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dome, a roof circular or (rarely) elliptical in plan and usually hemispherical in form, placed over a circular, square, oblong, or polygonal space. Domes have been built with a wide variety of outlines and of various materials.

Early Domes

The earliest domes were probably roofed primitive huts and consisted of bent-over branches plastered with mud. Another primitive form, called a beehive dome, is constructed of concentric rings of corbeled stones and has a conical shape. Ancient examples have been found in the tombs of Mycenae and can also still be seen in the folk architecture of Sicily. Although there is evidence of widespread knowledge of the dome, its early use was apparently restricted to small structures built of mud brick.

Roman and Byzantine Domes

It was the Romans who first fully realized the architectural potentialities of the dome. The Roman development in dome construction culminated in the pantheon (2d cent. AD). The Romans, however, failed to discover a proper handling of the pendentive—the device essential to placing a dome over a square compartment—that was finally achieved by the Byzantine builders of Hagia Sophia at Constantinople (AD 532–37). The other solution to placing a dome over a square was the squinch, which in the form of stalactites was to receive superb expression in Islamic architecture. Under Byzantine influence the Muslims early adopted the use of the dome; one of their first important monuments is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. They often used the so-called Persian or onion dome. The most celebrated example is the Taj Mahal (AD 1630) at Agra, India.

Renaissance Refinements

Both the influence of the Roman Pantheon and of the Byzantine pendentive came to bear on the designers of the Italian Renaissance, and the crossings of many churches of the period were covered by masonry domes on pendentives. Between pendentive and dome a circular drum usually was interposed, serving to give greater elevation and external importance as well as a space for the introduction of windows. By the addition of an outer shell, the exterior came to be independently designed for maximum effectiveness, and the placing of a lantern at the top of this outer shell provided an apex for the entire composition.

Modern Domes

The dome in modern architecture utilizes such materials of construction as reinforced and thin-shell concrete, glass and steel, and plastic. An innovative contemporary approach to the form is the geodesic dome. These are low-cost, geometrically determined hemispherical forms as promoted by architect Buckminster Fuller.

Outstanding Domes

Celebrated examples are Brunelleschi's octagonal ribbed dome for the Cathedral of Florence (1420–36); St. Peter's, Rome, designed by Michelangelo, with two masonry shells (completed 1590), internal diameter 137 ft (42 m); the church of the Invalides, Paris, by J. H. Mansart (1706), 90 ft (27 m); St. Paul's Cathedral, London, by Sir Christopher Wren (1675–1710), 112 ft (34 m); and the Panthéon, Paris, by J. G. Soufflot (1775–81), 69 ft (21 m). The last three domes are built with triple shells, the middle shells serving to support the crowning lanterns.

In the United States the dome of the Massachusetts state capitol, designed (1795) by Charles Bulfinch, established the dome as a distinctive feature for numerous later state capitols as well as for the national Capitol at Washington, D. C. The dome of the latter, however, is of cast iron instead of masonry. The design, by T. U. Walter, has an inner diameter of 90 ft (27 m) and possesses great external impressiveness.


See E. B. Smith, The Dome: A Study in the History of Ideas (1975).

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dome / dōm/ • n. 1. a rounded vault forming the roof of a building or structure, typically with a circular base: the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. ∎  the revolving openable hemispherical roof of an observatory. ∎  [in names] a sports stadium with a domed roof. 2. a thing shaped like such a roof, in particular: ∎  the rounded summit of a hill or mountain: the great dome of Mont Blanc. ∎  a natural vault or canopy, such as that of the sky or trees: the dome of the sky. ∎  Geol. a rounded uplifted landform or underground structure. ∎ inf. the top of the head: a content face topped by a shaved dome. 3. poetic/lit. a stately building. • v. [tr.] [usu. as adj.] (domed) cover with or shape as a dome: a domed stadium. ∎  [intr.] [often as n.] (doming) (of stratified rock or a surface) become rounded in formation; swell. DERIVATIVES: dome·like / -ˌlīk/ adj.

