Sunday, January 5, 2020

Isaiah 42.1-9: The Servant Who Will Not Destroy

The Servant, the one who delights God's soul, works to support rather than destroy. The servant will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a wick that is only dimly burning.(Isaiah 42:1-9) The Servant might be compared to the tie rod found in Early Renaissance architecture. In architecture, the Renaissance appeared as a look back to Classical architecture - the buildings and styles of ancient Greece and Rome.

The vocabulary of Classical architecture is domes and arches, columns and pediments. The design for Florence, Italy's Pazzi Chapel employs a dome, arches, and columns. The arch and column pattern was also used in the cloisters of the Basilica di Santa Croce, the convent of San Marco, and the facade of the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital). Though the designs reach back to the past, the new combination and the date of construction made these buildings among the most modern of their day.
Above left, cloister of the Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. 
Above right, interior of the Pazzi Chapel, constructed 1442-1443. Florence, Italy. 
One of the realities of architecture is that it is bound by such forces as gravity and thrust. Designs can be drawn based only on aesthetics. Once stone was carved and stacked, however, the laws of physics cannot be ignored. The weight of the Roman (round) arches threatened to push the slender columns out which would lead to the collapse of the structure.

Rather than abandon the design (snap the reed...snuff the wick), the architect used a tie rod fastened on each arch's springing points. The rod gave additional support to the still-not-perfected use of Roman arches and barrel vaults. The weakness of the design was supported, nurtured, balanced by the strength of the rod. The bruised reed could be supported. The dimly glowing wick could be fanned to life. The tie rod gave the buildings a chance to stand. And so they have for more than 500 years.

See how this Early Renaissance accommodation finds its (fashionable) way through Florence and into painting in Art&Faith Matters on Facebook.

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