Michelangelo, the Architect: other works in Florence and Rome

Before being involved in the monumental works of St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1540’s, Michelangelo’s architectural commissions started back in the 1510’s, precisely in his hometown Florence. In 1513 Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to reconstruct the façade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. Michelangelo had a wooden model for this project constructed, but the commission had to be cancelled, and the church’s façade remains to this day unfinished showing its rough brick cover.

Model for the façade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, wood, designed by Michelangelo, 1517, 210 x 280 cm (Casa Buonarroti, Florence). In 1516, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Leo X to design and construct a façade for the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. During three years, he worked in the designs of the façade, which he intended, in his own words, “to be a mirror of the architecture and the sculpture of all Italy.” However, in March 1520 the contract for the construction of the façade was annulled despite Michelangelo’s indignation. This wooden model built to Michelangelo’s specifications, gives us a glimpse to what the final façade would have looked like. To this day, the Basilica remains without a finished façade.

Later, in 1520 the Medici inquired Michelangelo with another grand commission to build a family funerary chapel in the same Basilica of San Lorenzo, in which Michelangelo worked between 1520 and 1534. We have seen in other essay that this chapel houses the large tombs of two of the younger members of the Medici family, Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and Lorenzo, his nephew. In 1534, Michelangelo fled to Rome, leaving assistants to complete this chapel. This chapel, known as Sagrestia Nuova (‘New Sacristy’) was built as a pendant to Brunelleschi’s Sagrestia Vecchia (‘Old Sacristy’). As pendants, both sacristies share a cubical space floor plan surmounted by a dome and built in gray pietra serena and whitewashed walls. The permanent departure of Michelangelo for Rome in 1534 prevented him from finishing it, though he oversaw the construction of this chapel from afar. Michelangelo’s intention was also to include a frescoed ceiling, but this was never done. The Medici Chapel is a space with a square floor plan, its apse is also square. The chapel appears much taller than what it really is, and Michelangelo made a powerful use of architectural forms with mostly decorative purposes. Here, as well as in other of his architectural works, Michelangelo used architecture almost as if it were sculpture: architectural elements acquire an almost expressive character as opposed to merely functional. When looking from floor to ceiling, the visitor is faced with the idea of an earthly realm passing through an intermediary level and then a top area including circles and semicircles, the perfect shapes representing the heavenly realm. In fact, the subject of the never started fresco was to include a scene with the resurrection.

Different views of the Medici Chapel (including the vaulted ceiling), projected by Michelangelo, 1526-1533 (Sagrestia Nuova, Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence). The picture shows: 1) top left: the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici at left and the Virgin and Child between Saints Cosmas and Damian; 2) top right: the tomb of Lorenzo de’ Medici at left and the altar of the chapel; 3) bottom: the domed ceiling with its curved and circles designs in Pietra Serena.

Between 1523 and 1559, Michelangelo worked on the Laurentian Library under orders of a Medici Pope, Clement VII. The Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) contains more than 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 early printed books belonging to the private library of the Medici family and was built in the cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The purpose of the library was to emphasize that the Medici were no longer merchants but members of an intelligent and ecclesiastical society. Construction of the Library began in 1525, but when Michelangelo left Florence in 1534, only the walls of the reading room were complete. Once in Rome, Michelangelo sent his designs and drawings to Florence that architects Tribolo, Vasari and Ammannati ultimately commissioned to be executed in 1558, though the library was not opened until 1571 and even the vestibule remained incomplete until 1904. For this project, Michelangelo designed both the interior of the library and its vestibule. It was left to assistants to interpret his plans and carry out construction. The small vestibule (including the staircase) that leads to the Library is a strange construction, with an architectural design that included pilasters and cornices embedded in the wall, as if excavated, which Michelangelo most probably imitated from an existing funerary building in Rome. This vestibule alone represents an apotheosis of mannerism, conceived as a sublimation of form within an artificial but highly disciplined system.

