built-in-art magazine

Gates & Doorways

Form and Design

The forms and designs of doorways are found to participate in the characteristics of the different classes of architecture in which they have been used : those of the most ancient nations, Egypt , Babylon, and Greece amongst the number, are chiefly rectangular, and covered by plain horizontal lintels; though the jambs of some of the later specimens converge inwards, from the base to the lintel, which latter occasionally forms an ornamental entablature.

Ishtar Gate

Ishtar gate constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. the gate was constructed using glazed brick. It was one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon.

The different parts of doorways were dedicated by the ancients divinities; and many ceremonies were connected with them, such as the adorning them with inscriptions, and, on festive occasions, with flowers, trophies, etc. Their entrances were sometimes protected from unwelcome visitors by a dog; in the absence of which, as at Pompeii, that animal was frequently painted, or represented in mosaic, with the words "Cave Canem" inscribed beneath. The hospitable " Salve," also, was inscribed in a similar manner at the en-trances of many of the houses of Pompeii.

doorway dendera temple egypt
Dendera Doorway

In the Egyptian temple 'of Dendera is a highly decorated doorway, 30 feet in height, by 29 feet wide at the ground; a bold torus moulding runs up its salient edges and returns at the top. That in the propylon of the temple of Carnak, in Egypt, is 64 feet feet high.

Temple of Philae Doorway
Philae temple doorway, dating from the Roman empire

Roman Empire Doorways

the Romans had deities under whose care were supposed to be the lintel, hinges, and other parts respectively of the door, and who were thence called Limentinus, Cardea, Forculus. Vesta was considered the tutelary guardian of the limen. There were numerous ancient ceremonies connected with doors. The sills seem to have been the part more particularly the object of reverence to the romans, and were frequently kissed by those entering or departing. it was also considered particularly unfortunate to tread with the left foot on the sill. Vitruvius in his third book does not consider it beneath the dignity of his subject to define the number of the steps leading to a temple or house, so as to ensure that those, who entered, should tread on the sill with the right foot and not with the left, which they held to be peculiarly ominous.

See our article about Roman Doorways--->

Medieval - Gothic Doorways

On the introduction of the circular, and, subsequently, of the pointed arch, these forms were immediately applied to doorways, as well as to all other apertures; and, in the religious edifices of the middle ages, much attention was bestowed upon the designs and adornment of the entrances, particularly those in the west fronts of cathedrals.

English doorways

Brixwortk Church

Brixwortk Church, Northamptonshire, if not of Roman workmanship, is of Roman character and materials; the arch, jambs, and wall, being constructed with the bricks peculiar to that people. Earls Barton church, is regarded as Anglo-Saxon, from the rudeness of the design, and of its masonic execution.

anglo-saxon period doorways

Norwich Cathedral

The north transept of Norwich Cathedral, is of the age of Bishop Lozinga, about the year 1100. In this and the three following doorways the whole of the arch is filled up with masonry, and adorned with different sculptured ornaments. The cathedral was built from 1096 and constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with Caen limestone


Essendine Church

The next photo is an interesting example, comprising columns with spiral flutes, a zigzag archivolt moulding, and some curious sculptures. The doorway is is from Essendine Church, Rutlandshire, and is supposed to have been erected early in the eleventh century.

essendine church doorway

Barfreston Church

Barfreston Church, Kent, is probably of the time of William the Conqueror, from the Conventual Church, at Ely, is another Norman example of the twelfth century. The column is small in proportion to its height, and has a band at the middle; the mouldings of its base and capital being bold tori, with deep hollows.

doorway barfreston church

Jew's house, Lincoln, about 1140, is a very curious and interesting example of Anglo-Norman domestic architecture, in which there are columns at the jambs, an ornamental archivolt, and a bold label moulding.

Doorway Jew's house Lincoln

Higham Ferrars Church

The Higham Ferrars Church, Northamptonshire entrances have flat segmental arches, and are enclosed within a large pointed arch, the intervening space being occupied by a pedestal for a statue, and some scriptural subjects in basso-relievo.

higham ferras church entrance


Lichfield Cathedral

from the Chapter-house of Lichfield Cathedral, (a beautifully symmetrical example), contains, within a pointed arch of numerous mouldings, and supported by several columns, two others more acutely pointed, each of the latter having within it a trefoil arch, forming the opening. Its date is about 1200. The western entrance to the same cathedral, is remarkable for the profusion of statues, canopies, and elaborate sculptures with which it is ornamented : the tracery of the doors, and the form of the crockets, are also worthy of notice. Date, about 1235.

doorway Lichfield cathedral

The last example on this plate dates about 1350, and is the central doorway of the west front of York Cathedral. In the engraved title-page to this volume, is a representation of the south porch of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, within which is a very highly ornamented doorway.



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