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with any, even the slightest degree of restoration. But taking the more correct view of a church as a building erected for the glory of God and the use of Man (and which must therefore be kept in a proper state of repair), and finding it in such as state of dilapidation that the earlier and later parts - the authentic and the spurious - are alike decayed and all require renovation to render the edifice suitable to its purposes, I think we are then at liberty to exercise our best judgement upon the subject, and if the original parts are found to be ‘precious’and the late insertions to be ‘vile’, I think we should be quite right in giving perpetuity to the one, and in removing the other.” (63)

Scott’s statement formed the basis of his concept of ‘faithful restoration’, which was further developed by him in successive papers, but which clearly left space for interpretation. Two years later, on the occasion of the restoration of a church at Boston, he again specified that

“the object of every repair should be the faithful restoration of those features of the original building which yet remain, and their preservation from further injury ... and no alteration should be attempted which is not the renewal of some ancient feature which has been lost, or absolutely necessary for rendering the building suitable to the present wants of the parishioners; and this should be done in strict conformity with the character and intention of the building.” (64)

In this same church, however, in 1851, he inserted a new window, not based on any evidence, but simply copied from one in Carlisle Cathedral. Also in the case of St. Mary-on-the-Bridge, at Wakefield, “famous as the finest remaining example of a not uncommon mediaeval building type, though few can have matched its elaboration”, (65) he made a decision that he later much regretted. Having found some debris of destroyed decorations in the river wall, he prepared the project for the restoration, intended as ‘conservative’; he let himself, however, be persuaded by a stone carver to allow him to sell the original west elevation of the church - later erected as a boat house at Kettlethorpe, and have a replica made in its place. (66)

Proposals for Governmental Protection

In his answer to Petit, in 1841, Scott further stated that he was aware that the ‘well-meant’ ‘modern system of radical restoration’ was putting the authenticity of these historic buildings at greater risk

than it had been in the hands of any former ‘fanatics’ or ‘wardens’, and proposed the establishment of a sort of consultant authority to assist in this respect. Considering that

“anerroneousjudgementmightleadtounfortunate results, this is just one of those points on which the opinion of a kind of Antiquarian Commission might advantageously be taken.” (67) This could be a group of “two or three non-professional and disinterested parties, well known to understand the subject.” (68)

This proposal of an advisory organ, could be seen as a more modest counterpart to the French Commission created in 1837. There had been, however, already a previous attempt to organize a government body for the protection of ancient monuments following the model of the French system. In 1840, John Britton, the well-known English medievalist, had catalogued a number of interesting buildings in London, and, in 1841, had contacted Joseph Hume (1777-1855), a Member of Parliament, to have a Committee of Inquiry nominated at the House of Commons.

TheCommitteewassupposedtoconsistofarchitects, antiquarians, amateurs, and private gentlemen; it was to be supported by public funds, and to advise on the repair and preservation of national monuments, such as churches, castles, and private houses, “everything which illustrates history, whether with regard to historical facts, society, or manners”. (69) The Committee was formed, and collected evidence for a report which, however, was buried. In 1845, the matter was taken up again in order to create a museum of national antiquities, including a Commission for the conservation of national monuments. Although this initiative did have some support, Parliament did not take it seriously, and journalists shut their notebooks because they did not think this would interest general public. (70)

E.A. Freeman and the ‘Eclectic’Principles

In 1846, Edward Augustus Freeman (1823-93), author of the History of the Norman Conquest, published a book on the Principles of Church Restoration, in which he distinguished between three different approaches, ‘destructive’, ‘conservative’ and ‘Eclectic’.

a. The first of these, the ‘destructive’, was basically the practice of earlier centuries, when past forms of styles had not been taken into consideration in new additions or alterations.

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b.According to the ‘conservative’ system, the intention was to “reproduce in repairing a building the exact details of every piece of ancient work which presents itself at the time the reparation is taken in hand”. (71) As a result the church would be “in its new state a new facsimile”. (72)

c.As to the third approach, the ‘Eclectic’ this represented a mid way, where the building was evaluated on the basis of its distinctive qualities and its history, and repaired or remodelled accordingly in order to reach the best possible result.