Because the Library was housed in an already existing quattrocento cloister, Michelangelo worked building new walls on the original ones, for this reason recessing the columns into the walls was a structural necessity. This led to a unique style and pattern that Michelangelo took advantage of. For the vestibule, Michelangelo included some tapering windows framed in pietra serena, surmounted by either triangular or segmental pediments*, and separated by paired columns set into the wall. At the bottom of the walls are brackets which were usually employed as an ornamental support, but that Michelangelo here used with absolutely no structural purpose, their appearance though is powerful as they’re oversized. The plasters that frame the blind windows taper downward, as opposed to upward in the Classical tradition, with fluting only present at the bottom and not all along their length as was also traditional. The columns appear almost freestanding but are placed in niches as if they were sculptures giving the sense that they are decorative when in fact they are actually structural. This vestibule (or foyer*) of the Laurentian Library was one of the earliest buildings to utilize Classical forms in a plastic and expressive manner. This dynamic quality was later epitomized in Michelangelo’s centrally planned St Peter’s, with its giant Corinthian order, its rippling cornice and its pointed dome.

Vestibule, designed by Michelangelo, 1558 (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence). The library’s vestibule represents the most elaborate part of the construction. It is a squared space whose high walls are divided into three levels, each of which is flanked on the main story by pillars which are deep-set in the wall. The richly gilded and ornamented wooden ceiling replaces a vault. The vestibule’s function was to house the stairs bridging the level between the upper cloister and the library’s reading room.

The staircase leads up to the reading room and takes up half of the floor of the vestibule. With its triple ramp of curvilinear steps in the central aisle and rectangular in the sides, proposes a wealth and complexity of movements that in the future will be explored in depth by Baroque architects. The three lowest steps of the central flight are wider and higher than the others, almost like concentric oval slabs. The staircase has been variously described as if it appears to spill out of the library like a flow of lava, and into the vestibule.

Picture above and below: Staircase in the Vestibule, designed by Michelangelo, 1558 (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence). Though Michelangelo designed these famous stairs, it was the architect Bartolomeo Ammanati who built it following the maestro’s original plans. Enormous volutes, used purely as ornamentation, and double columns erected in the recesses, are both elements far removed from the classical tastes of the Renaissance. This staircase, with its interplay of oval forms, is considered as one of the most refined examples of Michelangelo’s work in architecture. The bowed central steps seem to flow downwards in forceful contrasts to the flights of straight steps that flank them. Here, Michelangelo conceived three flights of stairs meeting and fusing into one at a central landing. The central flight includes a series of ‘overlapping oval boxes’ as Michelangelo himself wrote, flanked by side ‘wings’ (used by servants when the central flight was being ceremonially used). When building the stairs, Bartolomeo Ammanati diverged slightly from Michelangelo’s original intentions, but retain the flowing, dream-like invention, as Michelangelo himself said that the stair’s design came to him in a dream. The vestibule, including the stairs, are seen as the epitome of Michelangelo’s Mannerist architectural style.

After the drama of the vestibule, Michelangelo gives us a sense of relief and calm entering the space of the library. The reading room includes two blocks of seats separated by a center aisle with the backs of each serving as desks for the benches behind them, the space covered by a coffered ceiling. The desks are lit by the evenly spaced windows along the wall. The windows are framed by pilasters, forming a system of bays which articulate the layout of the ceiling and floor. The blind frames at the top of the walls above the large windows create a kind of false clerestory but at the same time creating a real sense of perspective and rhythm when the visitor enters the Library and sees its full extension from the entrance door.

Interior view (reading room) of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, designed by Michelangelo, 1525 (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence). When Cardinal Giulio de’Medici was elected Pope as Clement VII in November 1523, he commissioned Michelangelo to design at the Cloister of San Lorenzo a public library, the Biblioteca Laurenziana, to house the library of his uncle Lorenzo the Magnificent. The result was one of the most beautiful and coherent interior spaces known in Western architecture (the reading room) and a vestibule (see pictures before) that continues to inspire artistic emulation. After various sites had been considered, it was decided to build the library above the west range of the canons’ cloister, with an entrance on the upper level. When Michelangelo departed for Rome in 1534, leaving the work unfinished, architects Niccolò Tribolo and Santi Buglioni finished the floor of the reading room (1549–1553), Bartolomeo Ammanati built the staircase (1559–1562) in consultation with Michelangelo, and Vasari supervised the completion of the desks and ceiling. The horizontality and deep perspective of the long reading room is unexpected after the verticality seen in the vestibule. At first sight the room looks more conventional than the vestibule. However, the disturbing aspect of the room is that it has no reasonable focal point or terminus. Pilasters, ceiling beams, and floor patterns produce a continuous cage of space in which the reading desks (also designed by Michelangelo) are enclosed, two to a bay, and the observer with them.

