Modern staircases are simple and minimalist. They have subtle designs that make them appear both elegant and sophisticated. This minimalism, however, was not always in-vogue. Back in the Renaissance era, people were taken by grand staircases with extravagant designs that immediately drew the eye of a viewer. While modern and Renaissance staircases differ significantly, the Renaissance era still had a tremendous influence on architecture that can be felt to this day.
As many of us learned in school, the Renaissance (or “rebirth”) was marked by a revival of Ancient Greek and Roman culture. As Europe began to emerge from the Middle Ages, aristocrats rediscovered the crumbling ruins and dusty scrolls of Greece and Rome. Fascinated by the history and architecture (or at least, what remained of the architecture) of these ancient empires, European leaders began to replicate their ways throughout society. Governments, literature, and architecture were all influenced by the popularity of ancient Greek and Roman culture.
As the influence of ancient Greek and Roman culture grew, that influence soon became apparent in European buildings and structures. In fact, a pilgrimage to Rome was considered essential for any serious architectural student in order for them to study the ancient ruins, especially the Colosseum and Pantheon. They also studied the writing of Vitruvius, or Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, an ancient Roman architect whose text De architectura (On Architecture) is considered the definitive text on Roman architecture.
Soon enough, Renaissance Europeans started to adopt many of the architectural elements that were found in Greek and Roman ruins including columns, pilasters, pediments, entablatures, arches, and domes. Another aspect of Classical (a term for the ancient Greek and Roman period) architecture that the Renaissance era adopted was its appeal to mathematics. Both Classical and Renaissance eras used mathematical proportions in order to bring harmony to their structures.
Similar to other architectural structures and buildings of this time period, Renaissance staircases were influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They emphasized mathematical proportions and created ornate metal and/or stone balusters. Their staircases were also largely made of stone and were curved or spiraled. Artwork was also prominent alongside Renaissance staircases (another characteristic taken from the ancient Greeks and Romans), typically along the walls.
The Bramante Staircase
One of the most well-known Renaissance stairs is the Bramante Staircase at the Vatican Museum. There are actually two of these staircases, the original which was built in 1505, and the modern one which was built in 1932. The original Bramante Staircase was designed by Donato Bramante, an Italian architect of the time. It was constructed to connect the Belvedere palace of Pope Innocent VIII to the outside. Quintessential of the staircases of this time period, it features Doric columns and a herringbone paving pattern. It uses a double helix design which allowed for both humans and animals to travel up or down the staircase without running into anyone heading in the opposite direction.
The modern staircase, meanwhile, was created by Giuseppe Momo. It was greatly inspired by the original staircase as it features the same double helix design. Similar to the original staircase, the double helix allows people (though not typically animals anymore) to go up the stairs without running into anyone who is going down, and vice versa.
Whether it’s for a monument or for your home, a staircase can be a true work of art admired by all sorts of people around the globe. If you’re interested in adding a beautiful custom staircase to your home, then contact Acadia Stairs to see how we can help.