A dome (in Italian “cupola”) can be defined as “an architectural element that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere”. But, besides the definition, a dome can exercise an unequalled charm and fascination in the viewer, shining against the blue sky and reflecting the rays of sunlight.
There is no doubt, that the most beautiful domes in the world can be found on top of Italian religious (or historical) buildings. This, due to the thousand-years old history that can be found in most cities in Italy, its deep Christian roots, and all the civilizations that came across it over the centuries, leaving their traces and contributing to realize unique works of art.
Among all the most wonderful Italian domes, we have found the 5 (+1) that you can’t absolutely miss if you are coming to Italy!
We are sure you guessed the first one already. When in Rome, you can’t certainly miss a visit to the astonishing Saint Peter’s Basilica, which dominates the homonymous vast Square. Located in the very heart of the Vatican City, it took more than 150 years to artists such as Raffaello Sanzio and Michelangelo to complete the work, overcome by the 136 meters of the dome.
This world-famous dome was designed by Michelangelo, and later used as a model for other domes all over the world. When you will see its iconic profile dominating the skyline of Rome, or the spectacle of its lights at night, you won’t wonder why that happened, and the symbol of Christianity all over the world will make you fall in love.
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This wonderful dome is one of the most famous works of art in Italy. Situated in the historic centre of Florence, known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”, the dome covers the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), which is the main church of the city.
Originally, the basilica was built in Gothic Style, but thanks to the later work of Filippo Brunelleschi the dome assumed its octagonal shape and appearance, evolving the whole structure to a Renaissance style. The 114 meters tall cathedral stands in Piazza del Duomo, and it is universally considered a majestic and evocative work of architecture. Climbing a 463-steps ladder you can reach its top and admire one of the best panoramic views in the whole world, immersed in the Italian Renaissance atmosphere.
Like if Venice doesn’t have enough to offer at a architectural level, its main Basilica is decorated by not one, but by five domes. You will find one dome for each arm of the Greek cross, which is the shape on which the interior is structured, surrounding the main dome.
Based on an old Constantine’s Church, the Saint Mark’s Basilica has been built in typical Byzantine style. The works begun in 1063 by initiative of the Doge, to end up when Saint Mark’s body was placed beneath the main altar. The five cupolas characterize the outside of the Basilica, together with the façades in polychrome marble, creating a unique skyline thanks to their different size.
In a spectacular city like Venice, these domes are just the cherry on top.
Exploring the picturesque historic centre of Siena, you will eventually be welcomed by the wonderful view of the imposing cathedral dedicated to Saint Maria Assunta. This incredible religious building stands where once was an ancient temple dedicated to Minerva. Its construction began in the mid-20th century, while the splendid dome was built between 1259 and 1264.
The Cathedral of Siena has a Latin Cross-shaped structure. Both the exterior and the interior are made of marble, with stripes white and green / black alternating with the addition of red marble on the façade. White and black are the colors symbolic of the city, and refer to black and white horses of the legendary founders of Siena: Aschio and Senio, sons of Remo (founder of Rome).
The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most gorgeous religious monuments of Early Christian art in all of Italy, especially for the beauty of its mosaics. Founded by Julianus Argentarius and commissioned by Bishop Ecclesius, this octagonal church is unnoticed by tourists.
The architecture of the church, as well as its mosaic decoration, has strong Asian influence that expresses the ideology and religious beliefs of the Justinian era.
Visiting the Basilica of San Vitale, you will be amazed by the width of spaces, the stunning mosaic decorations and the baroque frescoes of the cupola, realized in 1780. Right in front of the altar, on the floor is represented a labyrinth that goes through a winding path, which symbolize of sin and of a possible purification. Whether you look up, whether you look down your eyes will be captivated by the thousand treasures of this church.
We could not avoid placing in our “top 5 domes in Italy” another wonderful, charming monument in Rome: the Pantheon. Oppositely from the other ones we mentioned, this 43-meters tall dome adorns a pagan building, dedicated to the worship of all Gods. It was realised by the emperor Hadrian around 126 AD, retaining some elements of a pre-existing building, like the inscription of Agrippa on the façade.
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic buildings of ancient Rome, its most representative and impressive feature is its dome, which has an opening hole in the centre (called “oculus”), to make the light come in.
Looking up at the sky in this 2000-years-old dome is an experience you can’t miss in Rome, made even more special by the magic you can breathe in the surrounding square, covered in cobblestone, according to true Ancient Roman tradition.