Theodoric the Great and His Ostrogothic Mausoleum

Theodoric the Great and His Ostrogothic Mausoleum

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Theodoric the Great was the king of the Ostrogoths from 475 to 526 AD. Born in 454 AD to the Gothic king Theodemir, Theodoric became the founder of the Ostrogothic dynasty in Italy from 474 AD onwards. One of the most fascinating aspects of Theodoric’s life is the tomb that he had constructed for himself, c. 520 AD in Ravenna, Italy. The structure’s dome weighs 230 tons but scholars, archaeologists, and historians have no idea how the gigantic piece was placed in its current position. Furthermore, the structure’s combination of Roman construction and Christian Gothic designs makes it a paramount feature of the transitional 5 th century in Italy which saw Italy shift from Roman territory into eastern hands. As such, the mausoleum of Theodoric highlights the memory of the Ostrogothic leader, not only for his achievements in defining the Ostrogoths in Italy but also for his role in the transition from the Roman period into the early medieval period of Italy.

Theodoric the Great ensured peace between the Romans and Goths of Ravenna during his reign. (Ввласенко / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Who Were the Ostrogoths?

The Ostrogoths were a Germanic people who emerged in the 5 th century AD, part of the greater Gothic presence which itself appeared in the Roman record in the 3 rd century. The Ostrogoths are believed to have originally come from one of the more eastern Germanic tribes. It is hypothesized that the Ostrogoths rose as a political entity in the area north of the Black Sea, around the region of modern day Hungary. Most of our knowledge of the early Ostrogothic culture comes from the writer Cassiodorus, a Roman statesman living from approximately 485 to 585 AD, and thereby surviving the reign of Theodoric the Great.

Along with the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths formed one of the two great Gothic kingdoms of the late Roman Empire. Together (though not necessarily as a team), the two tribes of Goths led invasions into Rome and against the Roman Empire before 375 AD. After the fall of the Huns , a nomadic tribe which led to the migration of the Goths and other peoples into Rome, the Ostrogoths became an independent nation c. 453 AD, but the Roman Empire had been significantly weakened. This chain of events led to the eventual creation of an Ostrogothic Empire with its center in Ravenna, Italy.

Having defeated the Odoacer in 493 AD, Theodoric the Great guided the rise of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Theodoric and the Ostrogothic Kingdom

The Ostrogoths continued to make incursions against the surviving Roman Empire, considered to have officially “ fallen” c. 476 AD, though the eastern Byzantine Empire survived and continued to thrive. It was some time before this that Theodoric was sent to Constantinople to as a hostage in an effort by his father to make peace with the surviving empire and his presence in Constantinople served as a beacon of the treaty his father had enacted between the Ostrogoths and Byzantine Emperor Leo I. Theodoric was therefore raised in the Greco-Roman education system, and learned the ways of governing and running an empire during his time there.

Becoming a comrade of the Byzantine emperor Zeno, Theodoric was entrusted at the young age of eighteen to command his own army in an attempt to stifle the rise of another Theodoric called Strabo, who sought power over the Ostrogoths. Strabo’s defeat saw Theodoric’s power over the Ostrogothic kingdom grow, solidifying at the same time an alliance between the Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogoths. As such, Emperor Zeno gave Theodoric another important task: Theodoric was sent to relieve the problem of King Odoacer in Italy, who had taken the moniker of king after defeating the last of the Roman emperors. Sources of the period do conflict, however, on whether the decision to go after Odoacer was Zeno’s or Theodoric’s own. If Theodoric was successful in removing Odoacer, Zeno said, then he would be allowed to take whatever land he wanted for himself.

After defeating the Odoacer, Theodoric the Great made his capital at Ravenna in Italy. His appreciation for Roman values and culture, allowed both cultures to thrive and grown equally during his reign.

The defeat of Odoacer in 493 AD (with the aid of Visigoth forces) led to the eventual rise of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy. Theodoric made his capital at Ravenna, itself still populated by Romans, and his appreciation for Roman values and culture, gained during his youth in Constantinople, allowed both cultures to continue to thrive and grow equally under his reign. While promising the Ostrogothic peoples their own lands, something they had not possessed due to previous political instability, Theodoric also enabled the Romans to continue their traditions, administration, and Catholic Christianity, without much interference. (It should be noted, however, that there was some upheaval because the Goths practiced Arian Christianity.) Though such shifts are never one hundred percent seamless, Theodoric saw little resistance to his attempts at unifying the two cultures, and successfully reigned over the joint cultures in Ravenna for thirty years, from 493 AD until his death in 526 AD.

The mausoleum of Theodoric the Great is viewed as one of the few architectural constructions that remain as testament to the transition of Italy from the Roman to Gothic periods.

Mausoleum of Theodoric the Great: A Testament to Transition

Theodoric’s Mausoleum is a testament to the transition of Italy from the Roman to Gothic periods, as well as to the combined Roman and Gothic populations in Ravenna following Theodoric’s move to power in the 5 th century. This period, more frequently referred to as the Migration Period due to the mass movement of nomadic peoples across Europe, has little surviving architecture. Since migrants were not necessarily settling, their art tended to be portable, resulting in very little architecture constructed to last the test of time.

Theodoric’s mausoleum stands as one of the few surviving examples of “ barbarian”, or non-Roman, architecture from the 5 th century AD. Some scholars believe that due to Theodoric’s extensive work within the army of Emperor Zeno of Byzantium, he was influenced by the eastern structures of Syria, and combined those influences with the current Roman architecture present in Ravenna. It has also been suggested that his mausoleum was inspired by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus , one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Regardless, it is agreed that the mausoleum of Theodoric the Great straddles two very different traditions and historical periods, and is exceptional due to its survival.

Theodoric mausoleum cross-sections and plans from 1905 publication.

The Architecture of Theodoric’s Mausoleum

Built in 520 AD, and according to tradition in the ancient world, the mausoleum was erected outside the city walls “in a Gothic burial ground.” The structure is made entirely of Istrian stone, which comes from modern day Croatia, and it is constructed from two decagonal (ten-sided polygon) structures built one on top of another. The upper level is topped by a large, monolithic dome, reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon. The upper dome measures 10.76 meters in diameter (approximately 35 feet) and 3.09 meters tall (approximately 10.14 feet), with a weight of 230 tons. Interestingly, the dome is believed to be carved from a single piece of Istrian stone.

The interior of the church is constructed from twelve arches which bear “the names of eight apostles and four evangelists,” thereby highlighting the Christian religion of Theodoric and his kingdom. There are triangular holes in the roof which give the dome the look of a crown, and it is possible that at one time, these holes were used to help in the construction of the project, afterwards repurposed to contribute to the regality of the building.

The lower structure of the mausoleum can be accessed from the upper area by a niche which “was probably a former cruciform-plan chapel, originally used for religious services,” in particular funerary ones. This structure is wider than its upper level, allowing the upper level to sit comfortably in the center of the building.

Interior image of top level at Mausoleum of Theodoric the Great containing the sacrcophagus. (Ruge / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Theodoric himself is believed to have been buried in a sarcophagus frequently compared to a bathtub, made of red porphyry. The tomb has “four rings carved into its sides, as well as two lion heads.” If Theodoric’s body truly dwelt there, it only remained for only a short while before his bones were removed from the complex and scattered by the Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius, the mausoleum itself converted by him into a Christian oratory.

Archaeologists and astronomers have done extensive research into the mausoleum’s structure and have recently hypothesized there was a deeper purpose to the building besides housing the remains of the king of the Ostrogoths. The orientation of the mausoleum might indicate that the structure was used to align with “important moments within the astrological year.” The location of the sun and the seventeen windows indicates that on certain important religious days, such as the day of the Annunciation, the sun illuminates the cross-shaped window of the tomb at sunrise. At other times of the day, the setting of the sun has illuminated the scripts within the bands of the mausoleum, thus further indicating the likelihood of a dual purpose to the tomb’s structure. It was not merely for housing bones, and paying respects, but rather possibly served as an important astronomical tool for Christian worship as well.

Visual Example of Roman and Gothic Unity Under Theodoric

The mausoleum is particularly noted for its significance in combining Roman and Byzantine artistic styles with Gothic ones, a visual reminder of Theodoric’s own role in the transition from the Roman period into the early Middle Ages. As such, it stands in contrast to the other monuments in Ravenna, Italy. The mausoleum is constructed using the Roman stone technique of opus quadratum , where stones are placed in parallel settings without the use of mortar. Instead of mortar, the building is joined by iron clamps. In addition to these Roman techniques, there is a ledge on the upper level “decorated by a ‘pincer’ frieze, a characteristic element of Gothic art.” Thus the monument stands as a visual example of the combined Roman and Gothic influences of the city during the period of Theodoric’s rule. Serving as his intended place of burial, one can only assume Theodoric’s plans were intentional in an attempt to highlight the unity he created within the city of Ravenna during his thirty-year reign.

  • Ostrogothic Kingdom – The Rise and Fall of the Eastern Goths
  • A Millennium of Glory: The Rise and Fall of the Byzantine Empire
  • The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus: A Wonder of the Ancient World

The reign of Theodoric the Great saw peace between the Romans and Goths of Ravenna, Italy, which is best exemplified through his mausoleum. Though his reign was not without some hiccups, his mausoleum stands as a brilliant reminder of the unity of the two cultures despite their drastically different forms of Christianity and cultural beliefs practiced concurrently within his kingdom. The Roman dome and arches alongside the use of opus quadratum , combined with the Gothic frieze, come together to create one of the only surviving testaments to the architecture of the period of transition from the Roman Age to the early medieval period. Theodoric’s resting place is therefore as valuable to the history of the peoples of Europe as to the memory of the role he played at the end of the Roman Empire.

Theodoric the Great

Few Roman emperors received the title “The Great” and one of them was the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great. He was born in the 454 AD in Pannonia where he is listed on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. This was a period when the Western Roman Empire was on the brink of collapse. The Ostrogoth people that his father, King Theodemir ruled, were restless and hungry because of their overcrowded conditions and lack of available land that they could farm. They were also besieged by other tribes in the area which pushed them to venture outside of Pannonia and into the Eastern Roman’s Empire’s territories in search of land and food.

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When Theodoric reached seven years old, he was taken to Constantinople as a hostage to guarantee that the Ostrogoths would stop all raids on the Eastern empire’s territory. In Constantinople, Theodoric received the best education the Eastern Romans could provide, and the young Ostrogoth excelled in administration and military strategies. Later, he returned to his people in Pannonia at age eighteen and was sent back by Emperor Leo with great gifts.

Theodoric wasted no time and joined his father in a battle against the Sarmatian king Babai upon his return. Theodoric also led 6,000 Ostrogoth warriors to besiege the city of Singidunum and later joined his father in the invasion of the cities of Naissus, Ulpiana, Heraclea, and Larissa. But Theodemir decided to continue south to the Greek city of Thessalonica after he was dissatisfied with their plundered goods. To prevent a full-scale invasion, the Roman general who governed Thessalonica brokered a truce with the Ostrogoths with a provision that he would hand over some territories for the invaders. The Ostrogoths happily went on their way after they received this treaty and settled on their new lands. Theodemir died after an illness in 475 AD.

Theodoric: King of Ostrogoths and Romans in Italy

Before his death, Theodemir appointed his son Theodoric as king of the Ostrogoths. Upon Theodoric’s accession as king, Emperor Zeno invited him to Constantinople and the new Ostrogoth ruler was received in the city with great honors. Zeno also appointed him as Magister militum (Master of the Soldiers) in 483 AD and Theodoric served as consul the following year. Theodoric returned to the Ostrogoth territory in 488 AD, but the restless and hungry tribe remained a threat to Emperor Zeno. The Eastern Roman emperor was also worried that Odoacer had grown more powerful in Italy after he removed the last Roman emperor of the west from his throne.

Zeno decided to solve the Ostrogoth’s overwhelming need for land and food, as well as the problem of Odoacer with one idea: he sent Theodoric West to remove the usurper from the throne and allowed the Ostrogoths to settle in Italy. Theodoric agreed to this plan and rallied a ragtag army made up of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Roman mercenaries who helped him besiege the Western Roman capital of Ravenna. It had taken three years of fighting before Odoacer and Theodoric were able to reach a truce, and both agreed to rule the west as co-emperors. As both men and their warriors celebrated the treaty, Theodoric killed Odoacer and started to rule Italy alone.

Theodoric married his way to alliances with other Germanic tribes during much of his reign. He married the Frankish princess Audofleda (sister of King Clovis I) as a way to build an alliance with the Franks, but tensions between the two tribes continued even after the union of the two. Theodoric also married his daughters (by his Moesian concubine) to Alaric, king of the Visigoths, and Sigismund, king of Burgundy. He gave his daughter Amalaesuntha to Eutharic of the Amali Dynasty of Visigothic Spain, while his sister married Thrasamund, king of the Vandals. Another daughter also married the king of the Thuringians.

Theodoric ruled for 33 years, and his reign was generally peaceful, but his powers as king were severely limited. For example, the Goths were forbidden to legally marry Roman citizens, and he did not have the power to appoint Goths to any position in the government. They were Arian Christians and were considered as heretics by the Romans who believed in Catholicism. Theodoric also prohibited the Romans from carrying weapons and Goths were the only ones allowed to enlist in the army—a departure from the discrimination the Goths faced during the reign of earlier Roman emperors. To Theodoric’s credit, he pursued fairness in the treatment between Goths and Romans and appealed to his fellow Goths to treat the Roman citizens fairly.

Before his death, Theodoric proclaimed his 10-year old grandson Athalaric (the son of Alaric and Amalaesuntha) as king of the Ostrogoths in Italy.

