History of early middle ages domes

The early domes of the Middle Ages, particularly in those areas recently under Byzantine control, were an extension of earlier Roman architecture. The domed church architecture of Italy from the sixth to the eighth centuries followed that of the Byzantine provinces and, although this influence diminishes under Charlemagne, it continued on in Venice, Southern Italy, and Sicily. Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel is a notable exception, being influenced by Byzantine models from Ravenna and Constantinople. The Dome of the Rock, an Umayyad Muslim religious shrine built in Jerusalem, was designed similarly to nearby Byzantine martyria and Christian churches. Domes were also built as part of Muslim palaces, throne halls, pavilions, and baths, and blended elements of both Byzantine and Persian architecture, using both pendentives and squinches. The origin of the crossed-arch dome type is debated, but the earliest known example is from the tenth century at the Great Mosque of Córdoba. In Egypt, a “keel” shaped dome profile was characteristic of Fatimid architecture. The use of squinches became widespread in the Islamic world by the tenth and eleventh centuries. Bulbous domes were used to cover large buildings in Syria after the eleventh century, following an architectural revival there, and the present shape of the Dome of the Rock’s dome likely dates from this time.

Christian domes in Romanesque church architecture, especially those of the Holy Roman Empire, are generally octagonal on squinches and hidden externally within crossing towers, beginning around 1050. An example is the church of San Michele Maggiore in Pavia, Italy. St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, with its five domes on pendentives modeled on the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles, was built from 1063 to 1072. Domes on pendentives, apparently based upon Byzantine models, appear in the Aquitaine region of France after the beginning of the Crusades in 1095, such as the abbey church of Fontevrault, where Richard the Lionheart was buried. A series of centrally planned churches were built by the Knights Templar throughout Europe, modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the Dome of the Rock at their Temple Mount headquarters also an influence. Distinctive domes on pendentives were built in Spain during the Reconquista. Also built there were Christian crossed-arch domes similar to that of the earlier Great Mosque of Córdoba, such as at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Torres Del Río. Gothic domes are uncommon due to the use of rib vaults over naves, and with church crossings usually focused instead by a tall steeple, but there are examples of small octagonal crossing domes in cathedrals as the style developed from the Romanesque. The octagonal dome of Florence Cathedral was a result of the expansion plans for that church from the 14th century, a part of efforts in Tuscany to build domes with exposed external profiles.

The muqarnas dome type may have originated in Abbasid Iraq as single brick shells of large squinch-like cells, but it was popular in North Africa and Spain with more intricate cell patterns in stucco on a wooden inner shell. Two outstanding examples from the Moorish palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, are the 14th century Hall of the Abencerrajes and Hall of the two Sisters. In 14th century Egypt, the Mamluks began building stone domes, rather than brick, for the tombs of sultans and emirs and would construct hundreds of them over the next two and a half centuries. Externally, their supporting structures are distinguished by chamfered or stepped angles and round windows in a triangular arrangement. A variety of shapes for the dome itself were used, including bulbous, ogee, and keel-shaped, and included carved patterns in spirals, zigzags, and floral designs. Bulbous minarets from Egypt spread to Syria in the 15th century and would influence the use of bulbous domes in the architecture of northwest Europe, having become associated with the Holy Land by pilgrims. In the Low Countries of northwest Europe, multi-story spires with truncated bulbous cupolas supporting smaller cupolas or crowns became popular in the sixteenth century.

Early Middle Ages

Post-Roman areas
Seventeen years after the last Western Roman Emperor was deposed, Theodoric the Great was the Ostrogothic king of Italy. His building projects largely continued existing architectural conventions. His Arian Baptistry in Ravenna (c. 500), for example, closely echoes the Baptistry of Neon built before it. Both baptistries are octagonal buildings with pyramidal roofs concealing interior domes.

The Mausoleum of Theodoric, however, was understood by contemporaries to be remarkable. Begun in 520, the 36-foot-wide (11 m) dome over the mausoleum was carved out of a single 440-ton slab of limestone and positioned some time between 522 and 526. The low saucer shape of the monolithic dome, which is estimated to be more than 230 tons of Istrian stone, may have been chosen to avoid radial cracking. The twelve brackets carved as part of the dome’s exterior are thought to have been used to maneuver the piece into place. The choice of large limestone blocks for the structure is significant as the most common construction material in the West at that time was brick. It is likely that foreign artisans were brought to Ravenna to build the structure; possibly from Syria, where such stonework was used in contemporary buildings.

