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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.

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.

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:

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.

Contents

Art and architecture

A priori, archetype, and genius loci are the primary principals of Neo-Rationalism or New Rationalism. Pioneered by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi, Neo-Rationalism developed in the light of a re-evaluation of the work of Giuseppe Terragni, and gained momentum through the work of Giorgio Grassi. Characterized by elemental vernacular forms and an absence of cosmetic detail, the Neo-Rationalist style has adherents beyond architecture in the greater world of art.

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.

Modern fantasy

In modern works of fantasy, such as Dungeons and Dragons or The Dresden Files, a genius loci is an intelligent spirit or magical power that resides in a place. Very few genius loci of this form are able to move from their native area, either because they are "part of the land" or because they are bound to it. Genius loci are usually portrayed as being extremely powerful and usually also very intelligent, though there is a great deal of variability on these points. Some versions are nearly omnipotent and omniscient inside the area they inhabit, while others are simply vast, semi-sentient wellsprings of magical energy. This power almost never extends beyond the border of the genius loci.

Different settings give different explanations for the existence of genius loci. In most cases, however, the intelligent, magical entity simply develops from the similarly named "spirit of place" over a great deal of time. In other settings, genius loci are formed by powerful magical events, and in others they are the results of ley lines, mana pools, or an equivalent.

References

  • Patterson, Barry (2005). The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci. Cappall Bann Books. ISBN 186163 1693. 

External links

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File:IOM ET GENI
Votive inscription to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the Genius loci by the Signifer of Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix on behalf himself and his own (legion) during the consulate of Maternus and Atticus (185 AD).

In classical Roman religion a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding a Cornucopia, patera and/or a snake. There are many Roman altars found in Western Europe dedicated in whole or in part to the particular Genius Loci. The Roman imperial cults of the Emperor and the imperial house are in part derived from the Genius Loci. Professor Greg Woolf, in his article Divinity and Power in Ancient Rome states that "Regular sacrifices were also paid to the genius of the reigning emperor by local neighborhood associations". These 265 local districts had their cult organised around the Lares Compitales (deities of the crossroads) but the Emperor Augustus "reorganized the cult into a worship of the Lares Augusti along with the Genius Augusti". [1] The idea, approximately, being the Emperor's genius is the genius loci of the entirety of the "place" of the Roman empire.

Roman examples of these Genii can be found, for example, at the church of St. Giles, Tockenham, Wiltshire where the genius loci is depicted as a relief in the wall of a Norman church built of Roman material. This shows "a youthful and curly-haired Roman Genius worked in high relief, holding a cornucopia in his left hand and a patera in his right', which previously has been "erroneously identified as Aesculapius". [2]

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Contemporary Asian usage

The numinous spirits of places in Asia are still honored today in city pillar shrines, outdoor spirit houses and indoor household and business shrines.

Western useage

In contemporary usage, genius loci usually refers to a location's distinctive atmosphere, or a "spirit of place", rather than necessarily a guardian spirit.

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

Art and architecture

Alexander Pope made the Genius Loci an important principle in garden and landscape (see bagh) design with the following lines from Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington:

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.

A priori, archetype, and genius loci are the primary principals of Neo-Rationalism or New Rationalism. Pioneered by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi, Neo-Rationalism developed in the light of a re-evaluation of the work of Giuseppe Terragni, and gained momentum through the work of Giorgio Grassi. Characterized by elemental vernacular forms and an absence of cosmetic detail, the Neo-Rationalist style has adherents beyond architecture in the greater world of art.

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.

Modern fantasy

In modern works of fantasy, such as Dungeons and Dragons or The Dresden Files, a genius loci is an intelligent spirit or magical power that resides in a place. Very few genius loci of this form are able to move from their native area, either because they are "part of the land" or because they are bound to it. Genius loci are usually portrayed as being extremely powerful and usually also very intelligent, though there is a great deal of variability on these points. Some versions are nearly omnipotent and omniscient inside the area they inhabit, while others are simply vast, semi-sentient wellsprings of magical energy. This power almost never extends beyond the border of the genius loci.

Different settings give different explanations for the existence of genius loci. In most cases, however, the intelligent, magical entity simply develops from the similarly named "spirit of place" over a great deal of time. In other settings, genius loci are formed by powerful magical events, and in others they are the results of ley lines, mana pools, or an equivalent.

References

  1. ^ Woolf, Greg. (2008). "Divinity and Power in Ancient Rome" in Religion and Power: Divine Kingship in the Ancient World and Beyond ed Nicole Brisch (Oriental Institute Seminars No. 4), Chicago:The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
  2. ^ Toynbee, J.M.C. (1978). "Two Romano-British Genii", in Britannia, Vol 9, p330. London:Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

Sources

  • Patterson, Barry (2005). The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci. Cappall Bann Books. ISBN 186163 1693. 

External links


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