Skip to comments.Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics Reason #1: Architecture
Posted on 05/06/2020 2:53:05 PM PDT by CondoleezzaProtege
REASON #1: ARCHITECTURE
Of all of the points that I will make, this is the easiest to understand because it is so visible: we see its evidence every day. The power and beauty of classical architecture is everywhere, from grand buildings like our Supreme Court to our humble everyday homes. The Greeks discovered the proportions that are most pleasing to the human eye which, they tell us, are based on natures greatest work of art: the human body. Scale, mass, proportion, and symmetrythe principles of classical architecturewere worked out by the Greeks in great detail and built upon in succeeding generations. They still apply today, and regardless of the style of architecturewhether you are building a farmhouse or a churchthese ratios will be the most pleasing to the human eye, and observing the principles first laid down by the Greeks will ensure that your building will be most beautiful. The principles of classical architecture can be applied to any style, whether Tudor, Cape Cod, or Asian pagoda.
The principles are true, and they have never been overturned. Today, they are mostly ignored, which is why we have such ugly buildings. Modern architecture, for the most part, is soulless because it has rejected the principles of classical architecturenot because they are untrue, and not because they are outdated, but for no reason other than that they perhaps are inconvenient. This, I submit, is the pattern that applies to all of the errors of modernisma pattern of a wholesale rejection, not only of divine wisdom (we know that), but also of human wisdom (the wisdom of the creature made in Gods image), and for apparently no reason other than that modernism spurns the restrictions of truth. This pattern, morever, illustrates why a careful reading of the pagan classics is so important for a classical education that aspires to give a firm foundation in wisdom and truth.
De Architectura, written by Vitruvius around 15 B.C. and dedicated to the emperor Caesar Augustus, is the only work on architecture that has survived from the ancient world. Vitruvius was a Roman and, like all of the Romans, his work was not especially original, but rather based on the Greeks. De Architectura was a compilation of Greek principles and Roman engineering, accompanied by his detailed drawings, which unfortunately have been lost. Vitruvius second life began after he was rediscovered in the Renaissance, where he became the authority on all things architectural, rather as Aristotle was considered the authority on everything else. De Architectura became the basis for the second most influential architecture book in history, The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio, published in 1570. Palladio (as in Palladian windows) called Vitruvius his master. Palladio went to Rome, studied the remnants of Roman architecture, studied Vitruvius, and thereafter designed churches, villas, palaces, and other public buildings, all in Venice. When he published his great work on architecture, his principles of neoclassical design spread all over Europe and the New World and have had immeasurable impact over the last 500 years. Thomas Jefferson called Palladios book his bible. You can see the influence of classical architecture everywhere in this country (the White House, the Capitol, Thomas Jeffersons Monticello and his design for UVA), and indeed throughout the whole world. In fact, one of the worlds most famous drawings, Vitruvian Man (on the facing page), was created by Leonardo da Vinci to replace Vitruvius original lost drawing. The drawing illustrates the insight of the Greeks that the proportions that are most pleasing to the human eye are based on natures greatest work of art, the human body.
Is there a pattern here? I think so. God is the creative mind; the Greeks studied His book of nature, and we study the Greeks. In the providence of God, that appears to be His plan. Whether we realize it or not, when we study the Greeks, we are, if only indirectly, studying the mind of God.
A link to the article
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oh oops! Thank you!
Fascinating concept. Thanks for posting.
Imagine what the world would be like if had never lost any books, papers, drawings, ancestral documents, census data, church records, etc.
There would be dusty piles of books and documents everywhere.
I have a love hate relationship with articles like this.
I think it’s awesome to teach people about classical architecture, and teach them to love it. I love it too. How can you not?!
But the idea that modern architecture (I assume they would include people like Philip Johnson in this category) is soulless and “ignores truth” is utter rubbish. I don’t think encouraging people to hate whatever seems to be modern is a service to civilization, at all.
The ghost of Chesterton (”all downhill one the dirty Impressionists boogeymen came on the scene”) and Francis (”I hate everything”) Schaeffer loom large in Christendom.
of course I’m not including communisty-cinder-block-functional buildings in my definition of “modern”. I think we would all agree that that is soulless, and not architecture. But it’s also not modern....it’s just....communist.
I’ve read many of the pagan classics over the last 60 years. Homer, Tacitus, Virgil, Herodotus and several more. Great reads! Read them again not long ago.
I believe many of the early Christian authors were well versed in these books.
Perhaps the author should be telling non-Christians to read the Bible.
The author is laments the weak state in the life of the mind of all too many modern Christians who float Bible verses like platitudes
If the author would read the bible, she’d know, “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”
Paul the apostle reminds us (as he did to the Greeks at Philippi) :
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirableif anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. (Philippians 4)
And to the philosophers of Athens, Paul said the following, as recorded in Acts chapter 17:
Men of Athens! ...The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth...though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and have our being.As some of your own poets have said, We are his offspring.
Paul the Apostle beautifully quoted Ancient Greek poets in his evangelism, to point to Christ!
We do not need college degrees to enrich our faith and our understanding of the immediate world of the Bible and the apostles. We can do so by engaging with Ancient Greece and the classics, and marvel at how God was at work in the ancient Greco-Roman world even before the message of Christ reached their peoples years.
Better to engage with the classics than to leave church on Sunday only to then watch reality TV or Netflix all day. Mind-numbing entertainment is not exactly pure, Noble, right, or lovely.
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