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Encyclopedia > Genius loci

In Roman mythology a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted as a snake. In contemporary usage, "genius loci" usually refers to a location's distinctive atmosphere, or a "spirit of place", rather than necessarily a guardian spirit. A head of Minerva found in the ruins of the Roman baths in Bath Roman mythology, the mythological beliefs of the people of Ancient Rome, can be considered as having two parts. ... In Roman mythology, every man had a genius and every woman a juno (Juno was also the name for the queen of the gods). ... Serpent is a word of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis) which is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit term serp, that is normally substituted for snake in a specifically mythic or religious context, in order to distinguish such creatures from the field of biology. ... Spirit of place refers to the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place; often those celebrated by artists and writers, but also those cherished in folk tales, festivals and celebrations. ...

Usage: "Light reveals the genius loci of a place."

Examples of this can be found at the church of St. Giles, Tockenham, Wiltshire where the genius loci is depicted as a statue in the wall of a Norman church built of Roman material. It has been suggested that Ecclesia (Church) be merged into this article or section. ... The nave of Durham Cathedral demonstrates the characteristic round arched style, though use of shallow pointed arches above the nave is a forerunner of the Gothic style. ... Principal sites in Roman Britain Roman Britain refers to those parts of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire between 43 and 410. ...

Alexander Pope made the Genius Loci an important principle in garden and landscape design with the following lines from Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington: Alexander Pope, an English poet best known for his Essay on Criticism and Rape of the Lock Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the early eighteenth century, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. ...

Consult the genius of the place in all;/That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;/Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,/Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;/Calls in the country, catches opening glades,/Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,/Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines;/Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

Pope's verse laid the foundation for one of the most widely agreed principles of landscape architecture. This is the principle that landscape designs should always be adapted to the context in which they are located. Central Park, like all parks, is an example of landscape architecture. ...

In the context of Modern architectural theory, genius loci has profound implications for place-making, falling within the philosophical branch of 'phenomenology'. This field of architectural discourse is explored most notably by the theorist Christian-Norberg Schulz in his book, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. This article is about the philosophical movement. ...


  • Patterson, Barry. The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci. Cappall Bann Books. ISBN 186163 1693. 

External links

  • Essay on the Genius loci in landscape and garden design



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