Theodoric Foreign policy

Theodoric based his foreign policy on the consolidation of the Ostrogothic rule over the other Germanic tribes of Europe. In 507 the Visigoth king Alaric II was slain in the battle of Vouille. Amalaric, the supposed nephew of the king Alaric II, was the successor to the throne. Theodoric became the regent, since Amalaric was too young, and he was his regent until 526.
The death of Alaric the second was used by the Frankish king Clovis (481 – 511), to conquer most of Visigoth Gaul, except the Roman Provence and Septimania. To preserve these two regions on the coast of Mediterranean Gaul, the Visigoths formed an alliance with Theodoric. By 508 the Franks were pushed out of Septimania and the Burgundians from Provence. Peace was established with the marriage of Theodoric’s daughter and Sigismund, the son of the Burgundian king Gundobald. (Theodoric often arranged marriages with ruling houses of the most important Germanic states of his time, this was usually done after successful military actions.)

Since Theodoric had no sons, the problem of who would succeed him became apparent. In 519 he married his daughter, Amalasuntha (which means “light of the Amali”) to Ostrogothic prince Eutaric. Amalasuntha and Eutaric had a son whose name was Atalaric, and Theodoric named him as his successor.


Theodoric’s last years were overshadowed by a political affair. In spite of his policy of reconciliation, some senators were not able to accept the rule of the barbarians. Therefore, they were sending secret letters to the eastern Roman Emperor Justin I (518-527), begging him to free them from the Ostrogothic yoke. When Theodoric learned of this, he ordered the lockup of many noble Romans among them the philosopher Boethius, who wrote his most known work “The Consolation of Philosophy” in captivity. He was executed in 524.

Theodoric died in 526. He was buried in Ravenna, not in an underground tomb, but in a mausoleum, in a casket made out of a single block of red marble.


Post-Roman areas Edit

Although the chronology in uncertain for some examples, domes continued to be built in Italy throughout the Middle Ages. Dome construction appears to have stopped in the city of Rome in the middle of the 5th century, but there are dozens of Italian examples outside of Rome from the next few centuries. [1] Continuing from late antiquity, domes in the early Middle Ages were built over centralized buildings such as baptisteries and martyria. [2] Domed baptisteries built in 6th century Italy include Albenga Baptistery and those of Canosa di Puglia and Nocera Superiore. [3] Other examples of domes may include the Sanctuary of San Prosdocimo in the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua (6th century), the Basilica of San Leucio at Canosa (6th century), the Basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto (as early as the end of the 6th century), and the church of Sant’Ilario a Port’Aurea [it] in Benevento (no later than the 7th century). [4]

The building projects of Theodoric the Great, the Ostrogothic king of Italy, largely continued existing architectural conventions. His Arian Baptistry in Ravenna (c. 500), for example, closely echoes the Baptistry of Neon built before it. [5] The Mausoleum of Theodoric, however, was understood by contemporaries to be remarkable. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [6]

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. [8] 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. [9]

Umayyad Caliphate Edit

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the earliest surviving Islamic building, was completed in 691 by Umayyad caliph Abd Al-Malik. [10] Its design was that of a ciborium, or reliquary, such as those common to Byzantine martyria and the major Christian churches of the city. [11] The rotunda of the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in particular, has a similar design and almost the same dimensions. [12] The building was reportedly burned in the eleventh century and then rebuilt, which would still make it one of the oldest timber buildings in the world. [13] The dome, a double shell design made of wood, is 20.44 meters in diameter. [14] The dome's bulbous shape "probably dates from the eleventh century." [9] 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. [15]

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. [16] 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. [17] [18]

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. [19]

The calderia of early Islamic bath complexes at Amra, Sarraj, and Anjar were roofed with stone or brick domes. [16] 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. [20]

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. [21] 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. [22] 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. [23]

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. [24]

Byzantine influence in Europe Edit

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. [25] In Italy, there seems to have been a decline in the frequency of dome building between the 8th and 10th centuries. [26]

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. [27] This building was presumably similar to Justinian's Church of the Holy Apostles based on its layout, but how it was roofed is unknown. [28]

In southern Italy, examples include the so-called baptistery of Santa Severina in Calabria, built sometime between the 4th and 11th centuries, the church of Church of Santa Maria di Gallana [it] in Agro di Oria, built sometime between 668 and the 9th century, the 8th or 10th century Tempietto di Seppannibale [it] , the 10th century church of San Giorgio dei Martiri [it] , and the 10th century church of San Pietro in Otranto [it] . [29] 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. [30]

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. [31] Very little architecture from the Islamic period survives on the island, either. [32]

With the crowning of Charlemagne as a new Roman Emperor, Byzantine influences were largely replaced in a revival of earlier Western building traditions, but occasional exceptions include examples of early quincunx churches at Milan and near Cassino. [25] The extensive Byzantine use of domes on spherical pendentives after the sixth century did influence Carolingian architecture of the ninth and tenth centuries. Remains of spherical pendentives have been found in the church of Germigny-des-Prés. [33]

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. [34] [35] It has also been proposed that descriptions by returning travelers of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which was thought to have been the Temple of Solomon, served as the model. [36] It was built at Charlemagne's 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. [34] 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. [37] The dimensions of the octagonal space match that of the 4th century octagonal Chapel of Saint Aquilino at the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan. The later central-plan cemetery church of St. Michael at Fulda was similar to the Aachen chapel, although simpler. [38] Copies of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen include an octagonal church in Ottmarsheim [de] , a chapel in Nijmegen [nl] , and the Westbau of Essen Minster. [39] 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. [40]

Al-Andalus and North Africa Edit

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. [41] 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. [42] 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. [43]

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. [44] [45] 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 Djamaa el Kebir mosque (probably of the 11th century), and the Great Mosque of Tlemcen (1303). [46] 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. [47]

The Fatimids conquered Egypt from North Africa in 969 and established a new architectural style for their new Caliphate. [48] 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. [49] The use of corner squinches to support domes was widespread in Islamic architecture by the 10th and 11th centuries. [50]

Egypt, along with north-eastern Iran, was one of two areas notable for early developments in Islamic mausoleums, beginning in the 10th century. [51] 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. [52] 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. [53]

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. [47] Literary sources describe royal domes as part of ceremonial processions and royal recreation. [17] 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. [54]

The palace at the Kalaa of the Beni Hammad contained a domed chamber. [55]

Hispanic Marches Edit

The so-called first Romanesque style of churches in the early 11th century included examples in Spain with domes on squinches. The domes tend to be dark and sometimes included small windows at the base. [56] The church of Santa Maria de Ripoll was consecrated in 1032, but was rebuilt after a fire in 1835. The church of Sant Miquel in Cruïlles was consecrated in 1035 and has a dome at its crossing covered on the exterior by a drum and short square tower. [57] The church of Church of Sant Vicenç in Cardena was built by 1040 and there is another example at Corbera. The Corbera church may not have been intended to have a dome when the foundations were laid and the crossing bay was narrowed to create a square by the insertion of additional arches on the north and south sides. The dome was covered by a square belfry on the exterior. [56] The small church of San Pablo in Barcelona has a central dome and triapsal arrangement resembling the churches of eastern Christianity. [58]

East–West Schism Edit

The schism between the churches of Constantinople and Rome was reflected in architecture. The Greek cross and domes of Byzantine architecture were found in areas of Byzantine cultural influence. [59] The domed church of San Giovanni a Mare in Gaeta may have been built in the second half of the 11th century. [60] The earliest existing large French dome is believed to be the pendentive dome built by 1075 over the crossing of the Collegiate Church of St-Martin at Angers [fr] . It reportedly incorporates "pottery" in its structure, a technique used in the late Roman period. [61]

Octagonal cloister vaults appear "in connection with basilicas almost throughout Europe" between 1050 and 1100. [62] The precise form differs from region to region. [63] They were popular in medieval Italy, in brick. [64] In Italy, the frequency, quality, and scope of dome construction increased beginning in the 11th century (although not in the city of Rome) and they were used in baptisteries, princely chapels, cathedrals, bell towers, and pieve churches. [65]

Domes in Romanesque architecture were generally found within crossing towers at the intersection of a church's nave and transept, which concealed the domes externally. [63] Called a tiburio, this tower-like structure often had a blind arcade near the roof. [66] Romanesque domes were typically octagonal in plan and used corner squinches to translate a square bay into a suitable octagonal base. [67] They were built across southern Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries and hundreds of examples under church crossing towers exist in Spain and southern France. [2]

Republic of Venice Edit

The Veneto region was strongly influenced by the architecture of Constantinople in the 11th century. On the island of Torcello, the Greek cross octagon style was used in the plan of the church of Santa Fosca [it] . [68]

In Venice, the second and current St. Mark's Basilica was built on the site of the first between 1063 and 1072, replacing the earlier church while replicating its Greek cross plan. Five domes vault the interior (one each over the four arms of the cross and one in the center). These domes were built in the Byzantine style, in imitation of the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. Mounted over pendentives, each dome has a ring of windows at its base. [69] These five windowed domes reflect the addition of windows (within tall drums) in the remodeled Byzantine original. However, the tall outer shells at St. Mark's were not added until after 1204. [28] The later high wooden outer domes with lead roofing and cupolas were added to St. Mark's Basilica between 1210 and 1270, allowing the church to be seen from a great distance. [69] In addition to allowing for a more imposing exterior, building two distinct shells in a dome improved weather protection. It was a rare practice before the 11th century. [70] The fluted and onion-shaped cupolas of the domes may have been added in the mid-fifteenth century to complement the ogee arches added to the facade in the late Gothic period. Their shape may have been influenced by the open and domed wooden pavilions of Persia or by other eastern models. [9] Initially, only the center dome had one. [28]

Holy Roman Empire Edit

The architecture of the areas of northern Italy that were a part of the Holy Roman Empire developed differently from the rest of the Italian peninsula. [71] The earliest use of the octagonal cloister vault within an external housing at the crossing of a cruciform church may be at Acqui Cathedral in Acqui Terme, Italy, which was completed in 1067. This became increasingly popular as a Romanesque feature over the course of the next fifty years. The first Lombard church to have a lantern tower, concealing an octagonal cloister vault, was San Nazaro in Milan, just after 1075. Many other churches followed suit in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, such as the Basilica of San Michele Maggiore in Pavia (the coronation church of the Kingdom of Italy within the Holy Roman Empire) and the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. At Sant'Ambrogio, the original plan for the church did not include a domed crossing and it was modified to include one, as also happened at Pisa Cathedral (funding for which was provided by Emperor Henry IV in 1089 and Emperor Henry V in 1116) and Speyer Cathedral (the burial church of the Salian dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors). The crossing domes at Pavia, Pisa, and Speyer were all completed around 1080 but the exact order of precedence is unresolved. [72]

The domes of Pisa Cathedral and Florence Baptistery may be the two earliest domes in Tuscany and were the two largest until about 1150. [73] Pisa Cathedral, built between 1063 and 1118, includes a high elliptical dome at the crossing of its nave and transept. The marble dome was one of the first in Romanesque architecture and is considered the masterpiece of Romanesque domes. Rising 48 meters above a rectangular bay, the shape of the dome was unique at the time. [74] The rectangular bay's dimensions are 18 meters by 13.5 meters. Squinches were used at the corners to create an elongated octagon in a system similar to that of the contemporary Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan and corbelling was used to create an oval base for the dome. The tambour on which the dome rests dates to between 1090 and 1100, and it is likely that the dome itself was built at that time. There is evidence that the builders did not originally plan for the dome and decided on the novel shape to accommodate the rectangular crossing bay, which would have made an octagonal cloister vault very difficult. Additionally, the dome may have originally been covered by an octagonal lantern tower that was removed in the 1300s, exposing the dome, to reduce weight on foundations not designed to support it. This would have been done no later than 1383, when the Gothic loggetta on the exterior of the dome was added, along with the buttressing arches on which it rests. [75]

An aspiring competitor to Pisa, the city of Florence took the opposite side in the conflict between Pope and Emperor, siding with the Pope in Rome. This was reflected architecturally in the "proto-renaissance" style of its buildings. [76] The eight-sided Florence Baptistery, with its large octagonal cloister vault beneath a pyramidal roof, was likely built between 1059 and 1128, with the dome and attic built between 1090 and 1128. The lantern above the dome is dated to 1150. [77] It takes inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome for its oculus and much of its interior decoration, although the pointed dome is structurally similar to Lombard domes, such as that of the later Cremona Baptistery. Its ratio of wall thickness to external diameter is about 1/10, in accordance with the rules of dome proportion followed until the 17th century. One of the most important religious buildings in Florence, the proportions of its dome were followed by the nearby dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore that was built by Brunelleschi centuries later. The polygonal dome was built with a wooden tension ring at about 23 meters high, too high to counteract the spreading forces, and a lower iron ring was added in 1514. [78]

The renovation of Speyer Cathedral, the largest of the Imperial Cathedrals of the Holy Roman Empire, was begun around 1080 by the Emperor Henry IV, soon after he had returned from a trip to Canossa in northern Italy. Although the church had only just been consecrated in 1061, Henry called upon craftsmen from across the empire for its renovation. The redesign included two octagonal cloister vaults within crossing towers, one at the east crossing with an external dwarf gallery and one at the west end. This was very soon imitated elsewhere and became the model for later Rhenish octagonal domes, such as those of Worms Cathedral (c. 1120–1181) and Mainz Cathedral (c. 1081–1239). [79] Many German Imperial cathedrals feature domes at their crossings. [80]

The crossing dome at the Church of St. Trophime in Arles is beneath a large square tower. [81]

Kingdom of France Edit

The 11th and 12th century Cathedral of Le Puy uses an unusual row of six octagonal domes on squinches over its nave, with the domes at the western end being at least a century later than those at the east end. A seventh dome is located in the normal position for a Romanesque dome on squinches: over the crossing. Other examples of this use over naves are rare and scattered. One is the large church of Saint Hilaire at Poitiers, which seems to have been influenced by Le Puy Cathedral. In 1130, its wide nave was narrowed with additional piers to form suitable square bays, which were vaulted with octagonal domes whose corner sides over trumpet squinches were so narrow that the domes resemble square cloister vaults with beveled corners. [82]

