Did you know that the world’s first masonry dome was constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century?
In this post, we’ve compiled a list with the most famous domes around the world, in honor of one of the most magnificent architectural features ever conceived!
Related: Check out some of the most famous arches in the world as well!
Famous domes around the world
The Pantheon is an Ancient Roman temple that was transformed into a Catholic church. It’s located in the center of Rome and is world-famous for its magnificent dome, the first of its kind to be ever constructed. It features an opening in its center referred to as an “oculus” at a height of 43 meters (142 feet).
The original temple was commissioned during the reign of Augustus, but the current structure was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Hadrian and dedicated in 126 A.D. The Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, nearly 2,000 years after it was constructed.
2. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is arguably one of the most magnificent structures ever built. This ivory-white marble mausoleum was constructed in the Indian city of Agra in the 17th century as the final resting place of the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan named Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal was chosen as one of the new 7 wonders of the world.
The tomb itself lies directly beneath one of the most amazing domes in the world which literally surmounts it. The dome is nearly 35 meters (115 feet) high and is surrounded by 4 smaller domes as well. It used to be topped with a gold finial but this has been replaced by a bronze one in the 19th century.
3. Capitol Building
The United States Capitol is one of the most important buildings in the United States as it serves as the meeting place of the United States Congress in Washington D.C. The original building was completed in the year 1800 and didn’t have a dome. After a fire, a smaller dome was constructed which was replaced by the massive dome we see today in 1855.
The dome as part of a major expansion project which had started in 1850, and it was then that it was decided to build the “wedding-cake-style” dome made of cast-iron. Inside the oculus of the dome, a famous fresco was painted called the “The Apotheosis of Washington,” while the outside is decorated with a statue called “The Statue of Freedom.”
4. Reichstag Building
The Reichstag Building is one of the most important buildings in Berlin, the capital of Germany. It was constructed back in 1894 and housed the Diet until it was burned down in a fire shortly after the Nazis came to power in 1933. The building fell in disuse after World War II and only started housing the Bundestag after the German Unification in the early 1990s.
The dome of the Reichstag Building is its most prominent feature as it’s made out of glass. It doesn’t just allow visitors to get a 360-degree view over the city of Berlin, but also allows you to watch the meetings of the German government below. This is a statement to emphasize the fact that Germany today doesn’t resemble the horrible period during the Nazis in any way.
5. St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is the cathedral of the Bishop of London and is located right in London’s historical center. It’s one of the most famous churches in the world and was constructed in the late 17th century, replacing the Old St Paul’s which was completely destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The dome of the cathedral was designed in the English Baroque Style by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. he got inspiration from the St Peter’s Basilica’s dome, which was designed by Michelangelo, and the Tempietto in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio, which was designed by Donato Bramante.
6. Les Invalides
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings in the city of Paris, not too far away from one of the most famous towers in the world, the Eiffel Tower. It was originally constructed as “Hôtel national des Invalides” and served as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and now houses several museums and monuments related to the military history of France.
The “Dôme des Invalides” was originally referred to as the “Chapelle royale des Invalides” which is a former church and the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. Its most significant feature apart from Napoleon’s tomb is the Baroque Style dome, the tallest of its kind in Paris at a height of 107 meters (351 feet) and completely gilded.
The Sacré-Cœur is officially known as the “Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris” and is one of the most amazing landmarks in the city of Paris. Located on top of a hill named the “butte Montmartre” in the Montmartre neighborhood, right next to the “Place du Tertre,” the artistic heart of the city.
The church was constructed after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and for the Paris Commune of 1871, but it took multiple decades to complete. The Sacré-Cœur was eventually dedicated after World War I in 1919, even though the building was completed in the year 1914. We included the Sacré-Cœur in the list with famous domes because its dome is one of the most prominent features in the Paris skyline!
8. Florence Cathedral
The dome of the Florence Cathedral in Florence, Italy, used to be the largest dome in the world for a long period of time. It still remains the largest brick dome that was ever constructed and marks an important turning point and is often considered to be the first major project of the Renaissance in Europe.
Its architect was Filippo Brunelleschi who had to be extremely creative to construct this dome in order not to make it collapse under its own weight. Therefore, he studied the dome of the Pantheon in Rome together with Italian sculptor Donatello and managed to build one of the most fascinating domes in history!
9. Eden project
The Eden Project is an ecological park that was constructed inside an abandoned China clay pit in Cornwall, in the southwest of England. The main features of this tourist attraction are the two massive domes that are home to thousands of different types of plant species.
The massive domes replicate the environment in which thousands of exotic plant species live. One dome replicates a humid and tropical rainforest climate, and the other a dry Mediterranean climate. This remarkable project has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK and welcomes over a million visitors every year.
10. St Basil’s Cathedral
The St Basil’s Cathedral is arguably one of the best-recognized churches in the world and contains some of the most famous domes in the world as well. This colorful church was built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible, the first Russian Tsar, and is located right on the iconic Red Square in Moscow.
The domes are extremely colorful but were only painted this way later on. The original domes were covered with gold but their shape hasn’t changed since its construction. The design of the church consists of the main church with 8 smaller churches, each covered with their own dome, surrounding it. All 9 churches are interconnected with tunnels.
11. Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most famous Islamic architectural structures in the world. It’s located on Temple Mount on the location of the First and Second Jewish Temple, the original built by King Solomon dating back to the year 957 B.C. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
The current structure is one of the first buildings built by a Muslim ruler and dates back to the end of the 7th century, making it a very important building in Islam. It was built around the so-called “Foundation Stone” which is believed to be the exact location where God created the world and the first man, Adam, according to Abrahamic Religions. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in Jerusalem, mainly because of its golden dome which really stands out on Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
12. Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier in Paris is arguably one of the most astounding opera houses in the world. It was designed by Charles Garnier (1825-1898), the architect after who it was named, for the Paris Opera in the 19th century. It was built in the so-called “Napoleon III architectural style,” a style that combined elements from a wide variety of other styles, especially those using rich ornamentation.
The eclectic style used in the design of the building means that the central dome isn’t the most prominent feature of the structure (nothing is really). It is, however, flanked by 2 smaller domes on each side which give the building a distinctive appearance from all sides. The roof above the main dome is topped with a sculpture called “Apollo, Poetry, and Music” by Aimé Millet with Apollo holding a gilded lyre.
13. San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall is the most important building in the city of San Francisco as it’s the official seat of both the city and county government. The building was designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. in the early 20th century and replaced an earlier monumental structure that was completed in 1899 but which was destroyed by the earthquake in 1906, a calamity that flattened the entire city of San Francisco.
The building features a magnificent dome that was inspired by the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. The dome reaches a height of 93.73 meters (307.5 feet) which is remarkable 5.8 meters (19 feet) higher than that of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The interior features a monumental space referred to as “La Rotunda” which has been used as a film location in multiple classic movies, including the final scene in Indiana Jones and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
This completes our list of famous domes around the world. Domes come in all shapes and sizes and most of these remarkable structures simply leave you standing in awe!