When studying the columns of Trajan (113 AD) and Marcus Aurelius (c. 190 AD), I cannot help thinking of them as the inspiration for the Bayeux Tapestry. Although, there is no record to my knowledge of Bishop Odo visiting Rome. The spiralling upwards bas relief reads like a film reel of victory in combat. The Roman Triumphal Column would be one of the wonders of a visit to Rome.

Trajan’s Column in Trajan’s Fora

I do wonder how they were read as they are remarkably detailed. Normal eyesight would only be able to see the lower portions. There is this idea of permanence. Here we are 1900 years later and still able to distinguish the images, even though the event is way back in the mists of history. The Romans cultivated this sense of permanence with their civic architecture.

Details of Trajan’s Column (113 AD) depicting his victory in the Dacian Wars (2 campaigns fought between 101-2 AD & 105-6 AD)


Column of Marcus Aurelius, Rome


The Grand Tour meant that paintings of Roman ruins were made. In Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire in the dining room above a fireplace is a painting of Trajan’s Column.

Painting of Trajan’s Column, Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

Civic Architecture

Nelson’s Column (1840-43) in Trafalgar Square is one of the most iconic columns in England. It is a fluted Corinthian column with Admiral Nelson’s statue on top and flanked by 4 bronze lions at the base.

A column can dominate a space without taking up much room

Prospect Towers

The column was also a feature that appeared on the land of the wealthy country estate owner. It might be used as a prospect tower. In c. 1757 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown designed a tower monument for William Pitt. Pitt had it built as a monument to Sir William Pynsent (who had bequeathed his entire estate to Pitt).[i] The tower in sited on Troy Hill by Burton Pynsant House, near Curry Rivel, Somerset, The views from the tower are across the Somerset Levels.

Burton Pynsent Monument, c. 1757, Curry Rivel, Somerset

War Memorials

The war memorial monument typology also took up the idea of a column. For example, the war memorial at Briantspuddle, Dorset (designed by Eric Gill). Rather than celebrating victory it commemorated those individuals who lost their life in the conflict of the 20th C world wars.

Briantspuddle War Memorial, Dorset

On the memorial is inscribed the names of those who have fallen. Also, the quote from the 15th C anchoress, Julian of Norwich (1343-1416) – something I quote often to myself:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well


[i] ‘Burton Pynsent Monument at NGR ST 3768 2517’, Historic England List Entry 1039561, (1959) < https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1039561?section=official-list-entry > [accessed 22 Apr 2022].