The crossing dome on squinches at the abbey church of Tournus may date to the 11th century. The Basilica of Saint-Martin d'Ainay has similar features. The largest church in France was Cluny Abbey, but it has been destroyed. [83] The surviving transept arm of Cluny Abbey, built in the early 12th century, has an octagonal dome on trumpet squinches beneath an octagonal tower and spire and flanked on either side by barrel vaults. [84] Autun Cathedral has a similar nave arrangement to that of Cluny Abbey. [85]

In Auvergne, there are several Romanesque churches with domed crossings that use squinches, with the dome supported by "flying screen" walls at the crossing bay and hidden on the exterior beneath octagonal towers with buttressing "shoulders" on two sides. Examples include the church of St. Saturnin [fr] and the Sainte-Marie de Cruas Abbey [fr] , which has a rotunda over the domed crossing. [86] At Avignon Cathedral, probably from the middle of the 12th century, the rectangular crossing bay is narrowed to a square by means of two sets of four arches on opposite sides for the dome on squinches. [87]

Duchy of Apulia and Calabria Edit

In southern Italy, the Basilica of San Sabino [it] in Canosa di Puglia was built around 1080 with five domes over its "T-shaped layout", with three domes across the transept and another two out over the nave. [88] Its cruciform plan, use of domes, and the later addition of an external mausoleum suggest that it may have been a Norman analog to the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles. It appears to have inspired a series of churches in Apulia with domed naves. [89] The date of construction has been challenged as being decades too late. The multi-domed churches of Cyprus have been proposed as the inspiration for the basilica's domes and for the three-domed naves of later churches in the region, which date mostly from the period of Norman rule, but this is also a topic of debate. San Benedetto at Conversano [it] , the Ognissanti of Valenzano [it] , San Francesco at Trani [it] , and the Cathedral of San Corrado at Molfetta [it] were built in the 11th to 13th centuries with pendentive domes. San Corrado also incorporates "squinch-like niches" between the pendentives and drums of two of its three domes. [90] The domes at Valenzano were covered by low pyramids that were rebuilt in the 1960s. The Cathedral of San Corrado was built around the year 1200. The town of Balsignano [it] has the ruin of a small domed church that reflects a mixture of eastern and western influences. [91]

Crusades and Reconquista Edit

The Crusades, beginning in 1095, also appear to have influenced domed architecture in Western Europe, particularly in the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. [92] The Mausoleum of Bohemond (c. 1111–18), a Norman leader of the First Crusade, was built next to the Basilica of San Sabino in the southern Italian province of Apulia and has a hemispherical dome in a Byzantine style over a square building with a Greek cross plan. [93] The dome had been covered by a pyramidal roof, according to a 1780s engraving, and the portion above the octagonal drum is a restoration. [94] [95] The Padua Baptistery is believed to have been built contemporaneously with the 1120s reconstruction of Padua Cathedral, a revision of the traditional foundation date of 1260. It has a dome on pendentives spanning an 11.6 meter square space, with a small altar chapel through the eastern wall. It served as a model for the later Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo. [96]

The Crusaders built several churches in Jerusalem during the 12th century. The most complete is the Church of Saint Anne, which has a small crossing dome. [97]

Influence of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Edit

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem seems to have had a wooden dome in two shells up to the 12th century, with some interruptions. After their establishing control of the city, the crusaders added a choir with a dome next to the existing rotunda. [98] The French Romanesque addition replaced the eastern apse of the rotunda and a courtyard marking the center of the world and was consecrated on July 15, 1149, the fiftieth anniversary of the capture of the city. The new dome's diameter of 10.4 meters was half that of the rotunda and it rested on four pointed arches on four pillars. It served as the coronation site for the crusader kings of Jerusalem and its relation to the larger dome over the rotunda may have been intended to mirror the relationship between the domes of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. [99]

The rotunda itself was covered by a conical structure from the 12th to the early 19th century. Pisa Baptistry was built in 1153 with a truncated cone in clear imitation of the Holy Sepulchre an outer dome shell was added in the 14th century. The domed baptisteries of Cremona (1176) and Parma (1196) also appear to have been influenced by the rotunda. [100] The 12th century rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre at Santo Stefano, Bologna, and the basilica at Neuvy-Saint-Sépulchre are imitations of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre although, like many of the imitations across Europe, they differ in their details, including their domes. [101] Most of these "so-called 'copies'" have a dome or domical vault. An example is a church at Almenno, Italy, which has a stone dome resting on eight supporting columns. [2]

The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem were taken by the crusaders to represent the Temple of Solomon and the Palace of Solomon, respectively. The Knights Templar, headquartered at the site, built a series of centrally planned churches throughout Europe modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the Dome of the Rock also an influence. [102] Examples include the church of the Vera Cruz at Segovia [es] , the church of the Convento do Cristo at Tomar, a rotunda church in Paris destroyed during the French Revolution, and Temple Church in London. The Church of Saint Mary of Eunate was a pilgrims' burial church, rather than a Templar church, but may have been influenced by them. [103] The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge and the Templar’s Chapel at Laon [fr] contain ribbed domes. [104]

Kingdom of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire Edit

Churches in northern Italy after 1100 were designed with vaulting from the outset, rather than as colonnaded basilicas with timber roofs and, like the Rhenish imperial cathedrals, many have octagonal domes with squinches over their crossings or choirs. Examples include Parma Cathedral, rebuilt around 1130, and Piacenza Cathedral (1122-1235). [105] Another example is the domed church of San Fedele in Como (11th to 12th century), similar to the church of St. Maria im Kapitol. The Baptistery of Parma, one of the largest baptisteries, was begun in 1196 and has dome frescoes dating from 1260 onwards. [66]

The Old Cathedral of Brescia was likely built in the first quarter of the 12th century and has a dome over a meter thick, made of heavy stone at the bottom and lighter porous stone at the top. [106] In Tarquinia, the oval stone dome on squinches over the church of San Giacomo (c. 1121–1140) may have been inspired by the dome of Pisa Cathedral. A dome on pendentives in Tarquinia was completed around 1190 as part of the cathedral of Sta. Maria di Castello and was similar to others in Tuscany and the Veneto. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1819. [107]

The dome of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan, a tetraconch building with a central space 23.8 meters square, was rebuilt in the Romanesque style after a fire in 1124. Much admired in the Renaissance, its dome collapsed in 1573 and was rebuilt with the present cloister vault. [108] Documentary evidence indicates that the Romanesque dome of San Lorenzo was a thin hemisphere of light material over a cube of space about 23.8 meters (40 Milanese braccia) on each side. The dome was supported by four corner squinches resting on the four exedrae arches of the square space with a further eight smaller squinches between each of them to create a sixteen-sided base. It was covered on the exterior by a cylindrical or polygonal drum and timber roof. The exterior drum was likely polygonal, with eight or sixteen sides, and had two levels of dwarf galleries beneath a cornice row of hanging arches. Evidence remains in the building's eastern corner towers of flying buttresses extending diagonally to the drum. The existence of a small lantern at the top of the dome is uncertain and the date the dome was completed is unknown. [109]

The cathedral of Sovana (1153-1175) and the church of San Salvatore at Terni (about 1200) were constructed with local materials and have precedents in the region. [110] The alternating stone and brick rings of the dome over the Rotuna of Montesiepi [it] at the Abbey of San Galgano are unusual but may be part of Tuscan decorative polychrome banding. [111] It was built in the 1180s as a commemorative chapel with a hemispherical dome over a cylindrical rotunda and the top 16 rings are all in brick, giving the impression of an oculus at the top of the dome. [2]

Kingdom of France and the Angevin Empire Edit

The crossing dome at Obazine Abbey has pendentives, which became popular in France throughout the 12th century. By the middle of the 12th century, the use of drums with windows beneath the domes allowed in more light. Octagonal drums were preferred. Examples include the church of La Dorat [fr] in the Limousin region and the Church of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat [fr] . [112] Other examples include the crossing domes of the church of St. Étienne at Nevers [fr] (c. 1097), the Basilica of Notre-Dame du Port (built in the 11th and 12th centuries), the basilica at Orcival [fr] (12th century), and the church of Saint-Nectaire [fr] . In the latter three examples, the crossing dome is supported on the north and south sides by an adjacent half or full barrel vaults. [113] Another example of a crossing dome on an octagonal drum and pendentives that is part of a tall lantern tower is Saint-Barthélémy Church of Bénévent-l'Abbaye [fr] . [87]

In the Aquitaine region of southwest France, there are a large number of unusual domed Romanesque churches over 250 in the Périgord region alone. The area is far from ports with regular contact with the East and the source of influence is not entirely settled. [114] A study in 1976 of Romanesque churches in the south of France documented 130 with oval plan domes, such as the domes on pendentives at Saint-Martin-de-Gurson, Dordogne [fr] and Balzac, Charente. [115] The oval shape appears to have been a practical solution to rectangular crossing bays. [116] The use of pendentives to support domes in the Aquitaine region, rather than the squinches more typical of western medieval architecture, strongly implies a Byzantine influence. [117] The oldest French pendentives are built in horizontal courses, rather than courses normal to the curve. This may have been done to better spread the weight of each course and also allow for a lighter wooden centering to be used during construction. [118]

Between the Garonne and Loire rivers there are known to have been at least seventy-seven churches whose naves were covered by a line of domes. Half of them are in the Périgord region. Most date to the twelfth century and sixty of them survive today. [119] That the domes in this area were arranged in linear series has suggested the contemporary architecture of Cyprus as the inspiration, which was located on a pilgrimage route to the Holy Land. [120] Cyprus had developed its own style of domed basilica during its period of neutrality between Byzantine and Arab rulers, using three domes of roughly equal size in a line over the nave and very little lighting. There are indications of a connection between Aquitaine and Cyprus just after the First Crusade. [121]

The earliest of these French churches may be Angoulême Cathedral, built from 1105 to 1128. Its long nave is covered by four stone domes on pendentives, springing from pointed arches, the last of which covers the crossing and is surmounted by a stone lantern. [122] [123] Possible earlier domes may have existed at the church of Saint-Astier, Dordogne, which was founded in 1010 although little of the original construction remains, and at Saint-Avit-Sénieur (c. 1117), whose original three domes were replaced with "domed up Anjou vaults" in the 13th century. [124] The westernmost of the Angoulême domes is the earliest, constructed between 1100 and 1125. Four small recesses at the base of each nave dome, just above the cornices, was likely used to secure wooden centering formwork during construction. Later stone domes in the region have four small windows in a similar location that may have been used in the same way. [124] The domes of the church of St. Étienne at Périgueux [fr] preceded the larger ones at Cahors Cathedral. [125] St. Étienne originally had four domes, but two were destroyed in the 16th century. Of the remaining two, the earlier one was completed around 1125 the later one by 1163. [124] Cahors Cathedral (c. 1100–1119) covers its nave with two large domes in the same manner and influenced the later building at Souillac [fr] . [122] The domes at Cahors have a diameter of more than fifty feet. [125] The abbey church at Fontevrault served as a burial place for Plantagenet royalty, including Richard the Lionheart, and is one of the most impressive examples. The earlier domed crossing is preceded by a wider nave covered by four domes, which was begun in 1125. The pendentives are original, but the four nave domes are modern replacements from about 1910. [126] Originally designed as a three-aisled hall church with barrel vaults, after the choir was completed the nave was redesigned with piers to support the line of domes spanning the full width. Likewise at the Abbaye aux Dames in Saintes, the abbey church was remodeled during construction to allow for the domes. [127]

The cathedral of S. Front at Périgueux was built c. 1125–1150 and derives its five-domed cruciform plan ultimately from the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. [122] [128] One of the domes covers part of the choir, the rest of which is covered by a barrel vault and apse half-dome, although most domed churches in the region used only a barrel vault and apse half-dome for the choir. [129] The domes differ from normal Byzantine practice in the use of stone, rather than a lighter material such as brick, and that difference may help explain the other differences, such as the domes being slightly pointed and at least semicircular, rather than segmental, springing from a distance set back from the circle formed by the pendentives, rather than directly from the circle, and resting on pendentives with complex curves that begin at the lower side of the supporting arch voussoirs, rather than quarter-circle pendentives beginning at the upper side. [118] The S. Front domes had dressed stone only on the lowest levels prior to alterations by Paul Abadie in the 19th century. The lanterns on the domes at Souillac were likewise added by 19th century restoration. [130] There are indications that the domes were originally covered by a wooden roof. [131]

Gothic rib vaulting superseded the use of domes in south-west France after the 12th century. The church at Saint-Avit-Sénieur appears to have been designed for domes but they may never have been built. The nave is covered instead by ribbed Angevin style vaults. The "domical shape of Angevin vaults", like those seen in Angers Cathedral, may be due to the influence of Romanesque domed churches. [127] The foundations of Bordeaux Cathedral indicate that it originally had a nave covered with a line of three domes like those of Angoulême Cathedral but it was rebuilt in the 13th century with a vaulted ceiling. [132]

Kingdom of León and the Emperors of all Spain Edit

The remains of a crossing tower on the French Church of Saint-Jean de Montierneuf from about 1140 suggest an origin for some Spanish domes in a Romanesque and transitional Gothic style. [133] The architectural influences at work here have been much debated, with proposed origins ranging from Jerusalem, Islamic Spain, or the Limousin region in western France to a mixture of sources. [63]

