Over the course of two thousand years, several temples with large domes were built. They became shrines of various religions and architectural masterpieces. They are included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage lists.
In this review on the Geomerid online travel guide, you can read about some of the most famous temples with large domes:
1. The Pantheon in Rome
2. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
3. St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
4. Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem
5. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence
6. St Paul's Cathedral in London
7. St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg
8. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow
Follow the hyperlinks to read in detail about each dome and see a large number of photos
The Pantheon in Rome was built in 126 AD, under the emperor Adrian, as the «temple of every god». In 608 the Eastern Roman emperor Phocas gave the Pantheon to the Pope Boniface IV who converted it into a Christian temple. This saved it from destruction. And it is just for this reason that most buildings of the Ancient Rome are now lay in ruins while the Pantheon is still in a very good condition.
The Pantheon still has the largest dome in the world. The following generations were able to create no such thing. In theory, modern technologies allow to construct domes of such size but these domes will be reinforced ones while the dome of the Pantheon is not reinforced. The width of the walls of the Pantheon reaches 6 meters.
St. Sophia`s Cathedral was constructed for just five years, during 532-537, by orders of emperor Justinian. For over 1100 years it was the largest temple in the world. And only in XVI century the great Italian sculptors of Renaissance period was able to surpass Byzantine architects Anthimus and Isidor, having built the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. For more than a thousand years St. Sophia`s Cathedral was a model for almost all domed temples.
The length of cathedral is 81 meter, the width is 72 meters, and the height is 55 meters. The dome consisted of cascade semi-domes with 40 windows, with central dome reaching the diameter of 31 meter, which was then absolute architectural achievement. The main nave was surrounded by galleries supported by 107 columns of malachite and Egyptian porphyry.
The Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem is considered the most beautiful mosque. Arabic caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem in 638. As the city is as sacred for Muslims as for Jews and Christians, Omar built mosques on the site of the First and Second Temples, which were then already destroyed.
Caliph Omar ruled in 634-644, and he conquered a lot of lands, including the sacred city of Jerusalem. He also laid down two mosques on the Temple Mount. Their construction was carried out mainly under caliph Abd al Malik in 687-691. Golden dome of the mosque is above the peak of the Moria Mount, which is the center of the world (in Jewish and Muslim religions). The «Rock» is in the center of the mosque. There are small passages around the “center of the world” where you can go about but not pray.
The Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence was laid down in 1296 and his first architect was Arnolfo di Cambio, however, as it is often the case with all great temples, the architect hardly had time to laid down the foundation and erect some walls. After his death his followers began to change his design, and there also remained the problem of how to erect the huge dome designed by di Cambio, which was then a very difficult task.
By that time there had already been certain experience in construction of such domes – for example, St. Sophia`s Cathedral in Constantinople and Pantheon in Rome, - however, the Florentines wanted to surpass their predecessors. The dome of La Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (42 meters) was 11 meters larger than that of St. Sophia`s Cathedral (31 meters). Although the dome of Pantheon had almost the same diameter (43 meters), it was based on a low and strong foundation, while the building of Florentine cathedral was huge by itself, and it was then difficult to calculate the load of the giant dome.
In 1506 the Pope Julius II ordered to erect the largest Christian cathedral, which had to emphasize the importance of Rome as the center of Christian world. St. Peter`s Cathedral in Rome was built by several great Renaissance architects: first Bramante, then Raphael, then Michelangelo. The dome was built by the architects Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana. In 1626, St. Peter`s Basilica was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII, and it became the largest Christian church on earth. Before that, for 1089 years, the largest cathedral was Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The dome of the cathedral rises to 119 meters. Its diameter is 42 meters. By capacity, it is the largest cathedral on earth – it can accommodate up to 60 thousand people. Absolutely everyone notes that the decoration of the cathedral is magnificent, which is not typical for Catholic churches. In addition to the tomb of St. Peter, the church contains the relics of St. John Chrysostom, as well as many relics, including the spearhead that pierced Jesus on the cross (it came here from Constantinople).
St. Paul`s Cathedral in London, founded in 1067 and consecrated in 1240, was one of the greatest temples in Europe. It was much larger than today`s building of the cathedral. With the spire of 150 meters, it was the tallest construction in Europe (today`s spire reaches the height of 111 meters). However, this huge cathedral was burnt down during the fire of 1666, and the spire was hit by a lightning stroke as far back as 1561.
10 years later Christopher Rennes was entrusted with the task to reconstruct the cathedral. It just happened this way, even though during the construction Rennes didn’t strictly followed the design, and the cathedral was somehow similar to St. Peter`s Basilica. It has been believed that the dome of the cathedral strongly resembled that of St. Peter`s Basilica. Today this isn’t as important. The cathedral was consecrated in 1710. The diameter of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in London is 31 meters.
St. Isaac`s Cathedral in St. Petersburg is the main temple of city. It was erected by French architect Montferrand in the 19th century. You can see its dome from the roof of almost every house in the old city. It is the world-largest cathedral, accommodating 14 thousand people. The diameter of the dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral is 25 meters.
Interior of the cathedral is rather interesting but you must buy a ticket to the gallery. There you could have a wonderful view of old Petersburg, the way it was in the past centuries. On one side of the cathedral there is St. Isaac`s Square, where there is a monument to Nicolay I. It has only two supporting points. Beyond a small square there is the Senate Square
Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ who saved Russia from the armies of Napoleon in 1812. They began to build the temple in 1816, but the original project of А. Witberg provided for erection of the giant temple complex on the Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills). However, very fast the ground on the slope of the hill began to sink under the foundation, and besides, the construction required quite exorbitant costs, so the project was completely rejected. The diameter of the dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is 29 meters.
Nicolas I selected a new construction site for the temple in 1832. The architect who de-signed the temple was Konstantin Thon (he also built the Great Kremlin Palace). The construction was finished 50 years later, in 1883.