SACRED ARCHITECTURE

Etruscan architecture looked quite different from the familiar stone temples and gleaming marble statuary of Greek architecture. Constrained by a lack of fine stone, Etruscans built their temples of wood, with terracotta roofs and ornaments. Today the wooden superstructures have almost entirely disintegrated. Only the stone foundations and the terracotta roofs and decorations remain. Fortunately, the size and types of terracottas can often tell us what the whole building looked like, and something of its history.

Museum Object Number: MS1804Roman writers described an Etruscan temple as a high podium on which rose a broad, square building with gabled roof, wide overhang, and deep porch. Inside, three dark chambers ended in solid walls. In front of the temple was an augural area, where priests stood to observe messages from the gods in the flight of birds.

A tiled roof protected the perishable wooden or mudbrick building blocks below. Half-round "cover" tiles protected the joints of a first layer of flat "pan" tiles. The end of a row of cover tiles was capped with a terracotta antefix. An array of terracotta fittings shielded important beams and joints. Revetments included frieze plaques to cover longitudinal beams, and gutters or simas to draw off rainwater. Beam ends, where exposed to the elements, were sheathed with rectangular columen or mutulus plaques.