The Corinthian Order

The Corinthian style was developed in ancient Greece and classified as one of the Classical Orders of Architecture, it is characterized by an ornate capital with acanthus leaves.

Corinthian Orders, Chiswick House, London

Image source: by orangeaurochs

The Corinthian Order

To ensure buildings echoed a cohesive sense of style, Greeks created three orders of architecture, 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 most simple; Ionic, which was a bit more decorative; and the Greek Corinthian order.

Corinthian columns on a neo-classical style building- Her Majesty’s Theatre – Haymarket, London – The Phantom of the Opera-1896-97

Image  source: by ell brown

The proportions of the orders were formed on those of the human body. The Corinthian, along with the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitlals 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.

Corinthian order capitol-  The Pantheon (IX)- Pillars and columns holding the roof of the portico of the Pantheon in Rome.

Image source: by isawnyu

Temple of Vesta, Rome. It has 20 exterior Corinthian columns standing on a 360 degree, 5-stepped tufa podium.

Image source: by Andy Hay

Style Characteristics

The most important features of 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, while the column 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.
Est 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).

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This Order has always been related to Beauty. Taken as a whole, it was developed by the Romans into 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 line with this order is the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.

the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.

Image source: by Old Fogey 1942

The Meaning of the Acanthus Leaves

The acanthus leaves were also adopted in Christian architecture, in the Gallo-Roman capitals, and in the sepulchral monuments, to symbolize the Resurrection, evident in the Romanesque art because the Corinthian order was mainly used for capitals in the choir of a church, were kept the relics of the saints to whom the Resurrection was and is promised, often with a number symbolic of leaves or flower buds.

A Corinthian capital figure of a column

Image source: by Rijksmuseum

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