The Basilica at Ordona

The basilica at Ordona comes very close to the Vitruvian principles. It was build during the reign of Augustus, at the end of the 1st century B.C. or the beginning of the 1st century A.D. So the building time corresponds roughly with the supposed date of the 'De Architectura'.

The basilica is situated at the edge of the forum, and terraced into a slope from west to east. The outer measurements are 144 x 96 (roman) feet or 42,65 x 28,43 m. This gives a proportion of 3:2, which is almost similar to the Vitruvian basilica at Fanum.

Indeed, we can try to reconstruct the outer measurements of this basilica when we overlook the dimensions given by Vitruvius: inner length of the nave between the columns: 120 feet; thickness of the columns: 5 feet; width of the surrounding aisles: 20 feet. Together this makes an inner dimension of 170 feet. The only thing that is missing is the thickness of the surrounding walls. If we may assume a thickness of 5 feet (equals thickness of columns), the overall external length of Vitruvius' basilica can be calculated at 180 feet.

The same goes for the external width of his building: thickness of the wall: 5 feet; width of the surrounding aisle: 20 feet; thickness of the columns: 5 feet; inner width of the nave between the columns: 60 feet. Together we have an external width of 120 feet. Or a proportion of 3:2.

The internal disposition also comes close to Fanum. Both have 8 x 4 columns. At Ordona the length of the nave between the columns is 96 feet, the width 48 feet, or a proportion of 2:1. Fanum with its inner length of 120 and width of 60 has the same proportion.

It is interesting to note that, as in many early basilicas, at Ordona nave-length (96) plus nave-width (48) equals the overall length of the basilica (144). If we apply this same principle to Fanum we have an overall length of nave-length (120) plus nave-width (60) wich equals 180 feet. Given the internal length of 170 feet we must assume a wall thickness of 5 feet.

The width of the aisle at Ordona is approximately 17,25 feet or 1/3 of the width of the central nave and which is very close to the average axial intercolumniation of the south-west end of the nave (17,5 feet). This proportion illustrates very closely the 60:20 of 3:1 ratio of Vitruvius' basilica at Fanum.

Like Fanum Ordona also has an aedes Augusti in the back wall, the layout of which is somewhat different. The side walls of this aedes have their springing point respectively between the 3th and 4th and the 5th and 6th columns. At the same time the crow of columns in the central nave is not interrupted. The aedes itself has two columns between the side walls. When we compare this to Fanum we see how Vitruvius tried to create a closer relation between the nave of the basilica and the aedes by ommitting columns 4 and 5 and by placing the springing point of the side walls opposite columns 3 and 6.

During the excavations of Ordona nothing has been found of the superstructure of this basilica. Nevertheless it is possible to make some deductions from the scanty remains.

The surrounding wall has on its inner face pilasters placed in line with the columns of the nave. Like the pilasters described by Vitruvius on the back sides of his columns, these pilasters were meant to support the beams of an upper floor or a roof. Like at Fanum there must also have been a clerestory. This is proved by the depth of the foundations of the columns of the nave (2,45 m) which is more than enough to support the weight of an elaborate superstructure.

__Bibliography__

E. Casteels, La Basilique d'Ordona, in Ordona 5 (ed. J. Mertens), Brussels-Rome, 1976

C.V.Walthew, A Metrological Study of the Early Roman Basilicas, Lewiston-Queenston-Lampeter, 2002

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