In 1847, in the annual meeting of the Ecclesiological Society, this subject was brought into what Scott later described as a “very unhappy discussion” (73). As a result the Society gave a statement in favour of the ‘Eclectic’ method of restoration, which was also Freeman’s preference. Scott feared that although some of the remarks in the meeting had been intended “in a semi-jocose sense”, this sort of discussion could have very serious results, because many could take these notions in earnest, and the “jokes have thus become no laughing matter”. (74)

Figure 277. Exeter Cathedral with the reredos restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott

Consequently, in 1848 he prepared a paper that was read at the first annual meeting of the Architectural and Archaeological Society for the County of Buckinghamshire, and repeated the following year at the joint meeting of the Architectural Societies for the Archdeaconry of Northampton and the County of Bedford. In 1850 this paper was published with notes as A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of our Churches.

Scott’s Principles of ‘Faithful Restoration’

Scott’s aim was to try to do ‘some good’ making an appeal on behalf of “a more tender and conservative way of treating” ancient churches. (75) He conceived the development of Roman basilicas into Christian churches as a “chain, every link of which is necessary to its future uses”, whether in their earlier or later forms, in their “humbler or more glorious examples, as the one vast treasury of Christian art, wonderfully produced, and as wonderfully preserved for our use”. (76) “Every ancient church, however simple and rustic, must then be viewed as a portion of the material of Christian art, - as one stone set apart for the foundation of its revival.” (77) Like the French before him Scott saw this heritage as “a jewel not handed down for our use only, but given us in trust, that we may transmit it to generations having more knowledge and more skill to use it aright.” (78)

He saw very clearly the difference between mediaeval and modern architects. The earlier builders were earnestly pressing forward to reach an almost ‘superhuman zeal’ in order to create something better than ever had existed before. All changes were in a sense adopted “not in addition to, but to the exclusion of, its predecessors”. (79) It was through this development, he believed, that we have arrived both to the great richness and to the decay of Christian art. The position of presentday architects was totally different, because now it was not a case of originating a style, but of reawakening one;

“and it is absurd to argue that, because those who originated it did not scruple, during its progress, at destroying specimens of the earlier varieties, to make way for what they thought better, we are equally free to destroy their works to make way for our own. It is from these works that we learn all we know of Christian architecture, and shall the first-fruits of our discipleship be the destruction of the works of our masters, where they do not chance to agree with some ideal standard of our own?” (80)

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Figure 278 (left). Chapter House in Westminster Abbey before restoration

Figure 279 (right). Chapter House after restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1864-65

Out of his own experience, Scott could, however, say that it was not at all so easy to be ‘conservative’. “A restored church appears to lose all its truthfulness, and to become as little authentic, as an example of ancient art, as if it had been rebuilt on a new design.” (81) The advocates of the socalled ‘destructive’ method of restoration maintained that when dealing with a House of God, one had to do the very best that knowledge and funds would permit, without reference to historical or antiquarian connections. But Scott advocated that “’conservatism’ should be the great object - the very keynote of Restoration”. (82) It was, however, not so easy, as Scott confessed, to find the “right tone of feeling” nor to find any definite rules for the solution of these problems. (83) The great danger in restoration was “doing too much, and the great difficulty is to know where to stop.” (84)

Scott maintained that with a certain talent, one would be able to repair or to reconstruct the walls and roofs

“without losing their design, or even their identity. Even entire rebuilding, if necessary, may be effected conservatively, preserving the precise forms, and often much of the actual material and

details of the original; and it is often better effected by degrees, and without a fixed determination to carry it throughout, than if commenced all at once.” (85)

The general rule was to preserve all the various styles and irregularities that indicated the growth and the history of the building, and which also added to the interest of more modest churches as well as to their picturesque character. However, Scott pointed out that there were often exceptions to this rule and, on the basis of a critical evaluation, one had to establish whether the older or the newer parts should be given preference in the restoration. In any case, he insisted that “some vestige at the least of the oldest portions should be always preserved, as a proof of the early origin of the building”, (86) and the same of later parts, if these were of little interest, and the earlier could be restored “with absolute certainty”. Here, sound judgement was clearly needed, and he proposed as another rule that

“an authentic feature, though late and poor, is more worthy than an earlier though finer part conjecturally restored - a plain fact, than an ornamental conjecture. Above all, I would urge

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Figure 280. St. Mary-on-the-Bridge, Wakefield, where Scott allowed the original elevation to be removed and sold

that individual caprice should be wholly excluded from restorations. Let not the restorer give undue preference to the remains of any one age, to the prejudice of another, merely be cause the one is, and the other is not, his own favourite style.” (87)

Scott urged, in addition, a constant cooperation with the clergy as well as a strict control of the execution of the work in order to guarantee that the results really were to correspond to what had been planned by the architect.

