander’), became the ‘Atilla of East Africa’.


Fig. 210 – Plan of the Betä Madhane Alam (‘Church of the Redeemer of the World’) in the northern part of the Lalibela Complex.

The crown in the string of churches in Lalibela – and a unique dedication to the Greek cross  – is the Betä Giyorgis (or ‘House of the Holy George’), situated on its own in the southwestern part. The ‘roof’ of the church is on an equal level as the surrounding area, which adds to its hidden character (fig. 211) The cross-shape, in such a well-developed form, is also known from the so-called ‘manbar’, a piece of liturgical furniture.


Fig. 211 – The view of Betä Giyorgis (Church of St. Georg) from ground level shows the sunken character of the church.

The ground plan of the church (fig. 212) has the shape of a Greek cross and is directed along the axis of the main wind directions. The cross is three times repeated in the ‘roof’ of the building.


Fig. 212 – The ground plan of Betä Giyorgis (Church of St. George), as drawn by the Italian painter and engraver Bianchi Barriviera, is shaped like a Greek cross.

The ‘inverted’ way of building in Lallibela was made possible by the relative soft constitution of the volcanic ash. It can only be matched by the sunken-court cave dwellings in the Henan Province in China.  The rock-hew city of Göreme in Central Turkey and the underground dwellings of opal miner’s in Australia – like Coober Pedy (S. Australia) and White Cliffs (NSW) – are other examples of habitats in soft terrain.

The cave temples in Ellora (fig. 213), near Aurangbad in the province of Maharashtra (India), are the only comparable type of religious architecture in carved rock. A total of thirty-four temples is carved here out of the rock between 350 and 700 AD. They belong to three different faiths (Buddhist, Hindu and Jain) and have their own iconography.


Fig. 213  – The monolithic temples at Ellora in India are the only known examples of Lalibela-type of religious building.

The Lalibela Complex in Ethiopia is, in a modern appraisal, a tribute to tetradic thinking. The spirit of the four-fold, as expressed in the many Greek crosses and other decorations, must have been a major source of inspiration.  Further research on the relation between tetradic features and the original message of Christianity might be warrant. It was only in their geographical isolation, hidden from the rigors of (Islamic) oppositional thinking, that the (Christian) message of equality could  survive. The struggle for identity and the strong competition with other faiths has (in other places) often eroded away  the eternal notions of peace and brotherhood.

The St. Peter in Rome can still be regarded as the pinnacle of Christian church building in the Renaissance and is deeply involved in the symbolism of the Greek cross. Everybody who enters the St. Peter is impressed by its size. The overwhelming notion of architectural space is probably only being matched in Europe by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The story of its construction is rather complicated since various famous architects applied their skills into the operations. The period between its initial conception and completion  – roughly ranging from Alberti’s ‘Treatise on Architecture’ in 1450 until the positioning of Bernini’s fountain on the St. Peter’s square in 1675 – is one of the most interesting epochs in architectural history. The importance of this ‘renaissance’ is not only emphasized in the traditional (dualistic) approach, but deserves just as much attention in a quadralectic perception.

The first point of attention of the St. Peter is its ground plan. The Roman Catholic Church had reached such a state of confidence that the simplicity of the Greek cross design was chosen as a point of departure. In particular the ideas of Alberti, as expressed in the middle of the fifteenth century in his ‘Treatise’, proved a basic source. Geometric figures – like the circle, square, hexagon, octagon, etc. – were a direct reflection of God’s reason. JANSON (1962/1986) noted that the central-plan church ‘reigned supreme in High Renaissance architecture between 1500 and 1525’.

The first intentions for rebuilding the St. Peter were led by Pope Nicholas V in the middle of the fifteenth century.  He gave the architect Bernardo Rosselino instructions. However, this effort was soon abandoned. Little progress was made in the next half century, although Pope Sixtus IV started the building of the Sistine Chapel nearby. Furthermore, the church of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato (Tuscany) could have been a source of inspiration (fig. 214).


Fig. 214 – This plan of the Sta. Maria delle Carceri Church in Prato, twenty kilometers northwest of Florence (Tuscany), was created by Giuliano da Sangallo (1484 – 1495). This church is one of the first renewed applications of the Greek cross as a base of its ground plan.

Pope Julius II revived the idea of the new St. Peter again at the beginning of the sixteenth century (1503). The original plan of the architect Donato Bramante (1444 – 1514) was a classical, but ingenious variation on the four-fold theme, based on the circle, the Greek cross and the square (fig. 215).


Fig. 215 – The initial ground plan of the St. Peter by the architect Bramante – chosen by Pope Julius II in 1503 to replace the old St. Peter basilica – was a combination of circles, the (Greek) cross and squares – the major elements of ‘quadralectic’ architecture.

Bramante went to Milan around 1474 and studied the Gothic architecture of the city. He experimented with the Greek cross, and found his inspiration by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519). The latter had toyed with geometric ideas, but none of his sketches reached the state of building. Bramante took up the challenge and – probably more important – found a time, which was favorable to a renewed application of the Greek cross as a ground plan. Such a spirit of time demanded a confidence of faith and identity, which had passed the tribulations of immature growth.

