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Roman Temple

by Neal Crankshaw

Roman TempleI've always wanted to build some themed city terrain without going the route that most people go (WW2-era cities). Scrounging around one day I happened to pick up a book on Pompeii, and suddenly I knew. This would be a ruined Roman city, full of classical-looking and very official buildings. Sort of an ancient administrative capital.

The first project I set myself was a roman style temple.


  1. 18 cake columns (used to separate wedding cake layers)
  2. 5mm Foam core
  3. PVA glue
  4. 5mm balsawood
  5. 3mm balsawood
  6. 5mm MDF board (we call it masonite)
  7. Paint and sand


The only real trick in doing this Roman temple, I discovered, was in getting the proportions right. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from simply sticking the columns down and putting a roof on it. But I wanted to go to the extra effort to make sure that the temple was architecturally correct.

In order to do this I consulted the absolute authority on roman temples, an architect called Vitruvius (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio). He wrote a 10-volume book on all things architectural called de Architectura (on Architecture).

Book III of the series deals specifically with temples and their proportions, and the cool thing is that all the proportions are measured in Units, where one Unit is the diameter of a column. Thus it doesn't matter what columns you start off with because all the temple's proportions are taken from their diameter.

For the record, my temple is tetrastylos (4 columns in the front and rear, 7 to the sides) and eustylos (where the distance between each column is 2.25 column diameters (Units)

Actually building the temple is simplicity in itself.

Roman Temple</td>After working out all the proportions, I cut out a rectangle of Masonite (MDF board) to be the base. Onto this I glued 4 layers of foam core with steps cut into each layer. I chose 4 layers because this gives you 5 steps, and Vitruvius says that the proper way to build steps is to have an uneven number so that the first foot you put on the steps is also the first foot that steps onto the temple itself.

Once these were dry I lined the sides with 3mm balsawood strips.

This base was slightly longer than the temple in order to accommodate the steps. There were 4 steps, each 5mm long, which added 2cm to the length on each side.

The cella (the small room in the temple that actually held the statues) was made from foam core too, and was glued in place. The height of the cella is the same as the height of the columns.

The columns were glued down onto the foundation once the cella was in place.

Roman TempleOnce the columns were down, a lintel of balsawood was glued onto the top of the columns. The lintel is basically a strip of balsawood the width of the column that goes round the whole building.

Roman TempleAt the front and back of the temple sits the pediment. This is basically a two-layered triangle of balsawood. The top cover of balsawood is the roof itself, and this can extend over the temple as far as you want it (but remember that the more the roof covers, the harder it is to move models inside.

Painting and Finishing

Rather than go for a black base-coat, I went with a dark grey. I painted the whole thing dark grey, then highlighted it up to white. Very simple. The floor of the cella is a separate piece of cardboard which I painted before gluing it into position.

I printed of an Imperial Eagle onto a piece of paper, stuck that onto a piece of cardboard and then cut it out to form the Imperial Eagle.

Viola! Roman Temple!

Roman Temple

Architectural Notes

Roman TempleThe perfect proportion for a column is given as this: the height is 8.5 times the diameter.

Since all the proportional measurements of the temple are generated from the diameter of the column, once you have this you can calculate the entire temple dimensions.

The columns I got, which are used to separate the layers of a wedding cake average 21mm in diameter. They are however only 150mm high in stead of 178.5mm. I guess I'll have to add something to their heights.

I used a standardised unit of 21mm (hereafter referred to as a UNIT)

Vitruvius says that the EUSTYLOS style is the best. This has an intercolumnation distance of 2.25 UNITS. Thus my columns should be 47.25mm apart.

For reasons of space, the temple will be of the smallest type, TETRASTYLOS.

In this, the front is 11.5 UNITS, which makes a colonnaded frontage of 241.5mm. This gives a frontage of 4 columns. Each intercolumnation is 2.25 UNITS but the centre intercolumnation is 3 UNITS (giving easier access to the door). The length of a temple is twice its width, which gives a length of 7 columns.

Other Measurements


241.5mm x 430.4mm

Note that the foundation does not include the extra length added by the steps. It only means the area that the columns cover.



Main cella

Outer edges are 105.8mm x 287mm

The outside wall is placed 68.24mm from each long edge of the foundation, 71mm from each short edge

The cellas has two inner walls. These start at 134mm and at 281.5mm from the top of foundation.

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