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Q: onion-domed churches ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: onion-domed churches
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: lenny1234-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 09 Sep 2002 17:56 PDT
Expires: 09 Oct 2002 17:56 PDT
Question ID: 63249
my ancestors came from the southern part of bavaria near the
czech/bohemian border. most of the catholic churches have onion-domed
steeples.i am interested in finding the history of these domes.
Subject: Re: onion-domed churches
Answered By: rico-ga on 10 Sep 2002 06:05 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi lenny,

As well as the information provided by secret901-ga in his comment,
here's some other facts on the "onion dome" architectural style...


"A peculiar feature of Russian Orthodox churches is the presence of
onion-shaped domes on top of the cupolas. In the early history of the
Russian Church, especially in Kiev, the first capital, the domes of
the churches followed the typical Byzantine rounded style, but later,
especially after the Mongol Period, Russian churches tended toward the
onion domes, which, in many places, became quite stylized. Historians
are not in agreement as to the origin of this particular style, but
some point to the possible influence of Persia on this peculiar
feature of Russian church architecture, while others argue that since
this style was more popular in the far North of Russia, it had a
practical application, in that the shape was particularly suited to
shed the large amounts of snow common in the region."

From "Orthodox Art and Architecture"

"In Russia the familiar "onion" dome was developed by the thirteenth
century, perhaps in response to weather conditions (it sheds snow
easily, preventing it from accumulating at the seam between the dome
and the drum)."

For further reading, this site has an excellent article on Orthodox
Architecture, well worth the read, in my opinion...


"The characteristic onion dome first appeared in Novgorod on the
Cathedral of Sancta Sophia, in the eleventh century."

From "Russian Architecture: The Golden Ring of Ancient Cities."

"For example, well known theory (sic) explains that the famous onion
shape of cupolas is the evolution of the flat Byzantine dome and the
Russian wooden gable."

A site with some excellent examples of onion dome architecture is "The
Empire That Was Russia" at

Links to a variety of Russian Orthodox Churchs displaying the onion
dome style can be reached at the "Glass, Steel, and Stone" site

And finally, there's an untrue, but cute, urban legend that Hershey's
Kisses were invented by a homesick Russian. :-)



Search strategy: "onion domes" architecture history; "onion domes"
church architecture history; "onion domes" Bohemia Czech
lenny1234-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
i liked the comment abut the hershey kiss

Subject: Re: onion-domed churches
From: secret901-ga on 09 Sep 2002 19:27 PDT
"From the Middle East the cupola design spread to Russia, where in the
17th and 18th centuries it gained great popularity in the form of the
“onion dome,” which had the advantage of being decorative while not
gathering snow during severe winters. The Moors brought the design to
Spain, and Islamic influence in the 17th century may be responsible
for its introduction in Vienna, where it can be seen on many Baroque
structures. Throughout Austria and Bavaria, onion domes top
innumerable small churches."
Encyclopedia Brittanica

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