Searching for The Template in the Geometries of Sacred Architecture
The history of architecture is an awesome and incredible unfinished
story of human development, and reveals an endeavour which has moved human beings
for centuries to the achievement of some of its most extraordinary accomplishments.
It is a very rich arena in which to find a greater meaning and purpose for our
own lives today.
Many examples of sacred architecture can be considered to be an expression
of the opportunity and longing to design and build an ecology which is sympathetic
and ‘of kind’ to a greater template.
real source of design can come out of a much richer place than the personalised
ideas of any one designer, as is often the case today; and can originate from
the profound understandings of how nature works so exactly throughout every
living thing, and from the awesome and incredible ways we as human beings have
been profoundly designed.
For instance, the designers of the great gothic cathedrals, such as Chartres,
had a deep respect and reverence for the fundamental laws of nature which do
not change, and endeavoured to arrange their buildings in harmony with these
very important examples of natural order.
The Pythagorean belief, that "everything is arranged according to numbers"
became the framework for design and the basis of the Renaissance theories of
proportion of arithmetic, geometric and harmonic scales found in architecture
as well as in other forms of art.
The numbers which emerged from the 3 4 5 'Pythagorean' triangle provide beautiful
symmetries for natural forms, and became the inspiration for ground floor plans
in Renaissance architecture.
"What is God? He is length, width, height and depth". St.
Bernard of Clairvaux.
|Parts of the human form have the proportions of the Golden
Many examples of architecture have been designed according to the sacred proportions
of 16:10, or Ø, Phi. The Golden Mean or Section, which was seen to be
a divine and sacred ratio which governed all growth patterns.
The Fibonacci Series, named after the 13th century mathematician, further drew
attention to this fundamental growth pattern as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13,
21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 which is a simple additive progression (ie 2 + 3 =
5, 5 + 8 = 13) in which the proportional increase is always Ø, the Golden
Mean or Section, 10:16.
The Roman architect Vitruvius carried out extensive studies into sacred proportions
and came to the perception that the number 16 is sacred because 6 and 10 are
the foundation for all proportions of the human form. These numbers became the
template of proportions for many Roman temples. It has also been discovered
that the pentagram is the only symbol which has within its design this divine
proportion of growth 10:16 or Ø. Therefore the human form, being a pentagram,
was considered to be a significant symbol of growth, within the greater context.
The placing together of the square and the circle is a fundamental pattern
of many other architectural forms. The 21st century has largely become adrift
and cut off from the permanency of all that we live within and therefore much
of all that we have designed and created in the modern world appears to be alien
to the natural design of ourselves. We can search today in our own lives for
those frameworks upon which nature is designed so that we can build our own
foundations and frameworks in sympathy with what already is in place, and which
has already been put in place by a greater architect than ourselves.
By Trevor Muir
|The proportions of Santa Maria Novella, Florence designed
to the golden section
||The sacred numbers of 5 and 7 in the design of Chartres Cathedral
|Temple at Luxor