When Michelangelo finally arrived in Rome in 1534, the city was going through a period of important and grand building reforms. The Popes were then pleased to associate their names with the great roads that were built during each pontificate: the Via Julia, which follows the Tiber, from the time of July II; the Via Sistina, which connects the Esquiline and the Quirinal, from the time of Sixtus IV; the Vias Pia and Alexandrina, etc. The squares were urbanized with stairways and terraces, with that sense of magnificence that Rome always suggests. The most typical example is the complex with the municipal palace of Rome, on the Capitoline Hill, restored by Michelangelo on the occasion of the visit of Emperor Charles V. The existing design of this complex of the Piazza del Campidoglio and the surrounding palazzi was created by Michelangelo between 1536 and 1546 under a commission by Pope Paul III (from the Farnese family) who wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress Charles V Holy Roman Emperor during his visit in 1538.

View of the Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo, 1548 (Rome). Capitoline Hill was long regarded as the heart of the Roman Empire. With this celebrated urban ensemble, Michelangelo conquered the ancient Capitoline hill (Campidoglio in Italian), the depression between the ancient temple of Juno Moneta to the left (now occupied by the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, “St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven”) and that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. The maestro’s project was accepted but later modified in some places. The central Palazzo Senatorio was begun in 1546. Michelangelo is responsible for the outside staircase only, and in 1588 a new central bell tower was added as envisioned by Michelangelo. The Palazzo dei Conservatori (to the right) was completed in 1568 by Prospero Bocca Paduli and Tommaso Cavalieri. Later, Giacomo del Duca enlarged it and transformed the central window into a balcony. The Palazzo Nuovo (to the left), next to the Basilica of Ara Coeli, was built between 1644 and 1655, under Pope Innocent X. Michelangelo lived to supervise the building of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

The palace in the back of the square (the Palazzo Senatorio) is flanked by two parallel buildings with porticoes, which in turn frame both sides of the square. In the center was placed the great bronze ancient Roman equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which was placed before in front of the church of Saint John Lateran and remained there throughout the Middle Ages. The slope of the Capitoline hill was overcome with a ramp, with parapets on each side bearing Roman military trophies and at the top crowned with the two great ancient statues of Castor and Pollux. In this extraordinary urban complex, Michelangelo had the opportunity to demonstrate all his genius for scenographic architecture: the two side palaces (the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo) are slightly convergent to the centrally located Palazzo Senatorio so that the eye of the viewer takes in the entire complex in a single glance, and the pavement (also designed by Michelangelo in 1546) has a suggestive pattern of irregular rhombuses that give the impression that the statue of Marcus Aurelius (today replaced by a copy) is not on a flat surface, but on the convex cusp of a spherical cap.

