The purpose, operation, and theological orientation of the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches in London, established in 1711, provides the background for an understanding of Nicholas Hawksmoor's drawing for an ideal "Basilica after the Primitive Christians." Point by point his detailed specifications can be related to theological writings of the period, which in turn reflected the beliefs of certain key commissioners. These beliefs about the ecclesiastical architecture of the early Christians in the Near East suggest new interpretations for the symbolism of the commissioners' churches.

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