Historical Roofs: Religious Buildings in Europe

09 Sep Historical Roofs: Religious Buildings in Europe

Hospices de BeauneHistorical Roofs is a weekly series where we take a look at some of the different gorgeous, old roofing from different regions of the world.

Last week, we took a look a couple of the beautiful roofs that can be found in Buddhist cultures in Asia. Now we’ll be taking a look at two very different buildings in Europe that were both built with a religious foundation, but very different purposes. They offer a contrast on the various ideologies that can be found in Europe, and also two very different styles of roofing. Here’s a small look at St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Hospices de Beaune…

Hospices de Beaune in France

Although the Hundred Years War ended in 1435, groups of bandits and marauders that were made up of displaced soldiers still roamed the countryside of places like Burgundy. The people of Beaune were particularly susceptible to attack, and soon fell to famine and destitution. In 1443, Duke Philip the Good, implored by his religious beliefs, ordered that chancellor Nicolas Rolin construct a hospital so that the citizens of Beaune could find care and refuge. This led to the construction of the Hospices de Beaune. Nicolas Rolin was also a renowned patron of the arts, and thus wanted the Hospices to be a place of beauty as well as healing. By far, the most stunning attribute of the buildings that came to be was their marvelous roofing. The roof was made of a polychrome-coated tile, that was intricately designed with argyle patterns. It remains a landmark of architecture during the later medieval period, but also an example of historical philanthropy. It still functions as a hospital for the poor, today.

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia

Like the Hospices de Beaune, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was built with religious with religious intentions. However, the unlike the philanthropic background of the French hospital, St. Basil’s Cathedral was built as a testament to military might. In 1555, the construction of the cathedral was ordered by Tsar Ivan IV to commemorate military victories against the Mongolians, particularly the invasion of Kazan. Today, the cathedral is markedly different from every single Russian building from that period, or any before it. It features eight different towers that emerge from the structure, four square-shaped and four octagon-shaped. Each of those towers is topped with a vibrantly colorful onion dome, making it more in line with the architecture of Middle Eastern countries at the time. What’s interesting about these onion domes is that each one is very unique in design and color, which puts it in contrast with almost all other uses of onion domes in religious structures. This fact makes St. Basil’s Cathedral home to one of the most interesting and vibrant roofs in the world.

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