Palazzo Senatorio (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, the Palazzo Senatorio (“Senatorial Palace”) was built atop the Tabularium, which housed the archives of ancient Rome. The building now is home to the Roman city hall, after having been converted into a residence by Giovanni Battista Piranesi for the Senator Abbondio Rezzonico in the 18th century (hence its name). Its double ramp of stairs was designed by Michelangelo, the fountain in front of the staircase features the river gods of the Tiber and the Nile as well as Dea Roma (Minerva), though originally, the niche at the center of the staircase was intended to house a large statue of Jupiter. The upper part of the façade was designed by Michelangelo with colossal Corinthian pilasters harmonizing with the two other lateral palazzos. Its bell-tower was designed by Martino Longhi the Elder and built between 1578 and 1582, the current façade was built by Giacomo della Porta and Girolamo Rainaldi. The bell tower, the central main door of the Palazzo Senatorio, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and the landing of the Cordonata are aligned in perfect axis to emphasize symmetry as the visitor approaches the square.
Palazzo dei Conservatori (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). From the point of view of architectural history the most important innovation made in this palace was the introduction of the so-called Giant Order*; that is, a pilaster or column which runs through two whole floors. This “Palace of the Conservators” was built in the Middle Ages for the local magistrates (known as “Conservatori of Rome”) on top of a sixth-century BC temple dedicated to Jupiter “Optimus Maximus”. Michelangelo’s renovation of the palace included the first use of a giant order using a range of Corinthian pilasters and subsidiary Ionic columns flanking the ground-floor loggia openings and the second-floor windows. The introduction of the Colossal pilasters set on large bases is to join the portico at the base with the upper story in an harmonious way. The palazzo’s façade was updated by Michelangelo in the 1530s and was later restored multiple times. In years past, the portico of the Palazzo dei Conservatori sheltered offices of various guilds, where disputes arising in the transaction of business were adjudicated, and until the 1470s Rome’s main market was held on and around the Campidoglio, while cattle was still being taxed and sold in the ancient forum located just behind it. The Palazzo was not completed until the late 17th century, almost 100 years after Michelangelo’s death, and its design was somewhat modified by Giacomo della Porta.
Palazzo Nuovo (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). To close off the piazza’s symmetry and cover up the protruding tower of the Ara Coeli Basilica, the Palazzo Nuovo (“New Palace”), was built in 1603 and finished by 1654. Its façade serves as pendant to that of Palazzo dei Conservatori (see picture above). It is in fact. a duplicate of the Palazzo dei Conservatory, made using Michelangelo’s blueprint when he redesigned this last a century before. Here we see again how the façade is embraced by the colossal Corinthian order, within which a small Ionic order seems imprisoned in the lower portico and framing the windows on the upper floor.

For the overall design of the Piazza del Campidoglio, Michelangelo reversed the classical orientation of the constructions on the Capitoline Hill. This was meant as a symbolic gesture: it turned Rome’s civic center to face away from the Roman Forum and instead in the direction of Papal Rome and hence the Christian church represented by St. Peter’s Basilica, thus turning the attention to the new developing section of the city rather than to the ancient ruins of the past. By the time of Michelangelo’s death, the works on the Piazza del Camidoglio were barely started; in fact, the Cordonata Capitolina was not completed when Emperor Charles arrived in Rome. The Campidoglio was only finished until the 17th century, except for the paving design, which was to be completed in the 20th century (in 1940). The sequence of elements of the Piazza del Campidoglio (Cordonata, piazza and a central palazzo) were the point of reference to the so called “cult of the axis” that heavily influenced Italian garden and urban design, and reached its apotheosis in France.

Cordonata Capitolina (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). Next to the older and much steeper stairs leading to the Basilica of the Ara Coeli, Michelangelo projected a monumental wide-ramped stair, known as the cordonata. It gradually ascends the hill to reach the Piazza del Campidoglio at the top. This ramp was built wide enough because it was intended for horse riders (and carriages) to ascend the hill without dismounting. The ramp’s railings are topped by the statues of two fonts with Egyptian lions in black basalt at their base and the marble renditions of Castor and Pollux at their top flanking the entry to the Piazza.

The Piazza includes three remodeled palazzi placed in a harmonious trapezoidal space, they are approached by a ramped staircase called the Cordonata* Capitolina intended to lead visitors up toward the top of the hill and into the piazza itself. The paving design represents an interlaced 12-pointed star as a subtle reference to the constellations and was executed until 1940 under orders by Benito Mussolini following Michelangelo’s original design. This paving pattern directs the visitor’s eyes to the base of the central statue, the equestrian monument to the emperor Marcus Aurelius which is now replaced by a faithful copy. This sculpture was chosen to be placed here as it was thought then to depict Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor. This statue provides a central element and a focus while the three buildings define the space. Michelangelo also restored the medieval Palazzo del Senatore giving it a central campanile (to emphasize centrality and symmetry), a renovated façade, and a grand divided external staircase. He also designed a new façade for the colonnaded Palazzo dei Conservatori and projected an identical structure as a mirror complement, the Palazzo Nuovo, opposite the Palazzo dei Conservatori at the other side of the piazza. The construction of the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo was carried out after Michelangelo’s death under the supervision of Tommaso Cavalieri. The Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo are now home of the Capitoline Museums. A balustrade runs at the entrance side of the Piazza decorated with sculptures placed atop giant pilasters, the two massive ancient statues of Castor and Pollux were originally placed here to decorate the railings at the top of the Cordonata but these were moved, replaced by others, and are now located in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale.

