Base is the lower part of a pillar, wall, etc.; the division of a column on which the shaft is placed. The Grecian Doric order has no base; but the other classical orders have each their appropriate bases, which are divided into plinth and mouldings, though in some examples the former of these divisions is omitted.
In Middle-Age architecture, the forms and proportions of the various members not being regulated by arbitrary rules as in the classical orders, the same capricious varieties are found in the bases as in all the other features of each of the successive styles. In the Norman style, the mouldings of the base often bear a resemblance to those of the Tuscan order, with a massive plinth which is most commonly square, even though the shaft of the pillar and the moulded part of the base may be circular or octagonal. There is often a second or sub-plinth under the Norman base, the projecting angle of which is chamfered off. In the earlier period of this style the bases generally have but few mouldings, but, as a rule, they increase in numbers and vary in their arrangement as the style advances. There is a very great variety of bases in the Norman style; often in the same building scarcely any two are alike. This seems to be especially the case in the earlier division of the style both in Normandy and in England, and the bases in the two countries are often exactly alike. In Gundulph's Crypt in Rochester Cathedral this variety of bases is found, and it continues until quite late in the style.
At the commencement of the Early English style the bases differ but little from the Norman, having very frequently a single or double plinth retaining the square form, with leaves springing out of the mouldings lying on the angles. At a later period the plinth commonly takes the same form as the mouldings, and is often made so high as to resemble a pedestal; and there is frequently a second moulding below the principal suite of the base, as at the Temple Church, London. In this style the mouldings of the base sometimes overhang the face of the plinth. The mouldings of the Early English bases do not vary so much as those of the other styles, and those which are most usual approach very nearly to the Attic base. One of the characteristics of early examples of the Early English base is that it will hold water, which is not the case in any other style.
In the Decorated style there is considerable variety in the bases, although they have not generally many mouldings: the plinths, like the mouldings, conform to the shape of the shaft, or they are sometimes made oc tagonal, while the mouldings are circular, and in this case the mouldings overhang the face of the plinth. In some examples, where the shaft of the pillar is circular, the upper member only of the base conforms to it, the other mouldings, as well as the plinth. becoming octagonal. The plinths are often double and of considerable height, the projecting angle of the lower one being worked either with a splay, a hollow, or small moulding. A common suite of mouldings for bases in this style consists of a torus and one or two beads above.
In the Perpendicular style the plinths of the bases are almost ilvariably octagonal and of considerable height, and very frequently double, the projection of the lower one being moulded with a reversed ogee or a hollow. When the shaft is circular. the whole of the mouldings of the base sometimes follow the same form; but sometimes the upper member only conforms to it, the others being made octagonal like the plinth. In clustered pillars ifi which there are small shafts of different sizes, their bases are often on different levels, and consist of diferent mouldings, with one or two members only carried round the pillar, which are commonly those on the upper part of the lower plinth. The characteristic moulding of the Perpendicular base is the reversed ogee, used either singly or doubly: when double there is frequently a bead between them. This moulding, when used for the lower and most prominent member of the base, has the upper angle rounded off, which gives it a peculiar wavy appearance. The mouldings in this style most commonly overhang the face of the plinth.
The above descriptions apply only where a single shaft occurs. In compound piers, which are made up of groups of single pillars, the bases become more complex.