ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Columns

Updated on January 22, 2010

A column in in architecture is a vertical support consisting of a base, an approximately cylindrical shaft, and a capital. The term "column" is loosely used in a general sense for any isolated support, such as a post (a slender support without capital or base) or a pier, which may have a rectangular shaft or a cluster of small shafts and may lack a capital.

The earliest columns were simply tree trunks. Later, in ancient civilizations columns came to be made of stone. In modem times columns are sometimes wooden copies of stone columns. The shaft of a column is usually composed of drums or cylinders superimposed on one another, although it may be in one solid piece. The unit of measurement of the height of a column is the diameter of the shaft at the base; thus, a column may be said to be 10 lower diameters high.

The chief purpose of a column is to support a roof beam, entablature, or arch. Most columns are free-standing; some, however, are engaged, that is, part of the circumference is embedded in a wall. Occasionally a column may stand alone as a monument, perhaps with a statue on its capital. Examples of monumental columns are the commemorative columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome and The Monument in London, recalling the great fire that swept the city in 1666.

Egyptian Columns

Most ancient Egyptian columns are often derived from plant forms. A common style has a shaft grooved to look like a bundle of stems of the lotus or papyrus plants. The shaft broadens slightly just above a disklike base, as do the stems of these plants above their roots. The shaft then narows slightly toward the top, ending just below the capital in horizontal moldings that look like cords binding several stems together. (The columns of the side aisles of the Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak keep the outline of the stem cluster but have abandoned the suggestion of individual stems in favor of a cylindrical shaft.) Some Egyptian capitals are shaped like a bud, bulging out above the cord and then tapering to hold a square stone block supporting the roof beam. Other capitals, suggesting a bell-shaped, open lotus, flare out to hold the block. Leaves are painted on the base of the shaft, and sepals and petals adorn the capital.

Greek Columns

Classical Greece developed three types of columns - Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian - that have influenced architecture ever since. A Doric column has no individual base; it rests on the stylobate (top step of the temple), which serves as a collective base for the shafts of all the columns. A Doric column is relatively short, only four diameters high in early temples, about five and a half diameters high in the Parthenon of the 5th century B.C. The Shaft tapers in a flat curve, called entasis, but is never wider than at the bottom. The height of the shaft is accented by fluting (vertical grooves). In Doric columns the flutes are relatively shallow and meet in an arris (ridge), and their number varies from temple to temple. (The columns of the Parthenon have 20 flutes.) The Doric capital consists of a necking, in which the flutes terminate, a cushion-like echinus that bulges beyond the top of the shaft, and an abacus, a square block to support the entablature.

The Ionic column has a base that is usually composed of a torus (convex-molding), a scotia (concave molding), and another torus. There are variations. The Ionic shaft is taller and more slender than the Doric, with 24 semicircular flutes separated by fillets (narrow bands). The Ionic capital is distinguished by two pairs of scrolls, on the front and the back, each joined by a graceful curve under a very thin abacus. As a result, the front view of the capital differs from the side view. Therefore, in order to give the capital at the corner of a temple a unified appearance with the capitals extending in either direction from the comer, Greek architects bent the corner scroll outward to an angle of 45 degrees.

The Corinthian column has a base and shaft similar to the Ionic. Its capital, however, is bell-shaped with two staggered rows of acanthus leaves and four small diagonal scrolls under the corners of the abacus.

Roman and Later

Rome inherited the Greek forms of columns and added to them the Tuscan, a plainer version of the Doric, and the Composite, whose capital combines Ionic scrolls and Corinthian leafage. The Romans also modified some other details of the older forms. For example they provided separate molded bases for the Doric column and converted the free-hand curve of its echinus into a quarter-round molding. Sometimes fluting was omitted, especially on columns made of colored marbles. According to the canon of mathematical proportions prescribed by the Roman architect Vitruvius in the 1st century B.C., the Tuscan column should be seven lower diameters in height, the Doric eight, the Ionic nine, and the Corinthian and Composite ten.

During the Middle Ages the classical orders were modified and mixed, with Byzantine, Moorish, and regional influences leading to a great variety of styles in columns. In the Renaissance such architectural theorists as Alberti, Palladio, and Vignola revived the classical orders of columns which persisted into the baroque period and the late 18th century. These forms continued to be used in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially for public buildings. See also capital; greek architecture.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kmcmichael profile image

      kmcmichael 

      7 years ago from Athens, Georgia

      Nice hub. I learned about Roman and Greek columns in art history and they are fascinating.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)