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Vaughan Hart

Name applied generally to a circular building, predominantly domed or vaulted (sometimes entitled ‘Pantheon’), or specifically to a series of villas of the Palladian type with a circular central space. Originating with circular Greek commemorative buildings, Roman temples, and Imperial mausolea, the rotunda form was used for a number of Early Christian churches and medieval baptisteries and became projected as an ideal form for Christian worship in the early Italian Renaissance (see Church, §I, 2). Thus canonized as a general paradigm of antique architecture, the rotunda was used for secular buildings requiring large central spaces such as villas, libraries, and Neo-classical state monuments. Examples can be found throughout Europe, in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire and in the development of Palladian and Neo-classical architecture in Russia and the USA.

The rotunda form derives from the Tholos, a circular building used for commemorative purposes, such as that (...