View of the pavement design of the Campidoglio (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). Michelangelo placed the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on a pedestal located right in the center of the Capitoline hill. For his design of the pavement, as emblem of the Imperial power of Rome, the image of this Caesar rises from the center of the sun, whose 12 rays branch out into a linear pattern of multiple dimensions: by means of intersecting lines six times, 12 concentric fields are obtained. This all have a symbolic meaning: the 12-pointed sun upon which the Emperor rides represent the planets (which in Michelangelo’s time included sun and moon), they in turn passed through the 12 mansions of the Zodiac (the fields obtained by the line intersections). As an assiduous reader of the Divine Comedy, Michelangelo may have developed these ideas, also familiar to other scholars of the time. The whole design fits into an ellipse which represents the earthly correspondence to the divine sphere.
View of the balustrade (Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome). The north side of the Piazza is framed by a tall balustrade which frames the front of the square to the visitors as they approach it via the Cordonata, and at the same time acts as a dividing line between the ceremonial space represented by the Piazza and the city below.

In 1530, a member of the powerful Farnese family, and who later became Pope Paul III, ordered the construction of the Farnese Palace, the most characteristic palace of the 16th century in Rome. The general distribution of this Palazzo includes a colossal stone cube with three floors separated by classical architraves and a square courtyard inside. This palace was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who worked on it until his death in 1546, and reminds us of traditional Florentine quattrocento palaces. We will go back to it in another essay, but for now it is of importance to us because Michelangelo was involved in some areas of the building. While the ground floor and the first floor were the work of da Sangallo, the second floor (the upper one), on the other hand, was built by Michelangelo between 1546 and 1548. The Farnese palace’s cornice, which throws a deep shadow on the top of the façade and is decorated with lily flowers, the emblem of the Farnese coat of arms, was also projected by Michelangelo as well as some redesigns for the interior courtyard. Additionally, back in 1541, Michelangelo had revised the design of the central window, adding an architrave to give a central focus to the façade, above which is the then largest papal stemma*, or coat-of-arms with a papal tiara, in Rome. In this way, when Pope Paul III appeared on this balcony, the entire facade became like a theatrical setting for his person. On the garden side of the palace, facing the Tiber River, Michelangelo proposed the innovative design of a bridge which, if completed, would have linked the palace with the gardens of the Vigna Farnese on the opposite bank, that later became incorporated into the adjacent villa which the Farnese purchased in 1584 and renamed the Villa Farnesina.

Façade of the Palazzo Farnese, built between 1517-1550 (Piazza Farnese, Rome). Originally projected and built by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, at his death in 1546 the bulk of the unfinished work fell to Michelangelo. This palace was commissioned by then Cardinal Alessandro Farnese to da Sangallo. When he was elected Pope, Alessandro announced a contest for the cornice design, which Michelangelo won; later, he was left to finish the building. Michelangelo completely changed the aesthetic character of the building by adding an impressive cornice decorated with the emblem of the Farnese family (lilies, see picture below) and a superstructure to the uppermost floor, he also emphasized the center of the middle floor with a grand window and balcony, surmounted by the family coat of arms (see picture below). The two smaller crests on either side are a later addition.
A detail of the Palazzo Farnese‘s cornice designed by Michelangelo, with the emblem of the Farnese family: the Lily flower (Piazza Farnese, Rome).
The central (ceremonial) window and balcony on the center of the second floor of the Palazzo Farnese, crowned by the giant coat of arms of the Farnese family (with its family emblem, Lilies), designed by Michelangelo (Piazza Farnese, Rome).
View of the inner courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese, 1517-1550 (Rome). The Palazzo Farnese is considered as the most majestic and influential of all Roman Renaissance palaces, the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo who completed the building after the death of Antonio in 1546. Antonio’s courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese followed ancient conventions (a grand reproduction of the superimposed orders of the Colosseum: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian from ground to top floors respectively), but Michelangelo redesigned the third floor to create a different effect. He built Antonio’s second, Ionic floor with only minor changes. In the third level, Michelangelo abandoned engaged-to-wall columns, and substituted them with pilasters resting on tall bases. Each pilaster is flanked by half-pilasters, and these clustered of pilasters introduce a new organic richness to the static architectural elements designed by Antonio.