Both artists (Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante) had studied the S. Lorenzo Church in Milan, which dated from the fifth century AD. The centralized plan with the four large apses was the highlight of an earlier, ‘tetradic’ period in Christian architecture between the third and the beginning of the sixth century. Bramante received commissions from the Duke Ludovico Sforza and had the opportunity to enlarge the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro between 1482 – 1486. The choir and the octagonal sacristy, surmounted by a dome, reflected the undeniable arrival of the Renaissance in Lombardy.

Pope Julius II started an ambitious plan to rebuild St. Peter’s basilica in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The first cornerstone of one of the piers was laid in April 1506. The plan started off with a centralized Greek cross, which symbolized for Bramante the sublime perfection, but was altered after his death in 1514. Officially, the work was completed in 1615 under Pope Paul V, but further alterations continued.

Michelangelo (1475 – 1564), who became the chief architect in 1546, altered the plans again by introducing a simpler context and breaking the equilibrium of the Greek cross (fig. 216). A monumental front was subsequently built to the eastern side with the sole intention to impress the onlooker. The initial ‘neutral’ setting of the building was changed in order to create a visual effect related to power and wealth.


Fig. 216 – This plan for the completion of the Saint Peter in Rome by Michelangelo, dated from 1546 and gives a further alteration of Bramante’s design. The central Greek cross is retained, but the adjourning four Geek crosses – as intended by Bramante – are incorporated in the walls, adding to its structural strength. The four great chapels at the corner spaces were altogether abandoned. A large front to the eastern side of the church disturbed the balance. This action by Michelangelo can be regarded as a revolt against the neutral geometry of the Renaissance and put the emphasis on visible power in architecture.

Michelangelo also designed the dome or cupola. This daring project not only had an esthetic-architectural side, but was also as an engineering achievement. The dome was faulted between 1585 and 1590 by the architect Giacomo della Porta and the engineer Dominico Fontana, who had taken over the ‘Fabbrica dei San Pietro’ after the death of Michelangelo in 1564. The interior diameter of the dome is 42.3 meter, which is nearly as large as the Pantheon and raises 120 meters above the floor.

Saint Peter’s Square (Piazzo San Pietro), in front of the church, was built between 1656 and 1667. It was some hundred and fifty years later conceived than the church itself. The design of the square also went through several stages of amendments and alterations. A short history of the square and its relation with geometric forms is discussed by Timothy KITAO (1974; see also Ch. 4.2.1, p. 858). The spirit of the Renaissance was, in the middle of the seventeenth century, a thing of the past and its heritage became a subject to play with and be used in creativity.

The initial stage of ‘degeneration’, with an emphasis on the exaggeration of details, was called Mannerism. This particular appreciation of art began soon after the spell of geometry and balance had faded around 1525 and lasted until the end of the sixteenth century. The exuberant stage, which followed between 1600 and 1750, became known as Baroque. The original meaning of the term was ‘irregular, contorted, grotesque’ and pointed to a rich ornamentation of basic forms. The style was, above all, a celebration of visibility with very little restrictions. In that sense, the Baroque can be classified as the ultimate visibility in European cultural history.

The history of the building of St. Peter in Rome went through these various style periods and reflects the subtle changes in division-thinking, which took place on both sides of the Pivotal Point in the European cultural history (1500). The St. Peter, from its original setting as a basilica to its revival in the Renaissance and further extensions in later periods, allows a well-documented glimpse into the human ideas and considerations with regards to the building of a major place of worship (fig. 217).


Fig. 217 – The St. Peter in Rome with the Piazzo San Pietro, in front of the church, as given in an engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda (1643 – 1678) from his set of etchings ‘Il Nuovo Teatro’ (1665).  The church is shown here in a virtual complete state with the (Egyptian) obelisk in the centre of the square.

The history of the church of St. Peter is marked, as can be observed today, by a gradual opposition against P4-symmetry and its association with the tetradic way of thinking. Behind the front of the church and in the plans of the Piazza Obliqua by Bernini lies the mental struggle to cope with the supposed opposition between the neutrality of the circular and the power-seeking efforts to break the symmetry. Reaching for the unbalance in order to gain visibility could either be found in the extension of certain parts (towards a Latin cross) or going for the ‘obliqua’ (or oval). A late counter project of 1659 by Busiri-Vici (La Piazza di San Pietro), proposing once again the (semi) circular plan, is now a long forgotten option hidden in the obscurity of history.

Nobody, up to this present moment, has tried to place the forceful visible statement of this major church of the Catholic faith in the light of division thinking. There is no doubt, in my mind, that the many deliberations and alterations are better understood if the position of the church is placed within the Third Quadrant (III) of the European cultural history (fig. 218).


Fig. 218 – The position of the St. Peter in Rome on the CF-graph of the European cultural history shows its proximity to the Pivotal Point (PP). The ‘midlife crisis’ of the European culture is a struggle between oppositional values, which can only be understood when a limited width of division thinking is assumed.

The church (St. Peter) can be presented as a sign of (visible) visibility, moving through the paces of a quadralectic communication (with an observer positioned at the beginning of the twenty-first century). This  exercise in cultural history can enrich the history of this most exhilarating and exhibitionistic monument in the city of Rome.

This approach assumes a general knowledge of the philosophical and psychological setting around the Pivotal Point (PP) in the middle of the Third Quadrant. This quadralectic ‘awareness’ can be gained by a conscious mind geared towards the rewards of higher division-thinking. It should make use of all the relevant experiences found in analogies of similar situations (in a Third Quadrant) and accrued during years of practicing the quadralectic world view.


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