Scott was a professional and he was an architect who was sensitive to historic values, but he was also practical, and he qualified his advice. Though ‘conservatism’ represented ‘an approximate definition’ of what one should aim at in restoration, the solutions had to be arrived at case by case. After all, he considered every restorer ‘eclectic’ whether he chose to be ‘conservative’or ‘destructive’in his work. He often referred to Mr Petit and his conservative principles, and he also pointed out that even Petit approved the rebuilding of the north-west tower of Canterbury Cathedral, because it was needed and justifiable in this specific case:

“That the Metropolitan Church of England”, wrote Petit, “should have an irregular imperfect front, was justly deemed objectionable, and in this case there was no fear of error, the part already before the architect served as a model for that which was to be undertaken”. (88)

What ‘faithful restoration’ or ‘conservative restoration’ meant to Scott, was based on respect for the original design, not for the original material nor for the form achieved through history. Good

documentation and archaeological evidence justified restoration, that is rebuilding of what had been lost or damaged - and additional evidence could be looked for in the region. Here his approach more or less coincided with the principles that were developing in France at the same time. Viollet-le-Duc and his work were well known in England, and in 1854, already an honorary member of the RIBA, he was offered the gold medal of the Institute.

17.3 John Ruskin

Although Scott was always proclaiming “conservatism,conservatismandagainconservatism”, Prof. Sidney Colvin saw no difference between his principles and those against which he claimed. (89) Colvin was not the only critic, and especially in the 1860s and 1870s there was a growing ‘antirestoration movement’, stimulated by John Ruskin’s (1819-1900) sharp eye and denunciation of any sort of restoration. In 1849, he exclaimed in the Seven Lamps of Architecture:

“Neither by the public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture. That which I have above insisted upon as the life of the whole, that spirit which is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, can never be recalled. Another spirit may be given by another time, and it is then a new building; but the spirit of the dead workman cannot be summoned up, and commanded to direct other hands, and other thoughts. And as for direct and simple copying, it is palpably impossible. What copying can there be of surfaces that have been worn half an inch down? The whole finish of the work was in the half inch that is gone; if you attempt to restore that finish, you do it conjecturally; if you copy what is left, granting fidelity to be possible, (and what care, or watchfulness, or cost can secure it,) how is the new work better than the old?

“There was yet in the old some life, some mysterious suggestion of what it had been, and of what it had lost; some sweetness in the gentle

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lines which rain and sun had wrought. There can be none in the brute hardness of the new carving. Look at the animals which I have given in Plate 14, as an instance of living work, and suppose the markings of the scales and hair once worn away, or the wrinkles of the brows, and who shall ever restore them? The first step to restoration (,I have seen it, and that again and again - seen it on the Baptistery of Pisa, seen it on the Casa d’Oro at Venice, seen it on the Cathedral of Lisieux,) is to dash the old work to pieces; the second is usually to put up the cheapest and basest imitation which can escape detection, but in all cases, however careful, and however laboured, an imitation still, a cold model of such parts as can be modelled, with conjectural supplements; and my experience has as yet furnished me with only one instance, that of the Palais de Justice at Rouen, in which even this the utmost degree of fidelity which is possible, has been attained, or even attempted.”

“Do not let us talk then of restoration. The thing is a Lie from beginning to end. You may make a model of a building as you may of a corpse, and your model may have the shell of the old walls within it as your cast might have the skeleton, with what advantage I neither see nor care: but the old building is destroyed, and that more totally and mercilessly than if it had sunk into a heap of dust, or melted into a mass of clay: more has been gleaned out of desolated Nineveh than ever will be our of rebuilt Milan.” (90)

Where Ruskin differed from Scott was his absolute defence of the material truth of historic architecture. It was the authentic monument and memorial of the past that he conceived as the nation’s heritage; there were but two “strong conquerors of the forgetfulness of men, Poetry and Architecture”, and in a sense the latter included the former. (91) Homer, though one of his favourite authors, was surrounded with darkness, while Pericles, his architecture and sculpture, could tell us more about ancient Greece than all her sweet singers or soldier historians. If indeed one wanted to learn anything from the past, or be remembered in the future, there were two essential duties