During the Reconquista, the Kingdom of León in northern Spain built three churches famous for their domed crossing towers, called "cimborios", as it acquired new territories. The Cathedral of Zamora, the Cathedral of Salamanca, and the collegiate church of Toro were built around the middle of the 12th century. All three buildings have stone umbrella domes with sixteen ribs over windowed drums of either one or two stories, springing from pendentives. All three also have four small round towers engaged externally to the drums of the domes on their diagonal sides. [134] A later related dome is that over the chapter house of the Old Cathedral of Plasencia. [135] Perhaps the masterpiece of the series, the Salamanca crossing tower has two stories of windows in its drum. Its outer stone fish-scale roof lined with gothic crockets is a separate corbelled layer with only eight lobes, which applies weight to the haunches of the sixteen-sided inner dome. [136] The vaulting over the nave of the old Salamanca Cathedral is covered by domes supported by diagonal ribs in the western bays and Anjou-style domed-up rib vaults in the two eastern bays. [137]

The dome of the church of San Millán [es] in Segovia is an octagonal crossed-arch dome on squinches that may have been made with concrete around the middle of the 12th century. [138] Another unusual Spanish example from the late 12th or early 13th century is the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre [eu] in Torres Del Río, on the Way of St. James. The Way, a major pilgrimage route through northern Spain to the reputed burial place of St. James the Greater, attracted pilgrims from throughout Europe, especially after pilgrimage to Jerusalem was cut off. The difficulty of travel to Jerusalem for pilgrimage prompted some new churches to be built as a form of substitute, evoking the central plan and dome of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre with their own variant. The dome in this case, however, is most evocative of the central mihrab dome of the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Over an octagonal room, the stone dome is formed by sixteen ribs, eight of which intersect with one another in a star pattern to define a smaller octagon at the center of the dome. [139] This is one of a number of Christian crossed-arch dome examples in Spain and the south of France from the end of the 12th century, with patterns based upon the square or octagon. Other examples include the domes of San Miguel de Almazán, Santa Cruz de Olorón [fr] , and San Blas Hospital [fr] . Contemporary Islamic examples in Spain and North Africa are distinguished from the Christian by the use of thinner and more numerous arches, such as those of the Alcázar of Seville, the Villena Castle in Alicante, the Great Mosque of Taza, and the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque. The style experienced a revival in early 16th century Spain when one of the crossed-arch domes of the Great Mosque of Córdoba was used as the model for domes at Zaragoza, Teruel, and Tarazona. [140]

Kingdom of Sicily Edit

The Christian domed basilicas built in Sicily after the Norman Conquest also incorporate distinctly Islamic architectural elements. They include hemispherical domes positioned directly in front of apses, similar to the common positioning in mosques of domes directly in front of mihrabs, and the domes use four squinches for support, as do the domes of Islamic North Africa and Egypt. In other cases, domes exhibit Byzantine influences with tall drums, engaged columns, and blind arcades. [141] The influence of the domed mosques of the Aghlabids has been cited to explain the design of the domes representative examples of Islamic domes from North Africa can be seen in the Al-Hakim Mosque and the Great Mosque of Sousse. [142]

Domes were used in a variety of compositions and were often not the center or focus of the architecture. In the Val Demone region, the churches of Santa Maria in Mili [it] (1090, but rebuilt in the 15th century), San Pietro in Itala [de] (1092–1093, but rebuilt), and Santi Pietro and Paolo in Casalvecchio (1116, but rebuilt and restored in 1172) are well-preserved. The three domes on squinches of Santa Maria in Mili San Pietro [it] , one of the first Norman buildings, are close together in a row above the prothesis, presbytery, and diaconicon, with the largest and tallest in the middle. The church of San Pietro in Itala has a central, tower-like dome. The church of Santi Pietro and Paolo in Casalvecchio has two domes, with a smaller eight-sided umbrella dome with muqarnas-like supports in the space before the altar and a larger umbrella dome on squinches over the nave. [143] The dome over the nave has a circular base and the dome over the altar has an octagonal base. [144]

Examples at Palermo include the Palatine Chapel (1132–1143), La Martorana (c. 1140s), and Zisa, Palermo (12th century). [145] [55] The church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti has five domes in a T-shaped arrangement and the Church of San Cataldo has three domes on squinches, with both showing clearly Islamic influence. [146]

North Africa, Syria, and Al-Jazira Edit

The so-called shrine of Imam al-Dawr in the village of al-Dawr, Iraq, is the earliest known example of a muqarnas dome, although it is unlikely to have been the first of its type. The dome rests on an octagonal base created by four squinches over a square bay. Three levels of muqarnas rise over this and are capped by a small cupola. The muqarnas cells are very large and resemble small squinches themselves. It was finished by 1090 by the court of an Uqaylid vassal of the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad and, although there are no surviving examples from Baghdad at this time, the large number of muqarnas domes known to have existed there by the end of the Middle Ages suggests that it could have been the source of the type. [147]

In Islamic North Africa, there are several early muqarnas domes dating from the twelfth century. The earliest may be an Almoravid restoration between 1135 and 1140 of a series of stucco muqarnas domes over the axial nave of the mosque of the Qarawiyyin in Fez. The existence of a near contemporary example from 1154 in the maristan of Nur al-din in Damascus, Syria, and the earlier example of a muqarnas dome in al-Dawr, Iraq, suggests that the style was imported from Baghdad. [148]

Most of the examples of muqarnas domes are found in Iraq and the Jazira, dated from the middle of the twelfth century to the Mongol invasion. The use of stucco to form the muqarnas pattern, suspended by a wooden framework from the exterior vault, was the least common in Iraq, although it would be very popular in North Africa and Spain. Because it used two shells, however, windows were restricted to the bases of the domes. They were otherwise used frequently in this type. In Iraq, the most common form was a single shell of brick, with the reverse of the interior pattern visible on the exterior. The Damascus mausoleum of Nur al-Din (1172) and the shrine of Zumurrud Khatun in Baghdad are examples. A third type is found only in Mosul from the beginning of the thirteenth century. It has a brick pyramidal roof, usually covered in green glazed tiles. Of the five preserved examples, the finest is the shrine of Awn al-Din, which used tiny colored tiles to cover the muqarnas cells themselves and incorporates small muqarnas domes into the tiers of muqarnas supporting the large eight-sided star at the center. This design led to a further development at the shrine of Shaykh Abd al-Samad in Natanz, Iran. [149]

The architecture of Syria and the Jazira includes the widest variety of forms in the medieval Islamic world, being influenced by the surviving architecture of Late Antiquity, contemporary Christian buildings, and Islamic architecture from the east. There are some muqarnas domes of the Iraqi type, but most domes are slightly pointed hemispheres on either muqarnas pendentives or double zones of squinches and made of masonry, rather than brick and plaster. The domes cover single bay structures or are just a part of larger constructions. Syrian mausoleums consist of a square stone chamber with a single entrance and a mihrab and a brick lobed dome with two rows of squinches. The dome at the Silvan Mosque, 13.5 meters wide and built from 1152 to 1157, has an unusual design similar to the dome added to the Friday Mosque of Isfahan in 1086-1087: once surrounded by roofless aisles on three sides, it may have been meant to be an independent structure. The congregational mosque at Kızıltepe, with its well integrated dome of about 10 meters, is the masterpiece of Artuqid architecture. [150]

After his conquest of the city of Jerusalem, Saladin rebuilt the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque as it is today, as part of extensive restorations. [151]

The largest preserved Ayyubid dome is that of the Matbakh al-'Ajami in Aleppo, resting on muqarnas pendentives. It may have been the palace residence of the al-'Ajami family. [152] The mausoleum over the tomb of Iman Al-Shafi‘i (built in 1211) has a large wooden double dome (rebuilt in 1722) about 29 meters high and, with the tombs of al-Malik al-Silah and the so-called Tomb of the Abassid Caliphs, is one of three important Ayyubid tombs in Cairo dating from the first half of the 13th century. [153] [154] The domed mausoleum was built 35 years after the madrassa ordered by Saladin at the site in 1176–7, which were introduced in Egypt after 1171 to counter Shia Islam. The only madrassa from the period to partly survive is the 1242 construction by As-Salih Ayyub on the site of the Fatimid Eastern Palace. The 10 meter wide domed tomb at its northern end led to the series of funerary madrassas built in Cairo by the Mamluk Sultans. [47]

Late Romanesque and Gothic Europe Edit

The use of domes declined in Western Europe with the rise of Gothic architecture. [80] 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. [155] The domes of Romanesque and Early Gothic latin-cross churches rarely span more than the width of the nave. [156]

Spaces of circular or octagonal plan were sometimes covered with vaults of a "double chevet" style, similar to the chevet apse vaulting in Gothic cathedrals. The crossing of Saint Nicholas at Blois [fr] is an example, as are those of Worms Cathedral and Coutances Cathedral. [157] The 13th century ribbed dome on squinches at the crossing of the Church of San Pedro [es] in Ávila, Spain is another. [158] The dome of Tarragona Cathedral was built in the French Gothic style and includes alternating sets of three and four windows at the base. [159] The domed "Decagon" nave of St. Gereon's Basilica in Cologne, Germany, a ten-sided space in an oval shape, was built between 1219 and 1227 upon the remaining low walls of a 4th-century Roman mausoleum. The ribbed domical vault rises four stories and 34 meters above the floor, covering an oval area 23.5 meters long and 18.7 meters wide. [160] It is unique among the twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne, and in European architecture in general, and may have been the largest dome built in this period in Western Europe until the completion of the dome of Florence Cathedral. [161] [162] Later examples include those of the Pazzi Chapel in Florence (c. 1420), Évreux Cathedral (second half of the 15th century), Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza (after 1500), and Burgos Cathedral (completed in 1568). [163] An octagonal gothic dome 65 feet in diameter was planned but never finished at Batalha Monastery in Portugal, to house royal tombs. [164]

In Italy, the dome of Siena Cathedral had an exposed profile as early as 1224, and this feature was retained in its reconstruction around 1260. [165] The dome has two shells and was completed in 1264. It is set over an irregular 17.7-metre-wide (58 ft) hexagon with squinches to form an irregular twelve-sided base. [166] No large dome had ever before been built over a hexagonal crossing. [167] The current lantern dates from the 17th century and the current outer dome is a 19th-century replacement. [168] An octagonal dome for Florence Cathedral may have been part of the original design by Arnolfo di Cambio for the church, construction of which began in 1296. [169] The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua was built between 1231 and 1300, in the early period of Italian Gothic architecture, and features seven domes with a blend of Gothic and Byzantine elements. Similar to St Mark's Basilica in Venice, its nave, transepts, crossing, and the intermediate bay before the choir are covered by domes on pendentives in the Byzantine style. Externally, the crossing dome is covered with a conical spire. The choir dome, which may be later than the others, is uniquely Gothic with ribs. [170] An eighth dome covers the attached Relics Chapel, adjacent to the choir dome. The masonry domes are covered externally by timber structures and several were repaired following a 1347 lightning strike and a 1748 fire. The two nearest the facade may be in their original condition. [171] The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte in Pistoia has an octagonal dome in the Florentine style. [172] Venice's Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo was built between 1333 and 1430 and features a domed crossing with Byzantine and Romanesque influences, such as the domed Romanesque cathedrals of the northern plain. [173]

In England, a dome with a pyramidal roof and lantern at the Abbot's kitchen of Glastonbury Abbey dates to the early 14th century. [174] Similar vaulting was built over the kitchen of Newenham Abbey by 1338. [175] Timber star vaults such as those over York Minster's octagonal Chapter house (ca. 1286–1296) and the elongated octagon plan of Wells Cathedral's Lady Chapel (ca. 1320–1340) imitated much heavier stone vaulting. [155] The wooden vaulting over the crossing of Ely Cathedral was built after the original crossing tower collapsed in 1322. It was conceived by Alan of Walsingham and designed by master carpenter William Hurley. [176] [177] Eight hammer vaults extend from eight piers over the 22 meter wide octagonal crossing and meet at the base of a large octagonal lantern, which is covered by a star vault. [178]

Andalusia Edit

Star-shaped domes are found at the Moorish palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which contains domed audience halls built to mirror the heavenly constellations. The Hall of the Abencerrajes (c. 1333–91) and the Hall of the two Sisters (c. 1333–54) are extraordinarily developed examples of muqarnas domes, taking the tradition of the squinch in Islamic architecture from a functional element in the zone of transition to a highly ornamental covering for the dome itself. The structural elements of these two domes are actually brick vaulting, but these are completely covered by the intricate mocárabe stalactites. The lacy and star-shaped crossing dome of Burgos Cathedral (1567) may have been inspired by these examples, in addition to that built over the cathedral's octagonal Chapel of the Condestable (1482–94) in the Gothic style. [155]

In the mudéjar style of Seville after the Christian reconquest of the city, a kind of dome made of intricately interlaced pieces of painted and gilded wood was known as a media naranja, or "half orange". The most famous example covers the "Hall of the Ambassadors" throne room in the Royal Palace Complex of Seville, a 10 meter wide space built in 1427. [179]

Mamluk Sultanate Edit

In the first half of the fourteenth century, stone blocks replaced bricks as the primary building material in the dome construction of Mamluk Egypt, with the brick domes being only 20 percent of those constructed around 1322. Over the course of 250 years, around 400 domes were built in Cairo to cover the tombs of Mamluk sultans and emirs. Although they kept roughly the same proportions, the shift from brick to stone is also associated with an increase in the average span and height of about 3 to 4 meters, and a decrease in the thickness of the domes. The stone domes are generally 8 to 10 meters in diameter and 7 to 11 meters high. The Mausoleum of Farag Ibn Barquq (1398–1411) is an exceptional case, with a dome 16 meters wide and 12.8 meters tall. [180] The dome over the tomb of An-Nasir Hasan is 69 feet wide and dates to 1356. [181]

