Take a glimpse at the architectural details of the Globe Theatre alongside some facts about our wooden ‘O’
Though it does look circular, our wooden O is actually an icosagon, a polygon with twenty sides.
The timber frame construction in process
The timber frame of the Globe Theatre is made from green oak, designed and carved using traditional methods so that it could slot together on the London site. Green oak settles as it dries, so the structure will only get stronger with age.
The only thatch in London
The first Globe burned down during a performance of Henry VIII and had to be rebuilt. Our current Globe Theatre is the only thatched building that has been built in London since the Great Fire of 1666.
Pillars of Hercules
The Globe’s canopy roof is supported by the largest piece of timber in the building. It’s 44ft long and rests on two 28ft timber columns painted to look like marble.
These “Pillars of Hercules”, are each carved by hand from an entire 400 year-old oak tree: one is English, one Scottish.
Ancient Gods, the Heavens above, and the Zodiac
The painted “heavens” of the Globe’s canopy (to counteract “hell” beneath the stage), feature a painted sun, moon, and signs of the zodiac on an azure background.
Two Roman Gods, Apollo and Mercury, are depicted either side of the Globe Theatre stage, stage-right and stage-left respectively. Apollo was a God of music, poetry, and the arts; Mercury was a Messenger and a God of trade, profit and commerce. Their images, derived from late 16th-century works by Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius, are painted onto the lime plaster panels and oak framework.
The designs of the oak balusters in the Globe Theatre are based on a fragment presumed to be a baluster, found by Museum of London archaeologists during excavations of the Rose Theatre site in 1989.
The balusters in the middle gallery were turned on a foot-powered ‘pole-lathe’ by Gudrun Leitz, but in the upper gallery they are flat pieces of wood. All have since been painted with a marbling effect.
The lime plaster of the original 1599 Globe used cow hair to keep the plaster strong and in place. The wattle-and-daub mix that holds up the current Globe is made with hair from cashmere goats.
Photographs by Pawel Libera, Pete Le May and Clive Sherlock