“respecting national architecture whose importance it is impossible to overrate: the first, to render the architecture of the day historical; and, the second, to preserve, as the most precious of inheritances, that of past ages”. (92)

It was a moral duty in the Christian society to build one’s dwellings

“with care, and patience, and fondness, and diligent completion, ... and build them to stand as long as human work at its strongest can be hoped to stand; recording to their children what they had been, and from what ... they had risen.” (93)

The basic factor in Ruskin’s conceptions and especially in his writings about art, was God. One of the essentials in art was beauty; the perception of beauty was a moral act. He was not the only one in his time to see these moral implications; there were others (e.g. Shelley and Wordsworth) (94), and he was well read in late eighteenth-century moral philosophers such as Adam Smith and his Theory of the Moral Sentiments (1759). The basic text, however, was the Bible that his mother taught him to know by heart in daily reading sessions and discussions on questions of conscience, free will, and responsibility. (95) The evangelical faith that he received from his parents lasted until he was about thirty; then followed two decades of gradual increase of doubts and a loss of faith until in his fifties he regained a personal interpretation of Christianity that he kept till the end. Ruskin’s concepts and aesthetic theories were based on studies of classical authors, such as Aristotle and Plato, as well as Bacon, Pope, Johnson, Wordsworth, Reynolds; he knew also Homer, Burke, Cellini, Leonardo, Schiller, Walter Scott, Winckelmann and Fuseli. (96) He had a special appreciation of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), with whom he shared an enthusiasm for the Middle Ages. Ruskin had also read at least the early publications of Pugin, for whom he seems to have had some respect, but possibly due to differences in their religious views he only accepted having received facts from Pugin’s writings. (97) In his youth, J.M.W. Turner (17751851) was his favourite painter; his major work, Modern Painters (1843-60), was originally intended as a defence of Turner who, according to him, had given him the colours, just as Byron had given him the verse. (98) Later, alongside Turner, he placed also Giotto and Tintoretto.

All through his life, Ruskin maintained a deep admiration and love for nature, where he found perfect beauty and the presence of God. In his youth he was much influenced by William Wordsworth (17701850), his love for the Lake District and description of humble rural cottages in the Guide Through The District Of The Lakes (1835) as if grown out of the native rock and “received into the bosom of the living principle of things” expressing the tranquil course of Nature, along which the inhabitants have been led for generations. (99) Ruskin had a special admiration

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for mountains, crystals and minerals, to which he dedicated a part of the fourth volume of Modern Painters (1856).

Ruskin’s powers of description were already evident in The Poetry of Architecture, first published under the nom-de-plum ‘Kata Phusin’ in 1837, two years after his second tour to the Continent, when still only eighteen. He had already some mastery in drawing and landscape painting, and dedicated much time to architecture, keeping a diary of his observations. His drawings were of a high quality, some pencil sketches achieving “an almost professional standard of touch and composition”. (100) In The Poetry of Architecture he described and compared the national characteristics of cottage and villa architecture in England,France,ItalyandSwitzerland,payingspecial attention to ‘age-value’ and “the unity of feeling, the basis of all grace, the essence of all beauty”. (101) Admiring how the fading beauty of English cottages worked on imagination, he regretted their destruction due to development.

Ruskin accorded great importance to teaching and lectured extensively all over the country between 1855 and 1870. He was the first Slade Professor at Oxford (1870-79) and again in 1883-84. Many of his publications have the self-confident tone of a teacher. He also wrote guide books for visitors; in a way The Stones of Venice (1851-53), a case study on the development of Gothic, is the most important of these. He wrote a small book for a visit of six Mornings in Florence and another one called The Bible of Amiens, an introduction to Amiens Cathedral, and the first volume of an intended series on the history of Christendom.

It is fascinating to follow Ruskin in his tours, and understand his meticulous concern for finding the truth of each artist through his art. Like Winckelmann before him, he considered it essential to distinguish the original from restoration. In Florence, he chooses Giotto as the main theme for visits to illustrate his artistic development. As a background, he first gives a brief but thorough historical survey to the topographical, social and religious situation. The visitor is then conducted (with ‘your Murrays’s Guide’) to Santa Croce to see St. Louis of Toulouse high up in a chapel, a key figure for the understanding of Giotto, painted in his most mature period. On the way, an explanation is also given on why Arnolfo da Gambio has not vaulted the church but built a simple wooden ceiling, and why there is no apse.