The stone domes are generally single shells except at the conical crown, where there is a gap between inner and outer layers filled with earth and rubble and which contains the bases of the metal spires. Double shelled domes are rare, but an example is that of Al-Sultanyya Madrasa from 1360. The domes were constructed in circular rings, with the sizes decreasing towards the top of the dome and, because of this, it is possible that elaborate centering may not have been needed. Collapsed remains of some domes has revealed a layer of brick beneath the external stone, which could have supported and aligned the heavier stone during construction. Although the earliest stone domes do not have them, horizontal connections between the ashlar stone blocks were introduced in the fourteenth century, such as those made of teak wood in a dovetail shape used in the Mausoleum of Farag Ibn Barquq. [182] Dome profiles were varied, with "keel-shaped", bulbous, ogee, stilted domes, and others being used. On the drum, angles were chamfered, or sometimes stepped, externally and triple windows used in a tri-lobed arrangement on the faces. [183]

Decoration for these first stone domes was initially the same external ribbing as earlier brick domes, and such brick domes would continue to be built throughout the Mamluk period, but more elaborate patterns of carving were introduced through the beginning of the sixteenth century. Early stones domes were plastered externally when not cut precisely enough, but improvements in technique over time would make this unnecessary. Spiral ribs were developed in the 1370s and zigzag patterns were common both by the end of the fourteenth century and again at the end of the fifteenth century. In the fifteenth century, interlaced star and floral designs were used in a tiled pattern. The uniqueness of a pattern on a mausoleum dome helped to associate that dome with the individual buried there. [184]

The twin-domes of the Sultaniyya complex (c. 1360) and the narrow dome of Yunus al-Dawadar (c. 1385) are unusual in that they have muqarnas at the base of their external ribs, a feature of ribbed domes in Persia. The first example of the zigzag pattern is on the dome of Mahmud al-Kurdi (1394–95), and at least fourteen subsequent domes also used it. The first example of a dome in Cairo with a star pattern is the mausoleum of al-Ashraf Barsbay. The dome of Qaytbay in Cairo's northern cemetery combines geometric and arabesque patterns and is one of the finest. [185] Internally, the squinches of the zone of transition developed into miniaturized and pointed versions that were used row upon row over the entire expanded zone and bordered above and below by plain surfaces. [186] Bulbous cupolas on minarets were used in Egypt beginning around 1330, spreading to Syria in the following century. [187]

Kingdom of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire Edit

Tuscany Edit

Exposed domes were common in Tuscany and a source of regional distinctiveness by the 1380s. [188] The exposed outer dome of Pisa Baptistery was built over its earlier inner conical roof in the 14th century. [189] If an external lantern tower was also removed from Pisa Cathedral in the 1300s, exposing the dome, one reason may have been to stay current with more recent projects in the region, such as the domed cathedrals of Siena and Florence. [188] Rapid progress on a radical expansion of Siena Cathedral, which would have involved replacing the existing dome with a larger one, was halted not long after the city was struck with an outbreak of the Black Death in 1348. [190] Its dome was originally topped with a copper orb, similar to that over Pisa's dome today, but this was replaced in 1385 by a cupola surmounted by a smaller sphere and cross. [191]

It was only a few years after the city of Siena had decided to abandon the massive expansion and redesign of their cathedral in 1355 that Florence decided to greatly expand theirs. [192] A plan for the dome of Florence Cathedral was settled by 1357. [188] However, in 1367 it was proposed to alter the church plan at the east end to increase the scale of the octagonal dome, widening it from 62 to 72 braccia, with the intent to further surpass the domes of Pisa and Siena, and this modified plan was ratified in 1368, under Master of Works Francesco Talenti. [193] [194] The construction guilds of Florence had sworn to adhere to the model of the dome created in 1367, with a "quinto acuto" pointed profile, but the scale of this new dome was so ambitious that experts for the Opera del Duomo, the board supervising the construction, expressed the opinion as early as 1394 that the dome could not be accomplished. [195] Discussion in the fourteenth century revolved primarily around the cost of the project, and secondarily about the style. [169] The enlarged dome would span the entire 42-metre (138 ft) width of the three aisled nave, just 2 meters less than that of the Roman Pantheon, the largest dome in the world. [196] And because the distances between the angles of the octagon were even farther apart at 45.5 metres (149 ft), the average span of the dome would be marginally wider than that of the Pantheon. [197] At 144 braccia, the height of the dome would evoke the holy number of the Heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in the Book of Revelation. By 1413, with the exception of one of the three apses, the east end of the church had been completed up to the windowed octagonal drum but the problem of building the huge dome did not yet have a solution. [196] In 1417, with the drum completed, the master builder in charge of the project retired and a competition for plans to build the dome was begun in August 1418. [198] [199]

Filippo Brunelleschi proposed avoiding the problem of building an independent wooden scaffolding sufficiently strong to support the dome during construction, which may not have been possible, by using lower levels of the dome itself to support construction of higher levels. To demonstrate the idea, he built a dome without scaffolding over the Ridolfi chapel in the Church of San Jacopo sopr'Arno. [200] Brunelleschi's plan to use suspended scaffolding for the workers won out over alternatives such as building a provisional stone support column in the center of the crossing or filling the space with earth, and he and Lorenzo Ghiberti were made joint leaders of the project to build the dome for Florence Cathedral in 1420. The octagonal brick domical vault was built between 1420 and 1436, with Ghiberti resigning in 1433. [201] Brunelleschi's dome, designed in 1418, follows the height and form mandated in 1367. [193] [199] The dome can be described as a cloister vault, with the eight ribs at the angles concentrating weight on the supporting piers. [194] The dome is 42 meters wide and made of two shells. [196] A stairway winds between them. Eight white stone external ribs mark the edges of the eight sides, next to the red tile roofing, and extend from the base of the dome to the base of the cupola. Each of the eight sides of the dome also conceal a pair of intermediate stone ribs that are connected to the main ribs by means of a series of masonry rings. A temporary wooden tension ring still exists near the bottom of the dome. Three horizontal chains of sandstone blocks notched together and reinforced with lead-coated iron cramps also extend the entire circumference of the dome: one at the base (where radial struts from this chain protrude to the exterior), one a third of the way up the dome, and one two thirds of the way up the dome. [198] Although generally preferred in Italy at the time, no visible internal ties were used. [199] Only four major cracks have been observed on the inner dome, compared to about fourteen each on the domes of the Pantheon and St. Peter's Basilica. [202] The design of the dome is very different from that of the Pantheon and it is unclear what the influences were, but it does share some similarities with earlier and smaller brick domes in Persia. The use of a herringbone pattern in the brick allowed for short horizontal sections of the layers of the dome to be completed as self-supporting units. Over 32 meters in height, it remains the largest masonry dome ever built. [203]

At the conclusion of the Council of Florence on June 6, 1439, the ceremony of union between the Catholic and Orthodox churches took place beneath the dome of Florence Cathedral. [204] In the Old Sacristy of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, the smaller dome above the altar is decorated with astrological depictions of star constellations that have been calculated to represent July 6, 1439 at about noon, the date of the closing session of the Council of Florence, in which the Articles of Union between Eastern and Western Christendom were signed by Latin and Greek delegates. [205]

The dome of Florence Cathedral is not itself Renaissance in style, although the lantern is closer. [193] The lantern surmounting the dome, also designed by Brunelleschi, was not begun until 1446, after his death. [201] It was completed by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo and Bernardo Rossellino in 1467. [194] Brunelleschi also planned for an external gallery, or ballatoio, to be built at the top of the drum where a strip of unclad masonry can be seen today. He had not worked out the details before his death, having been focused on the dome and lantern, but it appears that his intention was for a two-story passage with the lower story covered and the upper story open to the sky. [206] In 1507, the commission for the ballatoio was awarded to Il Cronaca, Giuliano da Sangallo, and Baccio D'Agnolo, but only the southeast side was completed by June 1515. The unveiling of the finished section spurred criticism of the design, including by Michelangelo, who proposed an unsuccessful alternative design, and work remained suspended as the ruling Medici focused on other projects. [207]

Early renaissance Edit

Brunelleschi's domes at San Lorenzo and the Pazzi Chapel established them as a key element of Renaissance architecture. [80] The aisles of his churches of San Lorenzo (begun 1421) and Santo Spirito (begun 1428) were covered by sail domes. [208] Brunelleschi's umbrella dome on pendentives over the Old Sacristy of the Basilica of San Lorenzo (1422-1428) became the archetype for later domed church crossings by his followers. [209] His plan for the dome of the Pazzi Chapel in Florence's Basilica of Santa Croce (1430–52) illustrates the Renaissance enthusiasm for geometry and for the circle as geometry's supreme form. Twelve ribs between twelve circular windows converge on a small oculus. The circular dome rests on pendentives decorated with circular medallions of Florentine ceramic. This emphasis on geometric essentials would be very influential. The dome of San Sisto in Piacenza [it] (1499–1514) is circular and also includes pendentives with circular medallions. [210] Another early example is Giuliano da Sangallo's 1485 design of a dome on the church of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. Like that of the Pazzi Chapel, the dome is ribbed. [211] The domed Church of Santa Maria della Pietà at Bibbona [it] was built in the late 15th century. [212]

The combination of dome, drum, pendentives, and barrel vaults developed as the characteristic structural forms of large Renaissance churches following a period of innovation in the later fifteenth century. [213] Florence was the first Italian city to develop the new style, followed by Rome, then Venice. [214] The quincunx plan became popular in many parts of Italy from the end of the 15th century, often with a large dome on pendentives at the center of a square and four smaller domes at the corners. [215] From the late 15th century, semicircular arches became preferred in Milan, but round domes were less successful due to structural difficulties compared to those with pointed profiles. [216] Domes in the renaissance style in Florence are mostly from the early period, in the fifteenth century. Cities within Florence's zone of influence, such as Genoa, Milan, and Turin, mainly produced examples later, from the sixteenth century on. [217]

De re aedificatoria, written by Leon Battista Alberti and dedicated to Pope Nicholas V around 1452, recommends vaults with coffering for churches, as in the Pantheon, and the first design for a dome at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is usually attributed to him, although the recorded architect is Bernardo Rossellino. Under Pope Nicholas V, construction started between 1451 and 1455 on an extension of the old St. Peter's Basilica to create a Latin cross plan with a dome and lantern 100 braccia high over a crossing 44 braccia wide (about 24.5 meters wide). Little more than foundations and part of the choir walls were completed before work stopped with the death of Nicholas V. This innovation would culminate in Bramante's 1505–6 projects for a wholly new St. Peter's Basilica, and throughout the sixteenth century the Renaissance set of dome and barrel vault would displace use of Gothic ribbed vaults. [218] The segmental dome of Nicolas V's Church of San Teodoro al Palatino in Rome (begun in 1453) is the first known to be built within the city since the middle of the 5th century. [219] Under Pope Sixtus IV additional domed churches were commissioned, such as Santa Maria del Popolo (1472-1478) with its octagonal cloister vault on pendentives, the domed Augustinian basilica of Sant'Agostino, and Santa Maria della Pace (completed around 1490), also an octagonal cloister vault but over an octagonal foundation. [220]

Venetian Renaissance architecture, perhaps delayed due to Venice's political independence, was blended with the existing Venetian architectural tradition of Eastern influence. Pietro Lombardo designed the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1481–89) with a dome over the sacristy. The masonry dome on a shallow drum and pendentives is covered by a taller outer wooden dome with a lantern. [221] In the late fifteenth century, several small central-plan churches were built in Venice with low domes on pendentives in a Byzantine style, such as the churches of San Giobbe, San Giovanni Crisostomo, and Santa Maria Formosa. [222]

Duchy of Urbino Edit

The Church of San Bernardino [it] was completed in Urbino before 1481 as a domed trilobe mausoleum. [223]

Begun in 1469, the Basilica of the Holy House at Loreto has an octagonal dome with a Gothic profile similar to that of Florence Cathedral. It was built by Giuliano da Sangallo from 1499 to 1500, and its structure uses a herringbone pattern and contains two iron chains to resist outward thrust. The four towers at the corners of the crossing also contain octagonal cloister vaults at their intermediate level. [224]

Duchy of Milan Edit

In Lombardy, both octagonal and circular domes used ribs as late as the 1490s. Examples include the Portinari Chapel at the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, the church of Certosa di Pavia (1396–1473), the church of Sta. Maria Bressanoro at Castelleone, Milan Cathedral, and the church of Santa Maria della Croce. [225] [210] Leonardo da Vinci, Bramante, and others were involved in Pavia Cathedral, construction of which began in 1488. [226] The Portinari Chapel, Colleoni Chapel, and Brivio Chapel [it] use a large square block to support a timburio. Donato Bramante's dome of Santa Maria presso San Satiro was the first Lombard "ribless hemispherical cupola with coffers". The burial church of the House of Sforza, Santa Maria delle Grazie, was begun in 1492 and by 1497 was completed to the upper gallery of the timburio. It is similar to the earlier Church of San Bernardino in Urbino in that it is also a domed trilobe mausoleum. However, the smooth, almost-hemispherical dome without ribs and the sixteen-sided timburio with two galleries and a pitched roof are clearly modeled on the earlier Church of San Lorenzo in Milan, called the "Milanese Pantheon", and the interior arrangement is similar to that of the Portinari Chapel. [227]

Low Countries of northwest Europe Edit

In the fifteenth century, pilgrimages to and flourishing trade relations with the Near East exposed the Low Countries of northwest Europe to the use of bulbous domes in the architecture of the Orient. Although the first expressions of their European use are in the backgrounds of paintings, architectural uses followed. The Dome of the Rock and its bulbous dome being so prominent in Jerusalem, such domes apparently became associated by visitors with the city itself. In Bruges, The Church of the Holy Cross [nl] , designed to symbolize the Holy Sepulchre, was finished with a Gothic church tower capped by a bulbous cupola on a hexagonal shaft in 1428. Sometime between 1466 and 1500, a tower added to the Chapel of the Precious Blood was covered by a bulbous cupola very similar to Syrian minarets. Likewise, in Ghent, an octagonal staircase tower for the Church of St. Martin d'Ackerghem, built in the beginning of the sixteenth century, has a bulbous cupola like a minaret. These cupolas were made of wood covered with copper, as were the examples over turrets and towers in the Netherlands at the end of the fifteenth century, many of which have been lost. The earliest example from the Netherlands that has survived is the bulbous cupola built in 1511 over the town hall of Middelburg. Multi-story spires with truncated bulbous cupolas supporting smaller cupolas or crowns became popular in the following decades. [228]

Theodoric the Great

Theodoric the Great (l. c. 454-526 CE, r. 493-526 CE, also known as Flavius Theodoricus) was the king of the Ostrogoths who, at the encouragement and direction of the Roman emperor Zeno, invaded Italy, deposed King Odoacer, and ruled over a kingdom of Romans and Goths from 493-526 CE. He was originally named Dietrich (or Diederich) and passed into German legends under the name Dietrich von Bern, the hero of many tales in Middle High German literature, although this identification has been challenged by a number of scholars.

