Round churches

Tempietto di Santa Croce

The Tempietto di Santa Croce is a small octagonal Romanesque chapel found in the upper city of Bergamo, near the Santa Maria Maggiore. The original building was constructed in the first half of the 11th century, though first documentation of the structure dates to 1133.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bergamo, Italy

Church of St Donatus

The Church of St Donatus name refers to Donatus of Zadar, who began construction on this church in the 9th century and ended it on the northeastern part of the Roman forum. It is the largest Pre-Romanesque building in Croatia. The beginning of the building of the church was placed to the second half of the 8th century, and it is supposed to have been completed in the 9th century. The Zadar bishop and diplomat Donat (8th ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Zadar, Croatia

Cremona Baptistery

The Cremona Baptistery is annexed to the city's Cathedral. Built in 1167, it is characterized by an octagonal plan, a reference to the cult of St. Ambrose of Milan, symbolizing the Eight Day of Resurrection and, thenceforth, the Baptism. The edifice mixes Romanesque and Lombard-Gothic styles, the latter evident in the preference for bare brickwork walls. To the 16th century restorations belong the marble cover of s ...
Founded: 1167 | Location: Cremona, Italy

Rotonda di San Lorenzo

The Rotonda di San Lorenzo is the most ancient church in Mantua. It is now sunk below the level of the Piazza della Erbe. It probably stands on the site of a Roman temple that was dedicated to the goddess Venus. It was built during the reign of the Canossa family in the late 11th century. Inspired by the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem and dedicated to the martyr St. Lawrence, it has a central plan and has ma ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Mantua, Italy

Brescia Old Cathedral

The Duomo Vecchio or Old Cathedral (also called La Rotonda because of its round layout) is a rustic circular Romanesque co-cathedral standing next to the Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral) of Brescia. It is one of the most important examples of Romanesque round church in Italy. While some claims for an earlier construction exist, the earliest documents state the cathedral was built in the 11th century on the site of ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Brescia, Italy

Rotunda of Mosta

The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta, is the third largest unsupported dome in the world and the third largest in Europe. Built in the 19th century on the site of a previous church, it was designed by the Maltese architect Giorgio Grognet de Vassé. Its dome is among the largest in the world, with an internal diameter of 37.2 metres. the rotunda walls are 9.1 metres thick (nece ...
Founded: 1833-1871 | Location: Mosta, Malta

Santo Stefano al Monte Celio

The Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill (Basilica di Santo Stefano al Monte Celio), commonly named Santo Stefano Rotondo, is Hungary"s 'national church' in Rome. It is dedicated to both Saint Stephen, the Christian first martyr, and Stephen I, the sanctified first king of Hungary who imposed Christianity on his subjects. The earliest church was consecrated by Pope Simplicius between 468 ...
Founded: 468-483 | Location: Rome, Italy

Santa Costanza

Santa Costanza is a 4th-century round church in Rome with well preserved original layout and mosaics. It has been built adjacent to a horseshoe-shaped church, now in ruins, which has been identified as the initial 4th-century cemeterial basilica of Saint Agnes. Santa Costanza and the old Saint Agnes were both constructed over the earlier catacombs in which Saint Agnes is believed to be buried. According to the traditiona ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Rome, Italy

St. Vitus Cathedral

The St. Vitus Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Rijeka. In the Middle Ages, the Church of St. Vitus was a small and one-sided, romanesque church dedicated to the patron saint and protector of Rijeka. It had a semi-circular apse behind the altar, and covered porch. With the arrival of the Jesuits in Rijeka, the Cathedral as we see it today was founded in 1638. First, it became the Jesuits" church. When the to ...
Founded: 1638 | Location: Rijeka, Croatia

Østerlars Round Church

Østerlars Church is the largest and, possibly, the oldest of the Bornholm island's four round churches. Built in about 1160, it was dedicated to St. Lawrence. It consists of an apse, an oval chancel, a large round nave and has three storeys. There is evidence the church was once fortified, the top storey serving as an open shooting gallery. The fieldstone wall stands on foundations of Bornholm limestone. The double ...
Founded: ca. 1160 | Location: Gudhjem, Denmark