Ruskin liked to use extreme comparisons to clarify his intentions; he compares for example the crossing of the Cathedral (a visit of two minutes) with the so-called ‘Spanish Chapel’ in the cloister of Santa Maria Novella, in order to convince the reader of “the first law of noble building, that grandeur depends on proportion and design - not, except in a quite secondary degree, on magnitude”. (102) When doing his survey, Ruskin worked systematically to clarify the iconography of each figure, and the composition of the whole of the architectural space. He spent five weeks in the Spanish Chapel working on the scaffolding in order to observe at close quarters.

Giotto was, to him, the rediscoverer of colour; “Suddenly, Giotto threw aside all the glitter, and all the conventionalism; and declared that he saw the sky blue;, the tablecloth white, and angels, when he dreamed of them, rosy.” (103) He wanted to paint what really had happened. When it came to fire, it was less important whether the fire was ‘luminous or not’, than that it was ‘hot’; the colours of figures depended also on their position in relation to the fire! If these figures were overpainted or restored, the exact expression and tonality were seldom or never reproduced. However, though “of all destructive manias, that of restoration is the frightfulest and foolishest” (104) a restored painting may still be worth to look at.

“When, indeed, Mr Murray’s Guide tells you that a building has been ‘magnificently restored’, you may pass the building by in resigned despair; for that means that every bit of the old sculpture has been destroyed, and modern vulgar copies put up in its place. But a restored picture or fresco will often be, to you, more useful than a pure one; and in all probability - if an *im portant piece of art - it will have been spared in many places, cautiously completed in others, and still assert itself in a mysterious way - Leonardo’s Cenacolo does - though every phase of reproduction.” (105)

He further drew attention to a particular area:

“This is the only fresco near the ground in which Giotto’s work is untouched, at least, by the modern restorer. So felicitously safe it is, that you may learn from it at once and for ever, what good fresco painting is - how quiet - how delicately clear - how little coarsely or vulgarly attractive - how capable of the most tender light and shade, and of the most exquisite and enduring colour.” (106)

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Figure 281. Amiens Cathedral

Ruskin had worked so hard on the critical analysis and evaluation, that although he confessed having still much to learn, he felt “simply the only person who can at present tell you the real worth of any” of Giotto’s work; and he said this rather with sorrow than pride. (107)

The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Lets us return to The Seven Lamps of Architecture, where he developed his architectural theories; the book opens with the definition: “Architecture is the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man, for whatsoever uses, that the sight of them may contribute to his mental health, power, and pleasure.” (108) He distinguished between Architecture and Building. Building is seen as the actual construction according to the requirements of intended use;”Architecture concerns itself only with those characters of an edifice which are above and beyond its common use.” (109) This seems to bring Architecture conceptually rather near to what is considered ornamentation and sculpture, i.e. artistic treatment that adds to the aesthetic appreciation of the Building. Speaking of decay, he claimed that

“the whole finish of the work was in the half inch that is gone” (110), and that ‘restoration’ meant that “every bit of the old sculpture has been destroyed”! (111) Ruskin was the first to give such an emphasis on ornamentation in the context of the architectural whole. On the other hand, he understood that good architecture needed a good building, and although he liked to distinguish clearly between these two aspects, he saw them together, contributing to one whole. (112)

At Amiens, Ruskin considered important to find the right route to approach the Cathedral, although he himself had not quite decided which was the best. He recommended, in case the visitor had time, to walk down the main street “across the river, and quite out to the chalk hill”, from where one could “understand the real height and relation of tower and town”. (113) Coming back towards the Cathedral,he advised to go straight to the south transept.

