How Roman construction techniques influenced a classic design phenomenon.
exterior detail, Church of Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno, Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
What was I doing in Bulgaria? A lot of people asked me this. Well I was fortunate enough to have an ulterior motive, accompanying the Maestro for the debut of his orchestral piece Certitude and Joy played by the Sofia Philharmonic (and which was *ahem* dedicated to moi) but also what I was doing in Bulgaria, what I usually do, of course, looking for beautifully painted architecture.
So there we are at the famous Rila Monastery, built in the 19th century in the Bulgarian National Revival style, and I notice the brick stripes of the walls and arches are painted. Of course they are making an obvious reference to the Roman walls that are all over the country as this area was part of the Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire, and then of course the Ottoman Empire. Also prominently featured are the black and white stripes so common in Ottoman mosques.
|Byzantine-era opus listatum wall c. 1259, Boyana Church, Sophia, Bulgaria|
|Ottoman Mosque Behram Pasa Camii, Diyarbakir c. 1573 |
|wall of the former mosque Büyük camii |
Sofia, Bulgaria c. 1474
The "Opus Listatum" pattern is typical of late Roman walls, which were built with a core of concrete and faced with alternating "stripes" of brick and rock ("rock" sometimes being salvage from older buildings.) This was generally done to save on costs as bricks were becoming rather expensive.
This look became more deliberate and ornamental in Byzantine architecture, as seen in the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople constructed around 440 AD, and it then influenced the design of mosques and ablaq style masonry, and over the centuries worked its way back to Italy where alternating black and white striped stone walls graced churches and palaces.
|Contemporary interior by as seen in Elle Decor; Georgio Armani Haute Couture Fall 2009|
Currently a trend in fashion and a perennial design motif in contemporary interiors, black and white stripes seem to be everywhere in design magazines these days. And I am sure red and white stripes will have their day again soon!
Back again to Bulgaria, where Revival architects and designers in the 19th century made reference to two major influences in their culture in the form of Roman and Ottoman occupations of their country. I have to say I like both stripe patterns, I particularly like them used together, as they provided architectural and graphic support to the amazing colorful murals adorning the porch arcade.
|Having a Revelation at Rila Monastery. My scarf is pure coincidence. Or is it?|
Watch this space for future posts about Rila Monastery and its fabulous murals.
unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post by Lynne Rutter, Bulgaria June 2011 click on any image to view larger