Horne Church

Horne Church is the only round church on Funen. Originally constructed from granite stonework, it was modified in the 15th century with the addition of Gothic extensions on the east and west. The history of Horne Church is inextricably tied to Hvedholm Manor, located about 2 kilometres to the south and to the noble family Brahe associated with that estate. Several of the church's content items date from the 17th century a ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Faaborg, Denmark

Kilarrow Church

Kilarow Parish Church is a rare round church commenced in 1767. Daniel Campbell the Younger brought Thomas Spalding to Islay for the specific purpose of building the church which was completed in 1769 and is therefore, in Islay, the oldest church building in which public worship takes place on a weekly basis. The Round Church is 18.2 metres in diameter and the walls are 0.85 metres thick. The main central pillar is 0.48 m ...
Founded: 1767 | Location: Bowmore, United Kingdom

Rotonda di San Tomè

The Rotonda di San Tomè has a circular plan and is in the Lombard-Romanesque style, dating from the early 12th century, and dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle. History The church was built in the district known in ancient times as Lemine. The date of its construction is uncertain, as well as the existence of other churches on the same site, as it is known a reconstruction was carried on between the end of the 11th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Almenno San Bartolomeo, Italy

Bromma Church

Bromma church is a medieval so-called round church. The oldest parts of the church were built in the later 12th century as a fortress church, and the church is among Stockholm's oldest buildings. Originally the church consisted of the round house and a choir on the east side. The nave and the sacristy were constructed in the mid 15th century, built in stone. In the 1480s Albertus Pictor or his pupils painted more than for ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Ny Kirke

Ny Kirke (New Church) is a 12th century round church located in the village of Nyker. Built in the Romanesque style with two storeys, it contains frescoes from various periods and a pulpit with 17th century-panels. Ny Kirke is normally considered to be the youngest of the island's four round churches. It was originally called "Ecclesia Omnium Sanctorum" (All Saints Church). The present name dates from the middle of the 16 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rønne, Denmark

Solna Church

The medieval church of Solna is a so-called round church. The oldest part of the church, the roundhouse, originates from the late 12th century, and was especially built for defense purposes. Attached to this round center is a weaponhouse (south), a rectangular choir to the east, and a rectangular nave to the west. North of the choir is the sacristy, and to the east an octagonal grave choir. There is a second grave choir o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Olsker Church

Sankt Ols Kirke (St Olaf's Church), also known as Olsker Church, is a 12th century round church located in the village of Olsker. Built in the Romanesque style and reaching three storeys high, it has from the beginning consisted of a round nave, a choir and an apse. The church was named after the revered King Olaf II of Norway who fell at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The church first belonged to the Archbishopric of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Allinge, Denmark

Nylars Church

Nylars Church (Nylars Kirke) is a round church built around 1165. The church was dedicated to St Nicholas. Originally designed for a defensive role, the solid structure contains a series of 13th century frescoes, the oldest of Bornholm's four round churches. The three storeys are built of fieldstone and with window and door frames of limestone. The original defensive systems are largely intact. The decorated south door i ...
Founded: ca. 1165 | Location: Aakirkeby, Denmark

Orphir Round Church Ruins

Today Orphir contains the remains of Scotland"s only surviving circular medieval church. Built in the late 11th, or early 12th century, the Orphir Round Church is thought to have been built by Earl Hakon. Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, its design was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. At the time of the church construction, the Great Crusades were in full swing and the circular church had becom ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Orphir, United Kingdom

Vårdsberg Church

Vårdsberg church was built originally a round church. It is located on the river banks and in ancient times it was able to sail there from the Baltic sea. The church might have been built also for the stronghold against the pagan Baltic people, who made raids to Sweden. In the 13th century church was enlarged with a chancel and two transepts. The western tower dates from 1774. Mural paintings date from the 1400s and ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Vårdsberg, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.