So you’re cruising through suburban Maryland on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Daylight is fading, just as a semester spent focused on fantasy and science fiction is drawing to a close, and you idly wonder what you can do to steer your blog back to its original focus on medieval literature and unexpected manifestations of medievalism in everyday life. You round a bend, intent on little more than reaching the Korean supermarket before it closes, and—
Behind those trees…can that really be a textbook example of Romanesque vaulting?
And can it really be standing on the corner of Medieval Avenue and Renaissance Lane?
Okay, that last detail is wishful thinking. But check out this intriguingly unnecessary structure at the entrance to an otherwise unremarkable townhouse development on Randolph Road.
What’s that, you say? A mere arch? Well, look closer.
Yep, two barrel vaults intersecting, like in the textbook drawing—and just like in many Roman buildings and countless medieval and Renaissance churches (thus achieving the effect which Vasari famously dubbed “criss-cross applesauce”). The major difference here is that the architectural features, including those blank capitals, have been recast in the idiom of a circa-1988 shopping mall.
But lift your eyes above the lintel…
…and you’ll see how the intersecting vaults divide the interior into four bays to create…
…a good, old-fashioned groined vault. (You in the back, stop giggling.)
I don’t know why an architect decided to evoke the history of his profession here, with this whimper of traditional whimsy, in front of a subdivision that bears no other mark of architectural distinction.
However, this Romanesque doodad does serve a practical purpose. When it’s raining, you can seek shelter…
…and wait in grand style for the bus.
Dave at Studenda Mira points out that this bus stop also suggests a tetrapylon, a four-way triumphal arch placed at street junctions in the Roman Empire. Here’s a well-preserved example from Antioch, and here’s another in Jordan.