Why do architects still use the classical orders? Why use forms
derived from ancient Greek temples when ancient Greek religion has
been dead for centuries and when the way of life they expressed is
extinct? And why decorate a contemporary courthouse with the bones,
eggs, darts, claws, and garlands that an ancient Greek would
recognize as the trappings of animal sacrifice?With these
provocative questions George Hersey begins his recovery of the
meaning of classical architecture. For the last four centuries, he
shows, philology and formalism have drained architecture of its
poetry. By analyzing this poetry - the tropes founded on the Greek
terms for ornamental detail - he reconstructs a classical theory
about the origin and meaning of the orders, one that links them to
ancient sacrificial ritual and myth.In doing so, Hersey
reinterprets key tales and taboos that were part of the cultural
memory of the ancient Greeks. His touchstone is Vitruvius, author
of the only surviving classical treatise on architecture, whose
stories about Dorus, Ion, and the Corinthian maiden, and about the
Caryaean women and Persian soldiers, describe the orders as records
or remembrances of sacrifice.Hersey finds revivals of this
consciousness in the Italian Renaissance and throws new light on
the works of the architectural theorists Francesco di Giorgio and
Ceasare Cesariano, and also on Raphael's Disputa, Michelangelo's
tomb of Julius 11 and Medici Chapel, and Hugues Sambin's handbook
on termini.George Hersey is Professor of Art History at Yale
University and the author of many books, including Architecture,
Poetry, and Number in the Royal Palace at Caserta (MIT Press
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