“It is simple and severe at the bottom, and daintily traceried and pinnacled at the top, and yet seems all of a piece - though it isn’t - and everybody must like the taper and transparent fretwork of the fleche above, which seems to bend to the west wind, - though it doesn’t”. (114)

Entering it, Ruskin considered the most noble experience in any cathedral,

“the opposite rose being of exquisite fineness in tracery, and lovely in lustre; and the shafts of the transept aisles forming wonderful groups with those of the choir and nave; also, the apse shows its height better, as it opens to you when you advance from the transept into the mid-nave, than when it is seen at once from the west end of the nave ... and in this first quarter of an hour, seeing only what fancy bids you - but at least, as I said, the apse from mid-nave, and all the traverses of the building, from its centre. Then you will know, when you go outside again, what the architect was working for, and what his buttresses and traceries mean. For the outside of a French cathedral, except for its sculpture, is always to be thought of as the wrong side of the stuff, in which you find how the threads go that produce the inside of right side pattern.” (115)

The idea for the title of the Seven Lamps came to Ruskin from the words of his favourite Psalm 119:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path ... Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have

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Figure 282. Watercolour by John Ruskin showing houses around the Strasbourg Cathedral

inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes away, even unto the end.”(116)

TheLampswereconceivedasthesevenfundamental and cardinal laws to be observed and obeyed by any conscientious architect and builder. They were not intended as the only rules to follow, but in Ruskin’s opinion they were the important ones. Some of these aspects had already been developed by him earlier, in Modern Painters. In the first volume, in 1843, he discussed concepts related to ‘Truth’ in art, and in the second volume, in 1846, he concentrated on the theory of ‘Beauty’. Having written the Seven Lamps, his faith in God underwent a crisis, he started accepting other influences, giving more attention to man’s relationship to man. This also led him to study and discuss social and economic questions, which brought him many enemies,but which were later taken up by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. Ruskin contributed to a significant

change in the approach to the evaluation of historic buildings. So far attention had been concentrated on monumental and public buildings, especially churches; he introduced the values of domestic architecture.

The Concept of the Quality of Architecture

This keen interest and appreciation of simple forms of art was shown when Ruskin observed a bullfinch’s nest, an “intricate Gothic boss of extreme grace and quaintness”, which had apparently been made with much pleasure, and with ‘definitive purpose’ of obtaining an ornamental form. He concluded by drawing a lesson from the modesty of this little builder:

“if we are, indeed, the highest of the brute creation, we should, at least, possess as much unconscious art as the lower brutes; and build nests which shall be, for ourselves, entirely convenient; and may, perhaps, in the eyes of superior beings, appear more beautiful than to our own.” (118)

This sort of nest building could be seen in the architecture of the old houses of Strasbourg, which brought much pleasure to the peasant, “adapted, as it was,boldly and frankly to the size of his house and the grain of the larch logs of which he built it - infinitely more than the refined Italian enjoyed the floral luxuriance of his marble”. (119)

When Ruskin spoke about the sacrifice that he expected from the architect and the builder, he meant that each should give his best and sacrifice other pleasures for the sake of architecture. This did not mean that one should bring marble to every village; on the contrary,it was better to use locally available materials,buttoselectthebestqualityforeachspecific purpose so as to make a true and honest contribution toward an aesthetic enjoyment and durability of the building. Ruskin hated imitations, and he insisted that both building materials and working methods must be honestly what they appear to be;no fakes. The creator’s intention was essential; in the sacrifice what actually was done was less important than how and with what intention one did it. He did not accept timber painted to imitate stone, but he could accept painted architecture by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel because there it was clearly understood in the context. He fought against industrial methods of production, and promoted traditional workmanship because he feared that industrialization would alienate man from enjoying his work, and the result would thus remain empty and lifeless. One of the

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reasons for his rejecting restoration was the same; copies produced in a restoration lacked the life and the ‘sacrifice’ of the originals. (120)


Beauty was the essence of Ruskin’s life, and it resulted from an intrinsic harmony and repose. Perfect beauty was in God, and as a reflection of God it was found in nature and in art. He divided beauty into ‘typical’ and ‘vital’, the former consisting of forms and qualities of forms, such as curved lines, the latter concerned with expression, happiness and energy of life. (121) In architecture, he conceived forms to be beautiful so far as they derived from nature,because man was not able to produce beauty by himself. On the other hand, he also accepted that age in itself also contributed to beauty;the marks of age could be seen as such an essential element in an object, that it could only be considered ‘mature’ in its beauty when it had reached several centuries of age. Classical architecture,which in his opinion was not based on the imitation of nature, except in certain details such as the Corinthian capital, did not meet the requirements of beauty; and so Renaissance

Figure 283. The Cathedral and the Bell Tower of Giotto in Florence. Daguerrotype in Ruskin’s collection

Figure 284. Salisbury Cathedral

architecture or Tudor, an imitation of Classical, was rejected with few exceptions - such as Raphael and Michelangelo. (122) Gothic, instead, and especially Italian Gothic, to which he had been introduced through Prof. Robert Willis’publications, was entirely based on natural forms. He paid attention to the way sculpture and ornamentation had been conceived as an integral but subordinate part of the architectural whole, how detailing was balanced according to the distance from which it was to be seen, how the relief was reached for proper depth of shadow, and how variety was introduced through naturally coloured stone.