Other important architectural works of Michelangelo in Rome involved the transformation (1563-1564) of the vaulted interior of the ancient Roman baths of Diocletian to accommodate the interior of the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, and the Porta Pia (1561-1565), Michelangelo’s last architectural work before his death.

Interior view of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (“St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs”) (Rome). This church was built inside the ruined frigidarium* of the large ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian. The actual building was constructed in the 16th century following an original design by Michelangelo, who worked on it from 1563 to 1564 and adapted a section of the remaining structure of the baths to enclose a church. When modifying the interior spaces of the ancient baths, Michelangelo designed a sequence of architectural spaces developed from a Greek cross, with a dominant transept (seeing in the picture), with cubical chapels at each end, and the effect of a transverse nave to follow the blue print of the ancient structure. The church has no true façade as its simple entrance door is set within one of the apses of the ancient baths. The monumental groin vaulting and the great rose-granite columns that supported it are part of the original ancient Roman building. Michelangelo followed the floor plan disposition of the existing ruins and simply walled off the transepts from the rooms beyond, built a long barrel-vaulted choir behind the altar, whitewashed the vault and tiled the roof. The present opulent interior is the result of Luigi Vanvitelli in the 18th century, which obscures Michelangelo’s intentions of keeping the aspect of the Roman structure and the architectural interventions at a minimum.
Porta Pia, designed by Michelangelo, begun 1561-1564 (Rome). When observing the general design (see for example the crenellated bastions) of the Porta Pia, is evident that here Michelangelo was primarily a sculptor than an architect. The central section, though, was built until the 19th century. During the last ten years of his life, Michelangelo mainly drew plans for new buildings in Rome. He planned for Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) new gates for the city, of which only the Porta Pia was built. The purpose of this monumental gate was to finish the vista from the Quirinal to the Aurelian walls down Pius IV’s new street the Strada Pia, which was then lined with villas and gardens. In this gate, Michelangelo combined elements of Medieval and Renaissance traditions with ideas derived from garden and festival architecture, as well as his own inventions. The crenellations, remnants of rustication and the Doric order are used as metaphors for strength, while the broken pediments*, swags, masks, displaced fragments of the architectural orders, overlapping planes and juxtaposed façades and profiles are all fantasy created by Michelangelo. This was Michelangelo’s last architectural work, he died shortly before this gate was completed.


Broken pediment: A type of pediment open or broken at the apex, base or both, its opened gap is often filled with an urn, cartouche, or other ornament.

Coat of arms: Also known as Stemma. A heraldic visual design. The principal part of a system of hereditary symbols dating back to early medieval Europe, used primarily to establish identity in battle. Arms evolved to denote family descent, adoption, alliance, property ownership, and, eventually, profession.

Foyer: An anteroom or lobby especially of a theater, an entrance hallway, a vestibule.

Frigidarium: The large cold pool (or area) of the ancient Roman baths. Their purpose (to provide cold water) was to close the pores of the skin that were opened while taking baths in the areas of the caldarium and the tepidarium, which used hot water to open the pores. The frigidarium was usually located on the northern side of a Roman bath. The largest examples of frigidarium were located in Rome: that of the Baths of Caracalla and that of the Baths of Diocletian.

Giant order: (Also known as colossal order). An order in architecture whose columns or pilasters span two (or more) storeys. At the same time, smaller orders may feature in arcades or window and door framings within the storeys that are embraced by the giant order. The giant order as such was unknown in antiquity.

Segmental pediment: A type of pediment where the normal angular slopes of the cornice are replaced by one in the form of a segment of a circle, in the manner of a depressed arch. Both traditional and segmental pediments have “broken” and “open” forms. 

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