Frescoed Domes of Rome and Florence

One of the most fascinating bits of sacred architecture are invariably the domes of those churches which have them. They not only present opportunities for the manifest beauty of geometry to shine forth, they also make for potentially spectacular canvases, whether for architectural reliefs or for frescoed depictions. It is the latter which I wished to focus on today, presenting our readers with a few examples of some particularly -- in my estimation -- stunning examples, mainly stemming from the baroque period. 

Now, everyone knows the dome of St. Peter's, impressive in its own right, but to my mind one of the most impressive domes in the city of Rome is to be found in the church of S. Agnese in Agone which is located in Piazza Navona. Within this dome we see "The Apotheosis of St. Agnes into the Glory of Heaven" painted by Ciro Ferri (1634-1689). Ferri began the work in 1670 and died prior to its completion in 1689 by Sebastiano Corbellini. The subject of the dome celebrates the entrance of the church's patronal namesake's entrance into heaven. It has a spectacular level of colour and detail that cannot but draw the visitors eye upward. The scale of the church, which is intimate, surely makes all the more for the impression it leaves on the viewer. Be prepared for a sore neck after you visit this church.

S. Agnese in Agone, Rome

Shifting northward to Florence, one of the most famous domes in Christendom, outside of St. Peter's Basilica itself, is surely that of the Duomo of Florence; Brunelleschi's feat of engineering. Of course while it is iconic on the outside it is also spectacular on the inside, depicting a scene of the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zucchari. The dome was commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici in 1572 and its contents were influenced by the teachings of the Council of Trent and Dante's Divine Comedy. It was completed in 1579.  The dome's frescoes would be impressive no matter the context, but set against the almost Cistercian like palette of the rest of the cathedral's walls, it is all the moreso.

Duomo of Florence

Heading back southward toward Rome, we turn to the Church of the Gesù with the dome painted by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, and Giacomo della Porta. The Gesù is especially known for its impressive and grandiose ceiling painting "The Triumph of the Name of Jesus" by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, a triumph of trompe l'oeil, but the great dome of the church is also worthy of attention, 

Our final church of consideration for today is that of Santa Maria Maddelena, located just around the corner from the Pantheon. This particular dome was painted in 1737 by a French painter, Etienne Parrocel. 

While some domes are made up of geometric divisions and sections (either real or contrived) each of these domes shown here provide and is approached by the artist as a uninterrupted surface that allowed the them to use the surface of the cupola as a singular canvas through which to approach their respective subjects. Rather than becoming a series of smaller paintings then, then become a single one, and the fact they are situated on a circular surface naturally lends itself to the third dimension. The end result, I think you'll agree, is impressive.

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