He was an Arian Christian, and his tolerance for Trinitarian Christianity in spite of the tension between the two groups, as well as his careful policies regarding the rights of his subjects, made him an effective ruler until his later years. Increasingly surrounded by enemies, he began to suffer from acute paranoia and engaged in persecutions of high-ranking Trinitarians at his court, such as the philosopher Boethius and Boethius' father-in-law Symmachus. His mausoleum at Ravenna still stands in the present day, and he is remembered as a sympathetic, wise, and just ruler.


Early Life & Rise to Power

Theodoric was born c. 454 CE, the son of King Thiudimir of the Ostrogoths and one of his concubines. He was baptized as Dietrich but, at the age of eight, was sent to Constantinople, seat of the Eastern Roman Empire, as a hostage to guarantee his father's compliance with a treaty between the Romans and the Goths, and his name was romanized to "Theodoric". He remained at court, becoming educated in Graeco-Roman values, for ten years under the protection of the emperor Leo I (reigned 457-474 CE) and then the emperor Zeno (reigned 474-475 CE, 476-491 CE). He never learned to read or write but adopted Roman cultural norms and was later described by the scribe Sidonius Apollinaris as highly refined in both his private and public life.

According to Jordanes (6th century CE) he was of the Amal family who had ruled over the Goths since ancient times and were of royal blood (though this claim, like much of Jordanes' work, has been challenged). He was an avid hunter and an excellent shot with the bow. Further, he seems to have shown an early talent for commanding men. He was made Master of Soldiers under Zeno in 483 CE and, a year later, was elected Consul and given the name Flavius Theodoricus.


These rewards were given for his service to the empire in keeping at bay another Ostrogothic leader named Theodoric Strabo ("the Squinter") who harassed the empire when he was not fighting for its cause. Both Theodoric the Amal and Theodoric Strabo were considered kings of their respective factions of Goths and vied with each other for the greater favor of the empire while, alternately, turning and ravaging the empire's lands when they felt they were not being accorded enough respect or employment in arms. The scholar Guy Halsall writes:

Between 474 and 488 a complex merry-go-round of alliances, treachery, murder and intrigue constantly shifted the balance of power. The emperor sometimes needed Gothic support against other factions, but could not allow them to become too powerful. The Emperor Zeno, himself Isaurian but faced with rebellions by his own people, who wished to dominate the Constantinopolitan court, played the two Theodorics off against each other with some skill until in 483-484 he overplayed his hand. Strabo was killed in an accident, falling from his horse onto a spear, and in the aftermath Zeno encouraged Theodoric the Amal (whom he rewarded with considerable honours, including the consulate) to murder the Squinter's son Recitach. Rather than removing one of the problematic factions, however, this simply led to Recitach's Goths joining the Amal…Instead of two competing Gothic groups, Zeno was confronted by one large and very powerful force. (286-287)

The Italian Campaign

Following the death of Recitach and the consolidation of the Gothic forces under his lead, Theodoric was sent by Zeno against his rival General Illus, who had raised a revolt among the Isaurians in Asia Minor. Once he had defeated Illus and put down the revolt, Theodoric marched his army back toward Constantinople. Having defeated both his Gothic rivals and the Isaurians, he was now the most powerful military leader in the region and decided to take from Zeno what he felt he deserved but had not been offered: an allotment of land for his people and official recognition as their king. He began a systematic campaign against the empire and the emperor who had brought him to power. Having been raised at the court, Theodoric understood well how military might translated to political power and raided those cities and villages that he had formerly protected. Halsall writes:

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The Goths threatened Constantinople and ravaged the Balkans but could not take the capital, whilst Zeno, secure behind the city's famous triple line of walls, was unlikely to drive the latter completely from his territories. A solution was required, agreeable to both parties, and found: for Theodoric's Ostrogoths to move to Italy and dispose of the "tyrant" Odoacer. In 488 the Ostrogoths took the long road west.(287)

Whether the invasion of Italy was initially proposed by Zeno or Theodoric has been disputed but, most likely, it was Zeno's solution to two pressing problems.

Odoacer (r. 476-493 CE) had been king of Italy, with Zeno's permission, since 476 CE but had increasingly been causing problems for Zeno. Odoacer had backed Illus' revolt, had annexed the region of Dalmatia with impunity, and was acting more like an independent monarch of a country than the ruler of a Roman province. Zeno needed to rid himself of Odoacer and Theodoric both, and it is thought that he considered this solution the best, as one of them was certain to kill the other and he would then have only a single problem to deal with.


Theodoric, for his part, seized on the opportunity for further military glory and, if he won, a land for his people and his own legitimate rule. He invaded Italy, ravaging the land, and encountered his first resistance from the Gepid people at the Vuka River in 488 CE. It is unknown whether they were allied with Odoacer or simply protecting their lands from invasion, but they were quickly defeated and slaughtered by Theodoric's forces. Theodoric marched on and met Odoacer's forces in battle at the Isonzo Bridge 28 August 489 CE, where Odoacer was defeated. He retreated to Verona with Theodoric in pursuit and they clashed again on 29 September 489 CE Odoacer was again defeated. He then fled to Ravenna and prepared the city's defenses, while Theodoric continued his conquest of the country. The scholar Herwig Wolfram writes:

Theodoric's march to Italy seemed destined for a fast and decisive victory. In Milan, which Theodoric captured after Verona, secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries welcomed him as the emperor's representative. Even Odovacar's commander-in-chief, Tufa, and large numbers of the defeated army joined the victor. (281)

Trusting Tufa's gesture of submission and allegiance, Theodoric sent him in command of his elite troops to Ravenna to capture Odoacer. Tufa had only been feigning loyalty to the conqueror, however, and betrayed the troops to Odoacer's soldiers the elite force was destroyed, and "Theodoric suffered his first serious defeat on Italian soil" (Wolfram, 281). Odovacar left Ravenna and took the battle to the enemy who repeatedly repelled him. Tufa met Frederick of the Rugii in battle in August of 491 CE and both were killed.

Hostilities continued until 25 February 493 CE, at which time John, the bishop of Ravenna, brokered a treaty by which Odoacer and Theodoric would rule jointly. Theodoric rode into Ravenna 5 March 493 CE and, on 15 March, at a formal dinner held to celebrate the treaty, Theodoric murdered Odoacer by stabbing him to death. Odoacer's last words were, "Where is God?" to which Theodoric replied, "This is what you have done to my people" in reference to his supposed oppression of the Goths in Italy and his decimation of the Rugii tribe, who were related to the Goths. Wolfram describes the aftermath of Odoacer's death:


The deliberate and methodical nature of Theodoric's act is clearly revealed by the subsequent events: Odovacar was not allowed to receive a Christian burial and his wife Sunigilda was starved to death. Odovacar's brother Hunulf sought refuge in a church and was used as a target by Gothic archers. On the day of Odovacar's murder his followers and their families were attacked. Wherever the Goths could lay hands on them they met their deaths. In the course of the year 493 Theodoric had become the unchallenged master of Italy. (284)

Odoacer had ruled Italy prudently, and Theodoric inherited a kingdom of substantial wealth. The land had been destroyed by years of war, however, and so Theodoric's first priority was restoration.

Theodoric's Early Reign & Legitimization

Theodoric set about consolidating his rule while repairing the country, which had been devastated between 488-493 CE. Many of the forests had been destroyed, either decimated in battle or cut down for defense, and with no trees to absorb rain water, a number of regions were regularly flooding while others, stripped of their top soil by battle, were arid. Theodoric had swamps drained, trees planted, and was able to employ expert well-borers to drill wells, create irrigation ditches, and cultivate the land.

He ruled over a diverse populace of Goths and Romans and issued edicts to ensure fair representation before the law. Further, the country was divided along religious lines with most Romans adhering to Trinitarian Christianity and most Goths following the Arian understanding of Christianity. Theodoric, himself an Arian, mandated tolerance of religious differences and hoped to unite his kingdom completely under his rule, no matter his subject's nationality or religious beliefs. To this end, it is thought, he needed to legitimize his past and create for himself and his people a pedigree worthy of a king who would be respected by both Goths and Romans.


The primary source on the history of the Goths is Jordanes' Getica from the 6th century, which was written as a synopsis of the earlier work of Cassiodorus (c. 485-c.585 CE), Theodoric's Master of Offices and, therefore, chief scribe. Cassiodorus was a Roman and so imbued his history of the Goths with Roman ideals and a narrative that would appeal to a Roman audience (as Jordanes also would do later). Scholar Roger Collins writes:

Interest in establishing continuity in a royal line was far more the product of Roman presuppositions about the working of Germanic societies that it was something of interest to those societies themselves. In the first half of the sixth century, the Ostrogothic regime in Italy needed a history and a constitutional role for itself that fitted in with the intellectual expectations of the Roman upper classes upon whose goodwill and co-operation it largely depended, and who also liked to imagine great family continuities between themselves and the aristocracies of the Republic and Early Empire. (104-105)

The Gothic history of Cassiodorus (now lost) is believed to have taken some genuine aspects of the history of the Goths and framed them in traditional Roman narrative form, adding those elements the writer thought desirable, in order to create a noble history of the ruling party in Italy. It has been noted that Jordanes himself writes that he "made the Origin of the Goths into Roman History" and, as he was following Cassiodorus' lead, the former is thought to have done so also.

What impact the work of Cassiodorus had on the populace in general is not fully known but it raised Theodoric's stature among the elite and, whether he was a member of the Amal family (and whether that family had actually accomplished what Cassiodorus' work claimed), he was now considered a legitimate Roman ruler instead of a barbarian king. Zeno was dead by the time Theodoric assassinated Odoacer and Anastatius I was emperor. In 497 CE Anastatius I officially recognized Theodoric as King of the Goths and the Romans.

Policies & Programs

Although legitimized on paper, and now formally recognized by the Roman Empire, Theodoric understood he needed more than this to establish himself securely on the throne. He had sent one of his daughters, Theodegotha, to be married to King Alaric II of the Visigoths in c. 494 CE and another daughter, Ostrogotha, as wife to Sigismund of the Burgundians in 496 CE. He himself had married Autofleda, sister of King Clovis I of the Franks, shortly after his victory over Odoacer in 493 CE. By these alliances he hoped to form a kingdom in which all the former peoples known to the Romans as "barbarian tribes" could live together peacefully. The Catholic Encyclopedia comments on this, stating:

Proud of his Gothic nationality, Theodoric believed it possible to reconcile Roman and Germanic interests. His people seemed to him equal to the Romans in antiquity of descent and military renown, and he realized that his power rested solely on Gothic prowess. Apparently his kingdom was a continuation of the Roman Empire in reality his policy was in direct and fundamental contradiction to the Roman conception, by which all national individuality was to be lost in the State as a whole. This theory of government which sought to suppress nationalities was opposed by Theodoric he had a profound respect for national independence, and had repeatedly taken up arms to maintain it. (1)

His court included men of all nationalities and, like Odoacer before him, he worked diligently to keep peace among his subjects by not favoring his own people above others. The Edictum Theodorici of 512 CE reformed his earlier laws to make it clear that everyone in his kingdom had access to the same rights under the law, in this case, criminal law. Although he could not read or write, he was a great patron of education and enjoyed philosophical discussions. He encouraged literacy among the people and kept at his court the philosopher Boethius (l. 480-524 CE). He provided regular entertainment for his subjects in the revival of the circus spectacles of Rome and initiated a program by which the poor received free supplies of corn.

He also employed a significant proportion of the population in his building programs, and Collins notes:

Theodoric's programme of new buildings and the restoration of existing ones was far more extensive [than Odoacer's) and included the creation or repair of aqueducts, pubic baths, city walls and palaces - the latter being centres of administration rather than private residences - in a variety of cities, including Rome, Ravenna, Verona and Pavia. (108)

His policies regarding religious tolerance also encouraged peace among his subjects and provided the understanding that every religious belief was of equal value, while his diplomatic skills ensured peace with his neighboring kingdoms.

Theodoric's Decline & Death

Even with all of these successes, he still suffered challenges and setbacks. In 507 CE Clovis I defeated Theodoric's ally, Alaric II, and killed him, and the Franks then refused to intervene when the Burgundians, who should also have been allies, began incursions against Italy on the coast. Theodoric sent his forces against the Burgundians and secured his kingdom, while also enlarging his territories, by 513 CE. He continually juggled his supposed allies in attempts to keep the peace while also recognizing the importance of satisfying Rome in the east. Among his other concerns was his inability to produce a male heir to succeed him, which he knew he would need in order for his dynasty to be recognized by the Roman authorities.