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dome. Cupola, essentially a species of vault, constructed on a circular, elliptical, or polygonal plan, bulbous, segmental, semicircular, or pointed in vertical section. It can be built on top of a structure the plan of which is identical to that of the dome: if that wall is circular or elliptical it is a drum (often pierced with windows) as in a rotunda. However, domes usually provide a covering for a square-or rectangular-planned building or compartment, so there have to be adjustments to make the transition from the square to the circular, elliptical, or polygonal base of the cupola or dome. This can be achieved by means of pendentives (fragments (b) of a sail-vault (a, c) resembling a species of concave, distorted, almost triangular spandrels, rising up from the corner at the top of the right-angled compartment to the circular or elliptical base of the drum or cupola) or (d ) squinches (small arch or series of parallel arches of increasing radius spanning the angle of the square compartment). Both the drum and cupola will have a diameter the same dimension as the side of the square on which the whole structure stands.

Types of drum include:calotte: low cupola or saucer-dome of segmental vertical section;, like a skull-cap;cloister-vault: as domical vault below;domical vault: cloister-vault, not a true dome, but formed of four or more (depending on the shape of the base) cells or webs forming groins where they touch vertically and rising to a point;melon: as parachute below;Pantheon: low dome on the exterior, often stepped, resembling that of the Pantheon in Rome, and coffered on the interior, widely copied by Neo-Classical architects;parachute; melon, pumpkin, or umbrella dome standing on a scalloped circular base and formed of individual webs, segmental on plan, joining in groins or ribs. Each web has a concave interior and convex exterior so it resembles a parachute, rather than an umbrella;pumpkin: as parachute above;sail-dome (a): dome resembling a billowing sail over a square compartment with its diameter the same dimension as the diagonal instead of the side of the square below, enabling the structure to rise as though on pendentives but continuing without interruption. Pendentives are really parts of a sail-dome and themselves are a species of sail-vault;umbrella: as parachute above.

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1. Anticlinal structure which plunges in all directions.

2. (volcanic dome, tholoid) A mound of viscous lava, usually rhyolite in composition, which has grown and built up over a vent. The mound of solid lava is covered by coarse, angular blocks which form by chilling and brecciation of the growing dome's surface. The blocks accumulate around the growing dome to produce a scree slope of crumble breccia. Domes can grow by repeated injection of magma into the dome body (endogenous dome) or by repeated eruption of small volumes of magma from the surface of the dome (exogenous dome).

3. (salt dome) A circular or elongate plug, 1–2 km in diameter but extending downwards for many kilometres, formed by the upward movement of buoyant and less dense evaporitic material (commonly halite) into denser overlying rocks. The diapiric movement (see DIAPIR) may be initiated by tectonic thickening.

4. A special form of crystal development characterized by two roof-like faces symmetrical about a plane of symmetry. The faces are repeated once only about an axis of symmetry.


6. See ICE DOME.

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Dome Dome of the Rock an Islamic shrine in Jerusalem, for Muslims the third most holy place after Mecca and Medina. Built in the area of Solomon's temple, the shrine dates from the end of the 7th century. It surrounds the sacred rock on which, according to tradition, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac and from which the prophet Muhammad made his miraculous midnight ascent into heaven (the Night Journey).
Millennium Dome a large building resembling a giant dome erected at Greenwich in London to house a national exhibition celebrating British achievements at the millennium. The Dome was formally opened to visitors by invitation on New Year's Eve 1999, and subsequently to the general public; it closed a year later.

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dome In architecture, a hemispherical roof. One of the earliest monumental domes is the Pantheon, Rome. It was an important element in Islamic art and architecture, especially mosques. Eclipsed in importance in Gothic architecture, it was a significant element in Renaissance and Baroque styles.

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domebrome, chrome, comb, Crome, dome, foam, gnome, holm, Holme, hom, home, Jerome, loam, Nome, ohm, om, roam, Rome, tome •Guillaume • biome • Beerbohm •radome • astrodome • Styrofoam •megohm • Stockholm • Bornholm •motorhome • backcomb • honeycomb •cockscomb, coxcomb •toothcomb • genome • gastronome •metronome • syndrome • palindrome •polychrome • Nichrome •monochrome • velodrome •hippodrome • aerodrome •cyclostome • rhizome

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dome (arch.) house, mansion XVI; †cathedral church; rounded vault, cupola XVII; vaulted roof, canopy, etc. XVIII. In the first sense — L. domus house; in the others — F. dôme — It. domo house, house of God, cathedral, cupola :- L. domus.