Friday, 23 May 2008

The Kings Circus


One of the most enigmatic and baffling of all the architectural features of Bath is 'The circus' - begun in 1754 and finished in 1768 by the infamous bathonian architect John Wood 'the elder' the Latin named 'oval or circle' is one of the modern worlds most respected structural achievements. (The above image was taken with a spherical lens whilst lying down in the middle of the circus)

The following six pictures are of the incredible carvings (or more accurately emblems) around the inner perimeter of the complex facing toward the center. All in all - there are 525 actual emblems , however there is some repetition/mirroring and the number of different emblems used in total is 260. The images are highly alchemical and esoteric in nature and range from the typical symbols of the hermetic schools of the middle age, enlightenment and renaissance periods to the individual coats of arms of the houses owners.

Some say that these symbols are wholly freemasonic in nature however when we take into account that apart from some of the obvious square and compass and plumb and rule motifs that are used we can see that there is actually much more a-foot in this frieze than mere masonry.






When i looked into this by reading wood's book 'The Origins of Building' i realised that most of the inspiration for - and the majority of direct symbolic motifs which wood incorporated into this 'frieze' were taken from a particular book which was always open on his desk. This book was the (1635) Book of mystical poetry ' A Collection of Embelems , Ancient and moderne' by George Wither. This book along with being a favourite of many of his fellow contemporaries was a gift from wither to the then Royals of England King Charles and Queen Mary.



(below is his dedication to the monarch- and illustrates the point that this individual ~''Wither'' was thought of -quite- highly in his field)


When you pull all of the many threads together a very interesting picture starts to emerge of Baths quintessential Georgian (or again more accurately palladian) architect John Wood - this part of the puzzle relates to his use of symbols and the origin of his palette so to speak -- however this is only one aspect of one part of one structure.... and... this is a mere preface to the work as a whole - there is much more to come.

Daniel J.Tatman

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