“Temples anciens et modernes ou observations historiques et critiques : sur les plus célèbres monumens d’architecture greque et gothique” was published in 1774 and written by Louis Avril.
After opening the treatise with an extensive introduction and dedication, Avril broaches the issue of epochal masterpieces. He presents the following five historically significant buildings each with an individual analysis: the Pantheon, Hagia Sophia, St. Peter in Rome and St. Pauls Cathedral in London. The first three buildings form the first part of the treatise, the last two belong to the second part.
As basis of these individual analyses Avril uses his own experience and observation. He attaches specific importance to this very method and underlines that his point of view isn’t based ond the general known historic portrayal. However he known, what he tells has been told by many before him. But his points of view are different, as he doesn’t examine neither the origine, nor the antiquity of the monuments, rather than speaking of and generalizing the temples dimensions and valuing their magnitude. The purpose of the treatise is not to keep respected monuments in memory, and make them accesible to the common folk. Avril simply wants to reflect these monuments in a accurate way and convey his conclusions to the smart citizen, the illumninated amateur. His scientific drive is action-oriented; from time to time the historical account turns into advice for contemporary architects, eventhough Avril himself has never practiced the art of architecture.
His analyses are very text orientated, rarely supported with a few techncal drawings. Furthermore Avril pleads against an overemphasis on the break between antiquity and the Middle Ages. In contrast, he emphasizes the consistency of the developments, as shown in individual construction elements such as ornaments, the vaulting technique and column. In addition he distinguishes judgemental both the ancient and modern architect, as well as secular and holy buildings.
“Les anciens Temples entrent pour beacoup dans l’Histoire de l’Architecture, & l’on ne peut aimer ce bel Art, sans aimer aussi à connoître les monumens où il déploya souvent le plus de majesté & de richesses.” [p. viij, Préface]