The Syria and Palestine area has a long tradition of domical architecture, including wooden domes in shapes described as “conoid”, or similar to pine cones. When the Arab Muslim forces conquered the region, they employed local craftsmen for their buildings and, by the end of the 7th century, the dome had begun to become an architectural symbol of Islam. The rapidity of this adoption was likely aided by the Arab religious traditions, which predate Islam, of both domed structures to cover the burial places of ancestors and the use of a round tabernacle tent with a dome-like top made of red leather for housing idols. Early versions of bulbous domes can be seen in mosaic illustrations in Syria dating to the Umayyad period. They were used to cover large buildings in Syria after the eleventh century.

Umayyad Caliphate
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the earliest surviving Islamic building, was completed in 691 by Umayyad caliph Abd Al-Malik. Its design was that of a ciborium, or reliquary, such as those common to Byzantine martyria and the major Christian churches of the city. The rotunda of the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in particular, has a similar design and almost the same dimensions. The dome, a double shell design made of wood, is 20.44 meters in diameter. The dome’s bulbous shape “probably dates from the eleventh century.” Several restorations since 1958 to address structural damage have resulted in the extensive replacement of tiles, mosaics, ceilings, and walls such that “nearly everything that one sees in this marvelous building was put there in the second half of the twentieth century”, but without significant change to its original form and structure. It is currently covered in gilded aluminum.

In addition to religious shrines, domes were used over the audience and throne halls of Umayyad palaces, and as part of porches, pavilions, fountains, towers and the calderia of baths. Blending the architectural features of both the Byzantine and Persian architecture, the domes used both pendentives and squinches and were made in a variety of shapes and materials. A dome stood at the center of the palace-city of Baghdad and, similarly but on a smaller scale, there are literary accounts of a domed audience hall in the palace of Abu Muslim in Merv at the meeting point of four iwans arranged along the cardinal directions.

Muslim palaces included domical halls as early as the eighth century, well before domes became standard elements of mosque architecture. The early eighth century palace of Khirbat al-Minya included a domed gateway. The palace of Qasr Mshatta and a ninth century palace at Samarra included domed throne rooms. A domed structure covered a shallow pool in the main courtyard of the mid eighth century palace of Khirbat al-Mafjar. Similar examples at mosques, such as the domed fountains at the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (destroyed in 987 and replaced with a different structure), at Maarrat al-Numan, in Nishapur, Tripoli, and at the Mosque of Damascus seem to be related to this element of palace architecture, although they were later used as part of ritual ablution.

The calderia of early Islamic bath complexes at Amra, Sarraj, and Anjar were roofed with stone or brick domes. The caldarium of the early Islamic bath at Qasr Amra contains “the most completely preserved astronomical cupola decoration”, a decorative idea for bath domes that would long continue in the Islamic world.

The placement of a dome in front of the mihrab of a mosque probably began with the rebuilding of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina by Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid. This was likely to emphasize the place of the ruler, although domes would eventually become focal points of decoration and architectural composition or indicate the direction of prayer. Later developments of this feature would include additional domes oriented axially to the mihrab dome. Byzantine workmen built the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus and its hemispherical dome for al Walid in 705. The dome rests upon an octagonal base formed by squinches. The dome, called the “Dome of the Eagle” or “Dome of the Gable”, was originally made of wood but nothing remains of it. It is supposed to have rested upon large cross beams.

Although architecture in the region would decline following the movement of the capital to Iraq under the Abbasids in 750, mosques built after a revival in the late 11th century usually followed the Umayyad model, especially that of the Mosque of Damascus. Domed examples include the mosques at Sarmin (1305-6) and al-Bab (1305). The typical Damascus dome is smooth and supported by a double zone of squinches: four squinches create an eight sided transition that includes eight more squinches, and these create a sixteen-sided drum with windows in alternate sides.

Byzantine influence in Europe
Italian church architecture from the late sixth century to the end of the eighth century was influenced less by the trends of Constantinople than by a variety of Byzantine provincial plans. With the crowning of Charlemagne as a new Roman Emperor, these influences were largely replaced in a revival of earlier Western building traditions. Occasional exceptions include examples of early quincunx churches at Milan and near Cassino.

Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel has a domed octagon design influenced by Byzantine models such as the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, the Church of Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople, and perhaps the Chrysotriklinos, or “golden reception hall”, of the Great Palace of Constantinople. It was built at his palace at Aachen between 789 and its consecration in 805. The architect is thought to be Odo of Metz, although the quality of the ashlar construction has led to speculation about the work of outside masons. The octagonal domical vault measures 16.5 meters wide and 38 meters high. It was the largest dome north of the Alps at that time. The chapel inspired copies into the 14th century and remained a “focal-point of German kingship”. The dome was rebuilt after a fire in 1656 and the interior decoration dates to around 1900.