Unable to produce this heir, he named his grandson Athalaric his successor. Athalaric was the son of Theodoric's daughter Amalasuntha and the Visigothic prince Eutharic. Eutharic died early in the marriage ,and Amalasuntha remained a widow, so the young prince Athalaric was the only choice left but, more importantly, by naming him heir, Theodoric brought the Visigothic Kingdom under his rule, in that their prince was now heir to his throne.

Feeling more secure in his rule, Theodoric now seemed to change in both his private and public political life. Halsall writes, "He increasingly adopted a quasi-imperial style. Theodoric had not been above this type of posturing earlier in his reign but it became more noticeable in the latter stages, and associated with a change in ideology" (290). Part of this change in ideology was a stricter adherence to his own Arianism at the expense of Trinitarians.

The emperor Anastatius I had died in 518 CE and was succeeded first by Justin I (r. 518-527 CE) and then by his young nephew Justinian I (r. 527-565 CE). Under Justin's rule, Justinian played an active role in policy and among these policies was a persecution of Arian Christians in Constantinople. Justinian I was a Trinitarian and considered Arianism a heresy and a danger to the "true church". In response, Theodoric began his own persecution of Trinitarians in Italy which, of course, led to tensions between his kingdom and Constantinople.

In the year 523 CE, the ex-consul Albinus was charged with treason for alleged correspondence with the emperor Justin. The philosopher Boethius came to his defense and was also charged and later executed his father-in-law Symmachus soon followed him. The purge of Trinitarian Catholics would have no doubt accelerated but Theodoric's health began to fail and he died in 526 CE after 30 years as king.

Aftermath & Legacy

Following his death, his grandson Athalaric succeeded him but, as he was only ten years old at the time, could not rule and so Theodoric's daughter Amalasuntha (l. c. 495-535 CE) took the throne as regent. She was an advocate of Roman sensibilities and culture and entrusted her son to Roman tutors who took advantage of their position to introduce the prince to heavy drinking which is said to have contributed to his early death in 534 CE between 534-535 CE, Amalasuntha reigned as queen.

She had already opened negotiations with Justinian I in Constantinople to try to help secure her position but received no adequate response. She therefore called upon a trusted male cousin, Theodahad, to rule jointly with her and he came willingly. Amalasuntha then was arrested and exiled to an estate on the island of Martana where, under the orders of Theodahad, she was strangled by her servants in her bath in 535 CE.

Her son-in-law, Witigis (also known as Vitiges), then rose against Theodahad, had him assassinated, and became king in 536 CE. He ruled over Italy until his defeat and imprisonment by Belisarius in 540 CE. Following Belisarius' victory over Witigis, the Goths wished to crown him their new king but he, loyal to the emperor Justinian I, tricked the ring-leaders by pretending to accept and then had them all arrested. Belisarius then claimed the whole of Italy for Justinian I and the eastern Roman Empire.

Although Theodoric could not sustain his policies of religious tolerance nor his diplomatic expertise in dealing with Constantinople, he is still remembered as `the great' for his attempt to unify the populace under his reign into a single people and for, essentially, re-building Italy whether by planting trees, cultivating fields, constructing new buildings, or keeping hostile forces at bay. His vision of a kingdom of unified, though independent, nationalities living harmoniously under one rule was revolutionary for its time.

Even Alexander the Great, who, for the most part, allowed conquered regions to maintain some degree of autonomy as long as they supported his cause, did not encourage the kind of independent national pride the people under Theodoric were allowed. For thirty years Theodoric united the Goths and the Romans under his reign, maintained the peace, and worked for the well-being of his kingdom, raising Italy from ruin to stability and then to prosperity and even luxury.

He was buried with full honors in his mausoleum at Ravenna and, although this was later desecrated following Belisarius' victory over the Goths in 540 CE, it was repaired and still stands in the city in the present day. Theodoric is remembered as `the Great' for his revitalization of Italy and his efforts in ruling over a diverse population without attempting to assimilate either culture into the other.

His legacy continues into the present day as a great king who ruled his people wisely with the vision of a united kingdom of separate but equal populations. His later persecution of Trinitarian Christians is attributed to his emotional response to Justinian's anti-Arian policies in Constantinople rather than a clearly considered policy of discrimination and his memory continues to be honored for the vision he maintained and his efforts to make it a reality.

Visiting the Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna

The Mausoleum of Theodoric is slightly outside the town center of Ravenna but still within easy walking distance – cross the railway line to a large park. (Parking is available right in front of the monument.)

Tickets (€4) are sold in a small building next to the entrance but many visitors may be content with the free view available across the fence.

The Mausoleum of Theodoric certainly is of historical and artistic importance but if pressed for time, it probably should have the lowest priority when seeing the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites in Ravenna.

Theodoric the Great and His Ostrogothic Mausoleum - History

Raised as a hostage in Constantinople, Eastern Roman Empire

Theodogotho of Rome b: ABT. 478 in Ravenna, Italy
Amfleda of Ostrogoths b: ABT. 480 in Ravenna, Italy

Theodoric's Youth
When King Thiudimir of the Ostrogoths was presented with a son by one of his concubines (not herself a Goth, in all probability), the boy was christened Dietrich, a common name amongst the Germans of that era. In Late Latin, the name translated as Theodoricus and the boy grew up to become the man known to history as Theodoric the Great.

Born in or about AD 451, the young Theodoric was sent as a hostage to the Imperial Court in Byzantines at the age of eight. There he was to remain for ten years, and it was there that he absorbed Graeco-Roman cultural values to a degree not previously equaled by any barbarian ruler. Yet a barbarian he remained, versed in the warlike ways of his people. He never learned to read and write, it seems, for throughout his life he was to sign his name only by means of a golden stencil.

On his return from Constantinople, he took control of the eastern portion of the Ostrogothic lands in Pannonia and immediately began to build a reputation by defeating the Sarmatians in battle. Over the following few years he became known as an able and ambitious ruler, leading his people to new lands on the lower Danube, and accepting for them the status of Roman federates (foederati).

The Imperial Federate
His relationship with the Roman Emperor, Zeno, constantly swung between friendship and hostility. Between laying waste to Macedonia (479) and Thessaly (482), for example, Theodoric helped Zeno to put down the two major rebellions of his reign.

After the accidental death of his principal rival - Theodoric Strabo ("the Squinter") - he was left in effective control of the Ostrogoths. In 484, he was elected to the consulship in Constantinople as 'Flavius Theodoricus' and slew Strabo's son in the city. By 486, his power was such that he was able to match against Constantinople itself, occupying its outlying districts and cutting off its water supply.

In 488, eager to rid the Empire of the threat, the Emperor Zeno encouraged Theodoric to invade Italy. It is uncertain which of the two men came up with the plan The Gothic historian Jordanes credits Theodoric while the great Byzantine historian, Procopius, firmly maintains that it was Zeno. Both men had much to gain from such an invasion. For Theodoric it promised a settled homeland for his wandering people while for Zeno it offered not only the prospect of ending the Ostrogoth menace to his capital, but also of regaining Italy for the Empire.

The War against Odovacar
Setting out along the valley of the Danube, Theodoric's host paused briefly to brush aside an army of Gepids, then swung southwards and defeated the self-styled King of Italy, Odovacar (or Odoacer) at the Isonzo Bridge on the River Wippach. Theodoric's Ostrogoths moved into northern Italy and, defeating Odovacar in a series of battles, blockaded him in Ravenna.

In 493, when all of Italy had been subdued, a local bishop arranged a truce between the two leaders. Theodoric, supported by the Church and in control of most of Italy, offered what seemed to be remarkably generous terms. Alas, he had not the slightest intention of honouring them. He invited Odovacar, together with his son and chief officers, to a banquet. As Odovacar took his seat, Theodoric stepped forward and, with one tremendous blow of his sword, clove through his enemy's body from collar-bone to thigh.

"The wretch cannot have had a bone in his body, " he is reported to have commented, surprised by the effect of his stroke.

Odovacar's brother was shot down by arrows as he tried to escape. His wife, Sunigilda, was thrown into prison where she died of hunger. His son, Thelane (whom Theodoric already held as a hostage) was sent to Gaul but subsequently murdered. The whole unsavoury episode seemed to bode ill for the future but, in fact, Theodoric was to bring a period of peace and prosperity which Italy had rarely known. With the support of his warriors, Theodoric claimed kingship over Italy and was finally recognised as "King of the Goths and the Romans" by the Emperor Anastatius I in 497.

The King of Italy
He inherited a wealthy kingdom, the surpluses of which poured into his capital, Ravenna. His thirty-three year reign was devoted to the consolidation of his new realm, which he ruled wisely and well. Despite his own devout Arianism, he proved tolerant of all other Christian sects in what was an intolerant age. He promoted agriculture and commerce, respected Roman institutions and improved public works repairing the defences, aqueduct, baths and palace at Verona, for example, and undergoing extensive building and repair works in Pavia. Ravenna itself was made fit to be the seat of an Emperor.

But Theodoric was not an Emperor He was merely king of the Ostrogothic army in Italy, not king of the Goths. He owed allegiance to the Emperor in Constantinople, and indeed held the highest military rank in the Empire - that of magister militum. And Theodoric was at great pains to ensure Italy remained part of the Roman Empire, while leaving no room for doubt that Gothic power was paramount in the West.

The government of Italy was run by Romans using Roman methods. The statesmen Cassiodorus and the philosopher, Boethius, both served in Theoderic's administration, for example. The senate continued to be respected and the power to nominate senators and consuls remained with the Emperor in Constantinople. Yet the Romans themselves were sufficiently impressed by his power to give him the title of dominus, or even Augustus.

Theodoric consolidated his power by means of marriage alliances, which he used to co-ordinate the policies of the various western kingdoms. He married his daughter to Alaric, King of Visigothic Toulouse, for example, while he himself married Audofleda, sister of the great Frankish king, Clovis.

The closing years of Theodoric's reign, however, were dominated by growing tension with the Empire as anti-Arian feeling grew in Constantinople - a foreboding of what was to come when Justinian donned the purple. And his reign ended, as it began, in iniquity - with the imprisonment and brutal execution of Boethius - the 'last of the Romans' - on a false charge of treason. It was an act of which Theodoric was to repent and which he came bitterly to regret.

When Theodoric died, in 526, he was succeeded by his daughter Amalasuntha as regent for her son Athalaric. His magnificent mausoleum still stands in Ravenna. The realm he created, however, was to survive him by barely a generation.




The Ostrogoths were the eastern branch of the Goths. They settled and established a powerful state in Dacia, but during the late 4th century, they came under the dominion of the Huns. After the collapse of the Hunnic empire in 454, large numbers of Ostrogoths were settled by Emperor Marcian in the Roman province of Pannonia as foederati . Unlike most other foederati formations, the Goths were not absorbed into the structure and traditions of the Roman military but retained a strong identity and cohesion of their own. [6] In 460, during the reign of Leo I, because the payment of annual sums had ceased, they ravaged Illyricum. Peace was concluded in 461, whereby the young Theodoric Amal, son of Theodemir of the Amals, was sent as a hostage to Constantinople, where he received a Roman education. [7]

In previous years, a large number of Goths, first under Aspar and then under Theodoric Strabo, had entered service in the Roman army and were a significant political and military power in the court of Constantinople. The period 477-483 saw a complex three-way struggle among Theodoric the Amal, who had succeeded his father in 474, Theodoric Strabo, and the new Eastern Emperor Zeno. In this conflict, alliances shifted regularly, and large parts of the Balkans were devastated by it. [8]

In the end, after Strabo's death in 481, Zeno came to terms with Theodoric. Parts of Moesia and Dacia ripensis were ceded to the Goths, and Theodoric was named magister militum praesentalis and consul for 484. [8] Barely a year later, Theodoric and Zeno fell out, and again Theodoric's Goths ravaged Thrace. It was then that the thought occurred to Zeno and his advisors to kill two birds with one stone, and direct Theodoric against another troublesome neighbor of the Empire - the Italian kingdom of Odoacer.