A perfect example of Gothic architecture in this sense was the Campanile of Giotto in Florence, which he compared with Salisbury Cathedral in England in his most eloquent prose in the “Lamp of Beauty”. One of the differences between Ruskin and many modern historians was that he actually visited the buildings that he described,studying them under different conditions, during the day, and in the moonlight, as well as measuring them, drawing them, and writing detailed descriptions. He could return to the same building several times, and his views could change while his mind was at work. At first the Campanile of Giotto had seemed strange and flat to him, but gradually he became accustomed to it and then full of admiration:

“The contrast is indeed strange, if it could be quickly felt, between the rising of those grey walls out of their quiet swarded space, like dark and barren rocks out of a green lake, with their rude, mouldering, rough-grained shafts, and triple lights, without tracery or other ornament than the martin’s nests in the height of them, and that bright, smooth, sunny surface of glowing jasper,

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Figure 285. Drawing by Ruskin of the northern porch of Amiens Cathedral before restoration

those spiral shafts and fairy traceries, so white, so faint, so crystalline, that their slight shapes are hardly traced in darkness on the pallor of the Eastern sky, that serene height of mountain alabaster, coloured like a morning cloud, and chased like a sea shell.” (123)

Historical Values

The “Lamp of Memory” in a certain way was the culmination of Ruskin’s thinking in terms of architecture, especially in relation to its national significance and its role in the history of society. If we want to learn anything from the past, he pointed out, and we have any pleasure in being remembered in the future, we need memory, we need something to which to attach our memories. With poetry, architecture was one of the ‘conquerors’ of time, and Ruskin insisted on our principal duties in its regard: first to create architecture of such quality that it could become historical, and secondly, “to preserve, as the most precious of inheritances, that of past ages.”(124) Ruskin divided architecture into five categories, devotional,memorial, civil, military, and domestic,

and it is interesting, that though giving due respect to the importance of public buildings, he dedicated more space to domestic architecture. Looking at countries which had given birth to some of the world’s greatest architecture,Italy and France, he emphasized that the interest of their ‘fairest cities’ did not depend so much of the richness of some isolated palaces, but “on the cherished and exquisite decoration of even the smallest tenements of their proud periods.” (125) In Venice, some of the best architecture could be found on the tiny side canals, and they were often small two or three-storey buildings; and in Florence he was horrified that a whole street near the Cathedral “very narrow &Italian”, was pulled down in the early 1840s. (126)

Emotional Values

Concerning emotional values, Ruskin saw a ‘good man’s house’as a personification of the owner, his life, his love, his distress, his memories; it was much more a memorial to him than any that could be erected in a church, and it was the duty of his children and their descendants to take care of it, protect it, and conserve it. He saw this also a task of Christianity; God is present in every household,and it would be a sacrilege to destroy His altar. Consequently, the house belongs to its first builder; it is not ours, though it also belongs to his descendants, and so it is our duty to protect it, to conserve it and to transmit it to those who come after us. We have no right to deprive future generations of any benefits, because one of the fundamental conditions of man is to rely on the past; the greater and farther the aims are placed the more we need selfdenial and modesty to accept that the results of our efforts should remain available to those who come after. Architecture with its relative permanence, will create continuity through various transitional events, linking different ages, and contributing to the nation’s identity. (127) One can hear echoes of Alberti, and of the French Revolution, which Ruskin had taken further; no longer was he speaking of single national monuments, but of national architectural inheritance, including domestic architecture and even historic towns.

Picturesque Values







a word

that often



in connection






been given to mean ‘universal decay’; this sort of picturesqueness Ruskin called ‘parasitical sublimity’. (128) To him picturesque meant a combination of beauty and the sublime, and it could be expressed in the different characteristics and intentions in art. For

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J. Jokilehto

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