Venice, Southern Italy and Sicily served as outposts of Middle Byzantine architectural influence in Italy. Venice’s close mercantile links to the Byzantine empire resulted in the architecture of that city and its vicinity being a blend of Byzantine and northern Italian influences, although nothing from the ninth and tenth centuries has survived except the foundations of the first St. Mark’s Basilica. This building was presumably similar to Justinian’s Church of the Holy Apostles based on its layout, but how it was roofed is unknown. That southern Italy was reconquered and ruled by a Byzantine governor from about 970 to 1071 explains the relatively large number of small and rustic Middle Byzantine-style churches found there, including the Cattolica in Stilo and S. Marco in Rossano. Both are cross-in-square churches with five small domes on drums in a quincunx pattern and date either to the period of Byzantine rule or after. The church architecture of Sicily has fewer examples from the Byzantine period, having been conquered by Muslims in 827, but quincunx churches exist with single domes on tall central drums and either Byzantine pendentives or Islamic squinches. Very little architecture from the Islamic period survives on the island, either.

Al-Andalus and North Africa
Much of the Muslim architecture of Al-Andalus was lost as mosques were replaced by churches after the twelfth century, but the use of domes in surviving Mozarabic churches from the tenth century, such as the paneled dome at Santo Tomás de las Ollas and the lobed domes at the Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada, likely reflects their use in contemporary mosque architecture. The Great Mosque of Córdoba, begun in 785 under the last of the Umayyad caliphs, was enlarged by Al-Hakam II between 961 and 976 to include four domes and a remodeled mihrab. The central dome, in front of the mihrab area, transitions from a square bay with decorative squinches to eight overlapping and intersecting arches that surround and support a scalloped dome. These crossed-arch domes are the first known examples of the type and, although their possible origins in Persia or elsewhere in the east remains a matter of debate, their complexity suggests that earlier examples must have existed. The nine bays of the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, built about 50 years later, contain a virtual catalog of crossed-arch dome variations. After the 10th century, examples can also be found in Armenia and Persia.

The dome of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba), built in the first half of the 9th century, has ribbed domes at each end of its central nave. The dome in front of the mihrab rests on an octagonal drum with slightly concave sides. After the ninth century, mosques in North Africa often have a small decorative dome over the mihrab. Additional domes are sometimes used at the corners of the mihrab wall and at the entrance bay. The square tower minarets of two or more stories are capped by small domes. Examples include the Great Mosque of Sfax in Tunisia (founded in the 9th century and later enlarged), the Great Mosque of Algiers (probably of the 11th century), and the Great Mosque of Tlemcen (1303). In Cairo, the martyrium of the Sharif Tabataba (943), an 18-meter square nine-domed open pavilion, is the earliest mausoleum whose plan has survived. The most common type, however, was a small domed cube.

The Fatimids conquered Egypt from North Africa in 969 and established a new architectural style for their new Caliphate. The earliest Fatimid mosque, Al-Azhar, was similar to the earlier Mosque of Ibn Tulun but introduced domed bays at both ends of the qibla wall, in addition to the dome in front of the mihrab, and this feature was later repeated among the mosques of North Africa. Later alterations to the mosque have changed its original form. The use of corner squinches to support domes was widespread in Islamic architecture by the 10th and 11th centuries.

Egypt, along with north-eastern Iran, was one of two areas notable for early developments in Islamic mausoleums, beginning in the 10th century. Fatimid mausoleums, many of which have survived in Aswan and Cairo, were mostly simple square buildings covered by a dome. Domes were smooth or ribbed and had a characteristic Fatimid “keel” shape profile. The first were built in and around Fustat. Those inside the city were decorated with carved stucco and contrast with the extreme simplicity of those outside the city, such as the four so-called Sab’a Banat (c. 1010) domed squares. Those at Aswan, mostly from the 11th century, are more developed, with ribbed domes, star-shaped openings, and octagonal drums with concave exterior sides which are corbeled outward at the top. They vary in plan as well, with domes sometimes joined with barrel vaults or with other domed mausoleums of different dimensions. The Fatimid mausoleum at Qus is in this Aswan style.

Other than the small brick domes used over the bay in front of a mihrab or over tombs, Fatimid domes were rare. An exception in size was the large dome over the Fatimid palace dynastic tomb. Literary sources describe royal domes as part of ceremonial processions and royal recreation. Examples of Fatimid palace architecture, however, described by travelers’ accounts as their greatest achievement, have not survived. The ribbed or fluted domes introduced by the Fatimids may derive from a theme in earlier Coptic art, and would be continued in the later architecture of the Mamluks.

The palace at the Kalaa of the Beni Hammad contained a domed chamber.

Source From Wikipedia