The role of geometry on stability of large domes: Roman Pantheon as cultural emblem and constructive reference

Claudia Cennamo, Concetta Cusano

This paper focuses on large domes’ building techniques and use of geometric rules in the design and construction of religious structures. A quick excursus on the cultural heritage in Italy and abroad highlights how domes have been used almost exclusively in sacred architecture, rather than in civic buildings, for most of history. Born of the need to cover large spaces without facing with the encumbrance of vertical elements, the domed cover, ideal for places of worship crowded by hundreds of faithful, has assumed, over the centuries, a symbolic meaning to every religion. In fact, identifying the shape of a large dome in the urban landscape immediately means to recognize the sacredness of that place. The ancient Romans who believed in the gods, Christians, Hindus and Muslims, all used this very peculiar architectural element in churches or mosques to express a kind of spiritual symbolism and, as mentioned, the fact that the shape of the dome arises from a functional reason, it has over time got pushed aside. Furthermore, the circle is a geometric form that possesses a great symbolic force, generated by the idea that, having no beginning and no end, reflected perfection, the eternal, and also the heavens. In this perspective, drawing a circle both in the horizontal and vertical section, the ultimate paradigm for all monumental domes was the Roman Pantheon which, with its centrally placed "oculus" or “eye of heaven” proved to be a model for all other domes after it, retaining its position as the most ancient and well preserved dome in the world. Therefore, this article concentrates on the study of the Pantheon as an emblem and reference model for all monumental domes. By analyzing the “meaning” of its architectural design and its structural and geometric characteristics, the research dissects a comparison between similar large domes, similar to each other, such as that of St. Francesco di Paola in Naples and the Mosta Dome in Malta. The comprehension of these valuable architectural artifacts lies between the search for their original geometry and the identification of structural models through which their shape was defined, namely the geometric and proportional rules of the past.

Keywords

Masonry; Large Domes; Shape and Structure

References

Bianco L. (2018). A geohistorical retrospective analysis of cultural heritage buildings: the case of Mosta Dome, Malta. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.

Bossut C. (1802). Saggio generale di storia delle matematiche, Milano, Nobile e Tosi.

Cennamo C., Cusano C., Angelillo M. (2018). On the statics of large domes: a static and kinematic approach for San Francesco di Paola in Naples, in Proc. of the 10th International Masonry Conference, G. Milani, A. Taliercio and S. Garrity (eds.), Milan, Italy.

Cennamo C., Cusano C., Fortunato A., Angelillo M. (2018). A study on form and seismic vulnerability of the dome of San Francesco di Paola in Naples, Ingegneria Sismica, International Journal of Earthquake Engineering, 35(1):88-108

Cowan H. (1977). Domes – Ancient and Modern. Architectural Science Review, 20: pp. 38-43.

Cusano C. (2019). The dome of San Francesco di Paola. Geometry, construction and stability in the design of domes in the first half of the nineteenth century. Doctoral Thesis (XXXI cycle) in Architecture, Industrial Design and Cultural Heritage. University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli. Tutor: Claudia Cennamo; co-tutor: Santiago Huerta Fernández.

De Fine Licht K. (1968) The Rotunda in Rome: A Study of Hadrian's Pantheon. Edición Gyldendal.

Fergusson J. (1862). History of the modern styles of architecture: Being a sequel to the handbook of architecture. London: John Murray.

Grognet de Vassé G. (1913). Correspondence dated 18 January 1833. In E. W. Salomone (Ed.), La Rotonda della Musta: Relazione architettonica del Grognet: documenti editi (pp. 9–12).

Grognet de Vassé G. (1913). Relazione sul mio Progetto per la nuova Chiesa da Fabricarsi di pianta in Casal Musta. In E. W. Salomone (Ed.), La Rotonda della Musta: Relazione architettonica del Grognet: documenti editi. pp. 15–21.

Jandoli A. (1999). L'utilizzo della cupola emisferica: la Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola in Napoli versus coelum. La città e le sue cupole edited by Adriana Baculo Giusti, Antonella di Luggo, Riccardo Florio. Napoli: Electa.

Mascheroni L. (1785). Nuove ricerche sull’equilibrio delle volte, Bergamo.

Mettam GR, Adams LB. (1999). How to prepare an electronic version of your article. In: Jones BS, Smith RZ, editors. Introduction to the electronic age. New York: E-Publishing Inc. pp. 281-304.

Sasso CN. (1856). Storia dei monumenti di Napoli e degli architetti che li edificarono. Napoli, 2, pp.123-134.

Stamp G. (2012). Domes. Apollo, 175(595), pp.74–75.

Strunk Jr W, White EB. (1979). The elements of style. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan.

Van der Geer J, Hanraads JAJ, Lupton RA. (2000). The art of writing a scientific article. J Sci Commun. 163, pp.51-9.

Wotton, W. (1624). The elements of architecture. London: John Bill.

Copyright (c) 2019 Resourceedings Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.