It’s rare that you’ll find an unimpressive dome. They are complicated structures so if you’re going to build one, you might as well make it worth the effort and put the work in and make it magnificent right? Despite their complicated nature, civilizations from ancient to modern have included domes in their buildings. Let’s have a quick tour around a few.
Constructed in 126 AD, Rome's imposing Pantheon was originally designed to be a temple for all Roman Gods, but was annexed by the Roman Catholic Church in the 7th century and has served the Christian faith ever since. Its concrete dome tops a beautiful temple and has a central opening, the famous oculus that stares up to the heavens, allowing the pious a glimpse of the gods. It's not just one of the most magnificent domes of the world - built some 2,000 years ago, it is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome on the planet, a marvel of engineering.
The Dome of the Rock's golden cupola can be seen across the Old City of Jerusalem and beyond. This monument can certainly hold its own compared to the other magnificent domes of the world. Originally constructed in 691 AD, the Temple Mount dome is one of the first and perhaps most easily recognizable examples of Islamic architecture. Often mistakenly referred to as a mosque, the Dome of the Rock is in fact protecting a sacred rock, which makes it a shrine, not a mosque. Its spectacularly high ceiling and walls are layered with glittering mosaics and ceramic decorations, dazzling visitors with their artistic brilliance and enchanting them with beautiful Arabic calligraphy.
Construction for the Shah Mosque or Imam Mosque began in 1611. One of the undisputed masterpieces of Persian architecture, this dome is a staggering 74 ft / 53 meters high and simply bedazzles onlookers with its seven color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. Created during the Safavids Dynasty, which was responsible for launching a Renaissance of Persian dome construction and inspiring European architecture in the process, the Shah Mosque is the highest in Isfahan and a splendid example of interior as well as exterior mosaic tiling. The dome seems to sparkle against the blue Iranian skies with its many shades of blue and pale greens and the delightful floral patterns of its mosaic tiles.
Originally built on the orders of Emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BC, the Great Stupa started out as a simple brick dome that was allegedly erected to cover Buddha's relics. One hundred years later the stupa was enlarged with stone slabs, nearly doubling its original size. Now the dome has a compacted top and boasts three superimposed parasols that are held in place within a square railing. This gives the dome the appearance of a "crowned" head, making it also one of the most unusual domes in the world.
Building works for the basilica started in 1296 and weren't completed until 1436, when the Gothic style cathedral became Florence's most recognizable emblem and the largest dome in the world, until modern technology and engineering created even larger monuments. To this day, the basilica remains the largest brick-built dome ever created and certainly one of the most magnificent and recognizable sights of Italy. It is one of Italy's largest churches and a beautiful symbol for the City of Florence.
It was the subject of the most iconic photograph taken of WWII's London Blitz bombings: a depiction of St. Paul's Cathedral engulfed by flames inspired the whole nation to fight even harder against Hitler's tyranny. Saved miraculously and against all the odds by the truly death-defying efforts of London's fire fighters and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the dome was constructed in the 17th century. St. Paul's Cathedral was inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, another famous dome. Soaring 365 ft / 108 meters up into the grey London skies and topped by a cross, St. Paul's outer dome is actually non-structural. Two inner, lower domes provide the building with a balanced design and structure.
One of the most photographed sights in the US, the dome of the Capitol is actually not a tourist attraction but the meeting place for the US Congress. Perched atop Capitol Hill, the dome overlooks Washington DC. When the very first Congress was held at the site on 17th November 1800, the building hadn't even been completed. The original dome was timber-framed, but was replaced by a cast-iron structure in the 1850s, when the growing number of legislators from newly admitted US states enforced expansion of the Capitol to double its original size. Since then, the Capitol has become one of the most instantly recognizable, but not necessarily one of the most magnificent domes of the world.
Often referred to as "the world's largest greenhouse", the two enormous, adjoining domes of the Eden Project took 2.5 years to build and they house a huge collection of plant species from across the globe. Dome One is devoted to preserving a tropical environment, while Dome Two provides Mediterranean plant species with the ideal habitat to survive. Both domes were created using hundreds of pentagonal and hexagonal shaped, inflated plastic cells that were inserted into a honeycombed web of steel frames. The Eden Project has been open to the public since 2001 and is one of the UK's most popular attractions.
Originally constructed in 1894 as a parliamentary building for the newly-unified German Empire, the Reichstag building in Berlin was designed by architect Paul Wallot to resemble a Renaissance palace. In 1933 a Dutch communist set fire to the Reichstag, destroying much of the original building and playing right into the hands of Hitler's emerging Nazi party. When Germany re-unified again in 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag became once again the meeting place for Germany's modern parliament, the Bundestag. Fewer historic buildings in Germany have undergone as many changes as the Reichstag, which had a jaw-dropping glass dome added to its original structure by controversial British architect Norman Foster. Boasting an amazing 360-degree view over much of Berlin's skyline, the Reichstag is a powerful symbol of Europe's turbulent.
How many of these have you visited or want to visit?