Dissertation on Cave Arches

The Greeks had made very little use of arches. The Greek Parthenon, for example, was a series of columns with flat rock slabs on top of the columns. Unfortunately, that structure made the Parthenon rather vulnerable over the ages.

The Romans, however, developed the arch. They made extensive use of the arch in portals, bridges, aqueducts, temples and in the famous Roman Coliseum. In fact, we still use the term Roman Arch to signify a semi-circular arch. This shape arch is quite strong but as to load-bearing it does have a weak point at its top; the parabolic-shaped arch as employed in Venice does not have this weakness and it was employed to beautiful advantage in the palaces of Venice. The Venetian Arch is more the shape of a parabola than a semi-circle.

Compared to the Roman Arch the parabolic arch can support more nearly equal loads at all points. It is also more elegant. We employ the parabolic Venetian Arch throughout our cave.
The arch permitted the design and construction of the great cathedrals of Europe. The first great cathedrals were Romanesque and they employed the Roman Arch. That is why they look a little squatty; they are not as lofty or beautiful as the more nearly parabolic arch employed by the Gothic cathedrals which followed. In fact, the added strength of the parabolic arch permitted architects to build more lofty cathedrals, to be closer to God.
The structures displayed the inherent beauty of the parabolic shape.

In fact the word architect comes from the word “arch.” The classic architect’s job was to build things using arches. This doesn’t diminish the role of the architect for they have developed magnificent structures employing the arch.

Proceeding later in history, it is too bad the gold rush miners in California didn’t know about the weight-bearing characteristics of the parabola. They built many of their mining tunnels in a rectangular shape with timber across the top. That is why those mining shafts are so dangerous to enter today. What a difference it would have made on the cost of construction if the miners had known about the parabola. They would have needed much less wood and would have had sounder tunnels.


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