Thursday, October 25, 2012

Russian Church Architecture: the Onion Dome

One of the most distinctive features of Russian church architecture is the onion dome.  Historians debate the origin of the onion dome's popularity in Russian church architecture.  Some claim that the dome emerged after the Russian conquest of the Khanate of Kazan during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and thus was inspired by Islamic architecture.  Others claim that Russian churches had onion domes as early as the 13th century.  The purpose of the onion dome also is not clear.  Some propose that it emerged as a functional solution to alleviate snow buildup on the church's roof while others claim that its aesthetic purpose is to make the church appear taller.  Further along aesthetic lines, some claim that the onion dome on top of a drum or tower is meant to resemble a burning candle.

Check out these golden domes on the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin:

And these colorful domes on St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow:

The onion domes on top of this church at the Taize ecumenical community in France are reported to have been added after the fall of the Soviet Union as a symbol of welcome to and reconciliation between the constituent states of the fallen Soviet Union:

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