Odoacer's kingdom (476�)

In 476, Odoacer, leader of the foederati in the West, had staged a coup against the rebellious magister militum Orestes, who was seeking to have his son Romulus Augustulus recognized as Western Emperor in place of Emperor Julius Nepos. Orestes had reneged on the promise of land in Italy for Odoacer's troops, a pledge made to ensure their neutrality in his attack on Nepos. After executing Orestes and putting the teenage usurper in internal exile, Odoacer paid nominal allegiance to Nepos (now in Dalmatia) while effectively operating autonomously, having been raised to the rank of patrician by Zeno. Odoacer retained the Roman administrative system, cooperated actively with the Roman Senate, and his rule was efficient and successful. He evicted the Vandals from Sicily in 477, and in 480 he occupied Dalmatia after the murder of Julius Nepos. [9] [10]

Conquest of Italy by the Goths (488�)

An agreement was reached between Zeno and Theodoric, stipulating that Theodoric, if victorious, was to rule in Italy as the emperor's representative. [11] Theodoric with his people set out from Moesia in the autumn of 488, passed through Dalmatia and crossed the Julian Alps into Italy in late August 489. The first confrontation with the army of Odoacer was at the river Isonzo (the battle of Isonzo) on August 28. Odoacer was defeated and withdrew towards Verona, where a month later another battle was fought, resulting in a bloody, but crushing, Gothic victory. [12]

Odoacer fled to his capital at Ravenna, while the larger part of his army under Tufa surrendered to the Goths. Theodoric then sent Tufa and his men against Odoacer, but he changed his allegiance again and returned to Odoacer. In 490, Odoacer was thus able to campaign against Theodoric, take Milan and Cremona and besiege the main Gothic base at Ticinum (Pavia). At that point, however, the Visigoths intervened, the siege of Ticinum was lifted, and Odoacer was decisively defeated at the river Adda on 11 August 490. Odoacer fled again to Ravenna, while the Senate and many Italian cities declared themselves for Theodoric. [12]

Theodoric kills Odoacer (493)

The Goths now turned to besiege Ravenna, but since they lacked a fleet and the city could be resupplied by sea, the siege could be endured almost indefinitely, despite privations. It was not until 492 that Theodoric was able to procure a fleet and capture Ravenna's harbours, thus entirely cutting off communication with the outside world. The effects of this appeared six months later, when, with the mediation of the city's bishop, negotiations started between the two parties. [13]

An agreement was reached on 25 February 493, whereby the two should divide Italy between them. A banquet was organised in order to celebrate this treaty. It was at this banquet, on March 15, that Theodoric, after making a toast, killed Odoacer with his own hands. A general massacre of Odoacer's soldiers and supporters followed. Theodoric and his Goths were now masters of Italy. [13]

Reign of Theodoric the Great (493�)

Theodoric's rule

". Theodoric was a man of great distinction and of good-will towards all men, and he ruled for thirty-three years. Under his rule, Italy for thirty years enjoyed such good fortune that his successors also inherited peace. For whatever he did was good. He so governed two races at the same time, Romans and Goths, that although he himself was of the Arian sect, he nevertheless made no assault on the Catholic religion he gave games in the circus and the amphitheatre, so that even by the Romans he was called a Trajan or a Valentinian, whose times he took as a model and by the Goths, because of his edict, in which he established justice, he was judged to be in all respects their best king."
Anonymus Valesianus, Excerpta II 59-60

Like Odoacer, Theodoric was ostensibly a patricius and subject of the emperor in Constantinople, acting as his viceroy for Italy, a position recognized by the new Emperor Anastasius in 497. At the same time, he was the king of his own people, who were not Roman citizens. In reality, he acted as an independent ruler, although unlike Odoacer, he meticulously preserved the outward forms of his subordinate position. [14]

The administrative machinery of Odoacer's kingdom, in essence that of the former Empire, was retained and continued to be staffed exclusively by Romans, such as the articulate and literate Cassiodorus. The Senate continued to function normally and was consulted on civil appointments, and the laws of the Empire were still recognized as ruling the Roman population, though Goths were ruled under their own traditional laws. Indeed, as a subordinate ruler, Theodoric did not possess the right to issue his own laws (leges) in the system of Roman law, but merely edicts (edicta), or clarifications on certain details. [14]

The continuity in administration is illustrated by the fact that several senior ministers of Odoacer, like Liberius and Cassiodorus the Elder, were retained in the new kingdom's top positions. [15] The close cooperation between Theodoric and the Roman elite began to break down in later years, especially after the healing of the ecclesiastical rift between Rome and Constantinople (see below), as leading senators conspired with the Emperor. This resulted in the arrest and execution of the magister officiorum Boethius and his father-in-law, Symmachus, in 524. [16]

On the other hand, the army and all military offices remained the exclusive preserve of the Goths. The Goths were settled mostly in northern Italy, and kept themselves largely apart from the Roman population, a tendency reinforced by their different faiths: the Goths were mostly Arians, while the people they ruled over were following Chalcedonian Christianity. Nevertheless, and unlike the Visigoths or the Vandals, there was considerable religious tolerance, which was also extended towards Jews. [17]

Theodoric's view was clearly expressed in his letters to the Jews of Genoa: "The true mark of civilitas is the observance of law. It is this which makes life in communities possible, and which separates man from the brutes. We therefore gladly accede to your request that all the privileges which the foresight of antiquity conferred upon the Jewish customs shall be renewed to you. " [18] and "We cannot order a religion, because no one can be forced to believe against his will." [19]

Relations with the Germanic states of the West

It is in his foreign policy rather than domestic affairs that Theodoric appeared and acted as an independent ruler. By means of marriage alliances, he sought to establish a central position among the barbarian states of the West. As Jordanes states: ". there was no race left in the western realms which Theodoric had not befriended or brought into subjection during his lifetime." [20] This was in part meant as a defensive measure, and in part as a counterbalance to the influence of the Empire. His daughters were wedded to the Visigothic king Alaric II and the Burgundian prince Sigismund, [21] his sister Amalfrida married the Vandal king Thrasamund, [22] while he himself married Audofleda, sister of the Frankish king Clovis I. [23]

These policies were not always successful in maintaining peace: Theodoric found himself at war with Clovis when the latter attacked the Visigoth dominions in Gaul in 506. The Franks were rapidly successful, killing Alaric in the Battle of Vouillé and subduing Aquitania by 507. However, starting in 508, Theodoric's generals campaigned in Gaul, and were successful in saving Septimania for the Visigoths, as well as extending Ostrogothic rule into southern Gaul (Provence) at the expense of the Burgundians. There in 510 Theodoric reestablished the defunct praetorian prefecture of Gaul. Now Theodoric had a common border with the Visigothic kingdom, where, after Alaric's death, he also ruled as regent of his infant grandson Amalaric. [24]

Family bonds also served little with Sigismund, who as a staunch Chalcedonian Christian cultivated close ties to Constantinople. Theodoric perceived this as a threat and intended to campaign against him, but the Franks acted first and invaded Burgundy in 523, quickly subduing it. Theodoric could only react by expanding his domains in the Provence north of the river Durance up to the Isère.

The peace with the Vandals, secured in 500 with the marriage alliance with Thrasamund, and their common interests as Arian powers against Constantinople, collapsed after Thrasamund's death in 523. His successor Hilderic showed favour to the Nicaean Christians, and when Amalfrida protested, he had her and her entourage murdered. Theodoric was preparing an expedition against him when he died. [25]

Relations with the Empire

"It behoves us, most clement Emperor, to seek for peace, since there are no causes for anger between us. [. ] Our royalty is an imitation of yours, modelled on your good purpose, a copy of the only Empire and insofar as we follow you do we excel all other nations. Often you have exhorted me to love the senate, to accept cordially the laws of past emperors, to join together in one all the members of Italy. [. ] There is moreover that noble sentiment, love for the city of Rome, from which two princes, both of whom govern in her name, should never be disjoined."
Letter of Theodoric to Anastasius
Cassiodorus, Variae I.1

Theodoric's relations with his nominal suzerain, the Eastern Roman Emperor, were always strained, for political as well as for religious reasons. Especially during the reign of Anastasius, these led to several collisions, none of which however escalated into general warfare. In 504-505, Theodoric's forces launched a campaign to recover Pannonia and the strategically important town of Sirmium, formerly parts of the praetorian prefecture of Italy, which were now occupied by the Gepids. [26]

The campaign was successful, but it also led to a brief conflict with imperial troops, where the Goths and their allies were victorious. Domestically, the Acacian schism between the patriarchates of Rome and Constantinople, caused by imperial support for the Henotikon , as well as Anastasius' Monophysite beliefs, played into Theodoric's hands, since the clergy and the Roman aristocracy of Italy, headed by Pope Symmachus, vigorously opposed them. [26]

Thus, for a time, Theodoric could count on their support. The war between the Franks and Visigoths led to renewed friction between Theodoric and the Emperor, as Clovis successfully portrayed himself as the champion of the Western Church against the "heretical" Arian Goths, gaining the Emperor's support. This even led to the dispatch of a fleet by Anastasius in 508, which ravaged the coasts of Apulia. [26]

With the ascension of Justin I in 518, a more harmonious relationship seemed to be restored. Eutharic, Theodoric's son-in-law and designated successor, was appointed consul for the year 519, while in 522, to celebrate the healing of the Acacian schism, Justin allowed both consuls to be appointed by Theodoric. [27] Soon, however, renewed tension would result from Justin's anti-Arian legislation, and tensions grew between the Goths and the Senate, whose members, as Chalcedonians, now shifted their support to the Emperor. [28]

The suspicions of Theodoric were confirmed by the interception of compromising letters between leading senators and Constantinople, which led to the imprisonment and execution of Boethius in 524. Pope John I was sent to Constantinople to mediate on the Arians' behalf, and, although he achieved his mission, on his return he was imprisoned and died shortly after. These events further stirred popular sentiment against the Goths. [28]

Death of Theodoric and dynastic disputes (526�)

After the death of Theodoric on 30 August 526, his achievements began to collapse. Since Eutharic had died in 523, Theodoric was succeeded by his infant grandson Athalaric, supervised by his mother, Amalasuntha, as regent. The lack of a strong heir caused the network of alliances that surrounded the Ostrogothic state to disintegrate: the Visigothic kingdom regained its autonomy under Amalaric, the relations with the Vandals turned increasingly hostile, and the Franks embarked again on expansion, subduing the Thuringians and the Burgundians and almost evicting the Visigoths from their last holdings in southern Gaul. [29] The position of predominance which the Ostrogothic Kingdom had enjoyed under Theodoric in the West now passed irrevocably to the Franks.

This dangerous external climate was exacerbated by the regency's weak domestic position. Amalasuntha was Roman-educated and intended to continue her father's policies of conciliation between Goths and Romans. To that end, she actively courted the support of the Senate and the newly ascended Emperor Justinian I, even providing him with bases in Sicily during the Vandalic War. However, these ideas did not find much favour with the Gothic nobles, who in addition resented being ruled by a woman. They protested when she resolved to give her son a Roman education, preferring that Athalaric be raised as a warrior. She was forced to discharge his Roman tutors, but instead Athalaric turned to a life of dissipation and excess, which would send him to a premature death. [30]

"[Amalasuntha] feared she might be despised by the Goths on account of the weakness of her sex. So after much thought she decided [. ] to summon her cousin Theodahad from Tuscany, where he led a retired life at home, and thus she established him on the throne. But he was unmindful of their kinship and, after a little time, had her taken from the palace at Ravenna to an island of the Bulsinian lake where he kept her in exile. After spending a very few days there in sorrow, she was strangled in the bath by his hirelings."
Jordanes, Getica 306

Eventually, a conspiracy started among the Goths to overthrow her. Amalasuntha resolved to move against them, but as a precaution, she also made preparations to flee to Constantinople, and even wrote to Justinian asking for protection. In the event she managed to execute the three leading conspirators, and her position remained relatively secure until, in 533, Athalaric's health began to seriously decline. [31]

Amalasuntha then turned for support to her only relative, her cousin Theodahad, while at the same time sending ambassadors to Justinian and proposing to cede Italy to him. Justinian indeed sent an able agent of his, Peter of Thessalonica, to carry out the negotiations, but before he had even crossed into Italy, Athalaric had died (on 2 October 534), Amalasuntha had crowned Theodahad as king in an effort to secure his support, and he had deposed and imprisoned her. Theodahad, who was of a peaceful disposition, immediately sent envoys to announce his ascension to Justinian and to reassure him of Amalasuntha's safety. [31]

Justinian immediately reacted by offering his support to the deposed queen, but in early May 535, she was executed. [ a ] This crime served as a perfect excuse for Justinian, fresh from his forces' victory over the Vandals, to invade the Gothic realm in retaliation. [32] Theodahad tried to prevent the war, sending his envoys to Constantinople, but Justinian was already resolved to reclaim Italy. Only by renouncing his throne in the Empire's favour could Theodahad hope to avert war.

Gothic War and end of the Ostrogothic Kingdom (535�)

The Gothic War between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom was fought from 535 until 554 in Italy, Dalmatia, Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. It is commonly divided into two phases. The first phase lasted from 535 to 540 and ended with the fall of Ravenna and the apparent reconquest of Italy by the Byzantines.

During the second phase (540/541�), Gothic resistance was reinvigorated under Totila and put down only after a long struggle by Narses, who also repelled the 554 invasion by the Franks and Alamanni. In the same year, Justinian promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction which prescribed Italy's new government. Several cities in northern Italy continued to hold out, however, until the early 560s.

The war had its roots in the ambition of Justinian to recover the provinces of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost to invading barbarian tribes in the previous century (the Migration Period). By the end of the conflict Italy was devastated and considerably depopulated. As a consequence, the victorious Byzantines found themselves unable to resist the invasion of the Lombards in 568, which resulted in the loss of large parts of the Italian peninsula.

The Theodoric Man

In Anonymous Valesiano , there is a story that shows Theodoric’s wisdom: a woman, a widow, had her child taken, and then became engaged the son returned, and the mother recognized him, but when the bridegroom learned that she had a son, he wanted to undo the engagement, and the mother disowned the son. The son took the case to the king, who, after questioning mother and son, decreed that the mother could not marry anyone other than the renegade son – to which she finally acknowledged that he was her son.

Theodoric the Great had great respect for Roman culture , seeing himself as one of its representatives. He had a good eye for talented people. Around 520 the philosopher Boethius became his master of trades (head of all government and court services). Boethius, belonging to an ancient Roman family, Christianized for more than a century, was a man of science, a dedicated Hellenist , profoundly knowledgeable in Greek and the work of the classics, committed to translating the works of Aristotle and Plato into Latinin order to demonstrate that the differences between their thinking were only apparent, a difficult task.

Finally, Boethius lost Teodorico’s confidence, after speaking out defending the innocence of Senator Albino, accused of conspiring against Teodorico in favor of the Byzantine emperor . Theodoric ordered the execution of Boethius, in 525, for judging him to be part of a movement aimed at reintegrating Rome into the Byzantine Empire, to the detriment of Theodoric’s reign. Provisionally Cassiodoro replaced Boethius as master of the trades in 523.

Theodoric was of Aryan faith . At the end of his reign, intrigues appeared regarding his Roman affairs and with the Byzantine emperor Justino I about Arianism . Relations between the two nations deteriorated, although Theodoric’s ability deterred the Byzantines from starting a war against them. After his death, this reluctance quickly disappeared. Theodoric the Great was buried in Ravenna . Its mausoleum is one of the most elaborate monuments in Ravenna, Italy .


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