All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Day one - page three
(relief in Banteay Srey)
Towards Angkor Vat
Angkor Vat is the most celebrated monument of Cambodia, the symbol of the country's glorious past (it appears on the national flag). It is the obvious "must see" for every tourist and the site is always crowded.
Angkor Vat was built in 1130-50 by King Suryavarman II. It was dedicated to Vishnu; unlike most temples it faces west rather than east; this is most likely due to a very practical reason: the city was located to its west. It is surrounded by a very large moat or rather a water reservoir which adds to the beauty of the site.
The gopura (entrance pavilion) is flanked by two other towers and by a very long portico. Behind it one can see the main structure of Angkor Vat with five towers arranged according to a scheme typical of Angkor (similar to the dots of number five on dice).
In the XIXth century the region of Angkor belonged to Thailand and the kings of that country built a model of the main temple in the precinct of their Bangkok palace. It helps in understanding the overall design of Angkor Vat.
One key feature of Angkor in general is the vertical thrust of its buildings: this aspect was no doubt due to religious and artistic motives: however also the fact that Khmer architects did not make use of the arch had some influence in their design.
Openings were closed by adding layers of stones on either side of them, with each successive layer projecting more from the wall: this construction technique (called corbel arch) did not allow the construction of large vaults and halls and it made the buildings particularly prone to collapse.
The decoration of Angkor Vat is extremely elaborate and when the walls were not covered by bas-reliefs, they were given the appearance of a silk tapestry; blind windows closed with small columns made the overall design of the buildings more lively.
The bas-reliefs of Angkor Vat are regarded as the highest point reached by Khmer artists.
The two "libraries" of Angkor Vat have a design which is somewhat similar to patterns developed in ancient Greece with pronaoi (porticoes at the front of temples) and a more balanced ratio between height and width.
The quadrangular porticoes surrounding the five towers were decorated with narrative bas-reliefs depicting military processions and the Hindu myth of Mount Meru.
SEE THESE OTHER EXHIBITIONS (for a full list see my detailed list).