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.

picture of a corinthian capital
Corinthian capital

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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 capitals on U.S. Post Office in New York
Corinthian columns on a neo-classical style building (U.S. Post Office on Broadway) in New York City

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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.

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

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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.

Picture explaining the structure of a corinthian column
Structure of a Corinthian column

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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.

Picture of the Choragic monument of Lysicrates in Sidney
A reproduction of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Sidney

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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 of the Temple of Concordia
A Corinthian capital figure of a column from the interior decoration of the cell of the temple of Concordia

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