1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Doorway

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DOORWAY (corresponding to the Gr. πύλη, Lat. porta), in architecture, the entrance to a building, apartment or enclosure. The term is more generally applied to the framing of the opening in wood, stone or metal. The representations in painting, and existing examples, show that whilst the jambs of the doorway in Egyptian architecture were vertical, the outer side had almost the same batter as the walls of the temples. In the doorways of enclosures or screen walls there was no lintel, but a small projection inwards at the top, to hold the pivot of the door. In Greece the linings of the earliest doorways at Tiryns were in wood, and in order to lessen the bearing of the lintel the dressings or jambs (antepagmenta) sloped inwards, so that the width of the doorway opening was less at the top than at the bottom. In the entrance doorway of the tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae, 18 ft. in height, the width is about 6 in. less at the top than at the bottom. The lintel of the Greek doorway projected on either side beyond the dressings, constituting what are known as the shoulders or knees (projecturae), a characteristic feature which has been retained down to our time. The next step was to work a projecting moulding round the dressings and lintel forming the architrave. Examples with shoulders in stone exist in the Beulé doorway of the Acropolis at Athens, in the tomb of Theron, and in a temple at Agrigentum in Sicily; also in the temples of Hercules at Cora, and of Vesta at Trivoli, and with a peculiar pendant in all the Etruscan tombs. The most beautiful example of a Greek doorway is that under the north portico of the Erechtheum (420 b.c.). There is a slight diminution in the width at the top of the opening, and outside the ordinary architrave mouldings (which here and in all classic examples are derived from those of the architrave of an order) is a band with rosettes, which recall the early decorative features in Crete and Mycenae; the band being carried across the top of the lintel and surmounted by a cornice supported on each side by corbels (ancones).

In the Roman doorways, excepting those at Cora and Tivoli, there is, as a rule, no diminishing of the width, which is generally speaking half of the height. The dimensions of some of the Roman doorways are enormous; in the temple of the Sun at Palmyra the doorway is 15 ft. 6 in. wide and 33 ft. high; and in the temple of Jupiter at Baalbec, 20 ft. wide and 45 ft. high, the lintel is composed of three stones forming voussoirs the keystone measuring 7 ft. at the bottom, 8 ft. at the top, 10 ft. high and 7 ft. 6 in. deep.

All the doorways mentioned above have cornices, and in those at Palmyra and Baalbec richly carved friezes with side corbels. In the Pantheon there is a plain convex frieze, but the outer mouldings of the architrave and the bed-mould of the cornice are richly carved. In the Byzantine doorways at Sta Sophia, Constantinople, a bold convex moulding and a hollow take the place of the fasciae of the classic architrave.

So far we have only referred to square-headed doorways, but the side openings of the triumphal arches of Titus and Constantine are virtually doorways, and they have semicircular heads, the mouldings of which are the same as those of the square-headed examples. In Saxon doorways, which had semicircular heads, the outer mouldings projected more boldly than in classic examples, and were sometimes cut in a separate ring of stone like the hood mould of later date.

During the Romanesque period in all countries, the doorway becomes the chief characteristic feature, and consists of two or more orders, the term “order” in this case being applied to the concentric rings of voussoirs forming the door-head. In classic work the faces of these concentric rings were nearly always flush one with the other; in Romanesque work the upper one projected over the ring immediately below, and the employment of a different design in the carving of each ring produced a magnificent and imposing effect: in the Italian churches the decoration of the arch mould is frequently carried down the door jambs, and the same is found, but less often, in the English and French doorways; but as a rule each ring or order is carried by a nook shaft, those in England and France being plain, but in Italy and Sicily elaborately carved with spirals or other ornaments and sometimes inlaid with mosaic.

The deeply recessed Norman doorways in English work required a great thickness of wall, and this was sometimes obtained by an addition outside, as at Iffley, Adel, Kirkstall and other churches.

In France, during the Gothic period, the several orders were carved with figure sculpture, as also the door jambs; and the great recessing of these doorways brought them more into the categories of porches. In England much less importance was given to the Gothic doorways, and although they consisted of many orders, these were emphasized only by deep hollows and converse mouldings and always carried on angle or nook shafts. In the perpendicular period the pointed-arch doorway was often enclosed within a square head-moulding, the spandrel being enriched with foliage or quatrefoil tracery.

In the Mahommedan style the doorway itself is comparatively simple, except that the voussoirs of its lintel are joggled with a series of curves, and being of different coloured stones have a decorative effect. These doorways are placed in a rectangular recess roofed with the stalactite vault.

With the Renaissance architect, the doorway continued as the principal characteristic of the style; the actual door-frame was simply moulded, by enclosing it with pilasters or columns, isolated or semi-detached, raised on pedestals and carrying an entablature with pediment and other kind of super-doorway; and great importance was given to the feature. In the Italian cinquecento period, the panels of the side pilasters were enriched with the most elaborate carving, and this would seem to have been an ancient Roman method, to judge by portions of carved panels now in the museums of Rome. The doorways of Venice are remarkable in this respect. At Como the two side doorways of the cathedral, one of which is said to be by Bramante, are of great beauty, and the same rich decoration is found throughout Spain and France. In Germany and England the pattern book too often suggested designs of an extremely rococo character, and it was under the influence of Palladio, through Inigo Jones, that in England the architect returned to the simpler and purer Italian style.

(R. P. S.)