Architectural History for studious beginners: Nîmes, the ‘Square House’
The series of articles titled ‘Architectural History for studious beginners’ is addressed to those who are interested in architectural monuments but are not architects.
In the city of Nîmes, southern France, is the ‘Square House’ (Maison Carrée). It was built during the reign of Augustus (4-7 AD) and is the best preserved ancient temple.
The ‘Square House’ is a typical Roman temple:
- It is raised on a podium.
- It is pseudoperipteral. Namely, it gives the impression that it is peripteral (with columns around it, creating a perimeter portico, the pteron). But then one observes that the columns along the sides are engaged in the peripheral walls of the naos or cella (the temple’s main space), so there is no real perimeter portico. The Greeks NEVER applied it.
- It has a monumental staircase that occupies the entire width of the façade.
- It is of Corinthian order. The Corinthian order was the Romans’ favourite because it was the most luxurious and decorated and was the most appropriate to express the greatness of Rome . On the contrary, the Greeks who invented it did not use it EVER in the buildings’ exterior, but only in the interior.
Nîmes, ‘Square House’. We can distinguish the staircase, adapted to Roman aesthetics, which covers the entire width of the entrance
The entrance of the ‘Square House’. The ceiling is made of coffered slabs, namely, slabs with coffers. The coffers are decorative recesses, but they also have a practical significance: they reduce the thickness of the slab and thus the ceiling becomes lighter
To see the temples of the Forum of Ancient Rome, click here
To see a neoclassical building inspired by the Roman temples (Parliament of Vienna ), click here
In the following video with the representation of Pompeii, it is clear how the Roman temples were and what their differences from the Greek ones are
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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