The Corinthian Order

The Corinthian Style developed in Ancient Greece and is classified as one of the Classical Orders of Architecture. It is characterized by an ornate capital with acanthus leaves.

Picture of a Corinthian capital with lots of ornate flourishes shaped like leaves.
Corinthian Orders, Chiswick House, London

Image source: by orangeaurochs

Corinthian Order

To ensure buildings echoed a cohesive sense of style, Greeks created three orders of architecture, or groups of design elements meant to go together on a building’s exterior decoration. All orders included specific kinds of columns, capitals, and decorations. The three Greek architectural orders were Doric, which was the simplest; Ionic, which was a bit more decorative; and the Greek Corinthian order.

Picture of Corinthian columns on a Neo-classical style building in London.
Corinthian columns on a neo-classical style building- Her Majesty’s Theatre – Haymarket, London

Image  source: by ell brown

The human body inspired the proportions of the orders. Further, the Corinthian Order is the most ornate of the all the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. As it is for other classic styles, the kind of building can request modifications to the canon of the style itself.

The Pantheon (IX) ceiling shown from the bottom up. There are two arches depicted and columns that sit below them.
Corinthian order capitol – Pillars and columns holding the roof of the portico of the Pantheon in Rome.

Image source: by isawnyu

Temple of Vesta, in Rome. The photo has the temple in the center as 8 of the columns hold up the circular roof. There is a gravel bath leading up the the temple on the bottom left of the screen. A black metal fence surrounds the temple, blue skies occupy the background and green bushes surround the structure.
Temple of Vesta, Rome. It has 20 exterior Corinthian columns standing on a 360 degree

Image source: by Andy Hay

Corinthian Order Style’s Characteristics

The most important features of the Corinthian Order are:

  • The hanging capital, that is carved with two staggered rows of stylized acanthus leaves and four scrolls.
  • The shaft has twenty-four sharp-edged flutes, and a column, which is ten diameters high. In its proportions, the Corinthian column is comparable to the Ionic column, although it is more slender, and stands apart by its distinctive carved capital.
  • The abacus upon the capital has concave sides that conform to the corners of the capital, and it may have a rosette in the middle of each side.
An illustration of the Five Architectural Orders engraved for the Encyclopédie, vol. 18, showing the Tuscan and Doric orders (top row); two versions of the Ionic order (center row); Corinthian and Composite orders (bottom row).
An illustration of the Five Architectural Orders showing the Tuscan and Doric orders (top row); two versions of the Ionic order (center row); Corinthian and Composite orders (bottom row).

Image source:

This Order has always been related to Beauty. Taken as a whole, it was developed by the Romans as an expression of the grandest architectural showVitruvius described the Corinthian column as an “imitation of the slenderness of a maiden.” The oldest known building designed in this order is the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece.

A circular, stone monument sits on top of a square base.
the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.

Image source: by Old Fogey 1942

The Meaning of the Acanthus Leaves

In Christian architecture, with the Gallo-Roman capitals, and in sepulchral monuments, adopted the acanthus leaves to symbolize the Resurrection. This is evident in the Romanesque art because the capitals are in the choir of a church, where the relics of the saints to whom the Resurrection was, are in the Corinthian order. Often, these are adorned with a number symbolic of leaves or flower buds.

Drawing of a capital with ornate leaves and decorations. There is text on either side of the drawing as well.
A Corinthian capital figure of a column

Image source: by Rijksmuseum

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