Towers of the Orders before Merton

Towers of the Orders before Merton

Image 1

The Colloseum, Rome, c. 1896. From the From the Photochrom Prints Collection at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Licence CC BY 2.0.

Classical architecture is a system of rules, describing elements which can be combined together in innumerable ways.  As a consequence, most classical buildings have a clear pedigree, sometimes stretching back to antiquity.  In this case, the chief precedent was one of the most famous buildings of antiquity: the Colloesum in Rome, which features circuits of superimposed Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pilasters running around its entire perimeter.

Image 2

Frontispiece of the Château d'Anet, c.1545–50. Photo by Hermann Wendler, 2010. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0.   

The idea of using superimposed orders to celebrate an entrance can be traced back to the the Château of Diane de Poitier at Anet in France, designed c. 1545-50 by the architect Philibert de l'Orme. When most of the chateau was demolished in the early nineteenth century, the frontispiece was moved by Alexandre Lenoir and reinstalled at his Musée des Monuments Français in Paris, a building now occupied by the École des Beaux-Arts.

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English examples followed quickly, including the Gate of Virtue (1565–67) in Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; Kirby Hall (1570-73) and Burghley House (1585) in Northamptonshire; and Stoneyhurst (c. 1592-5) in Lancashire.