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BOOK

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REVIEW

Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture By David Stephenson.

Princeton Architectural Press, 2005. 192pp. £35

This book's concept is simple but David Stephenson must have taken great pains to execute it so well. He has photographed 120 domes, which span space but also time - from Rome's Pantheon to the New Synagogue in Szeged (1903), via Borromini's Sant'Ivo (pictured). Sometimes we see images - Byzantine mosaics, Baroque frescoes - or complex schemes of decoration. In other cases, structure dominates: the sturdy stone ribs of the crossing vault of the Basilica de San Vicente at Avila for example.

The essays that bracket Stephenson's photos discuss what the domes were meant to express - symbolising a 'celestial realm' or 'sacred transcendent sphere'. The secular observer now can still be moved by their fusion of light and geometry and what they aspired to do.

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