San Stefano Rotondo
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Architect unknown
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Location Rome, Italy   map
Date 468 to 483   timeline
Building Type basilican church
 Construction System bearing masonry, timber roof
Climate mediterranean
Context urban
Style Early Christian
Notes Round church, at 64 m (210 ft) diameter the largest circular church in existance.


Interior photo, showing inner wall arches springing from corinthian columns


Plan Drawing

Discussion San Stefano Rotondo Commentary

San Stefano Rotondo is the only extant early Christian Church with a completely circular plan. Built to house the relics of St. Stephen, its form followed in the tradition of the ancient Roman mausoleums. Two concentric rings of columns surround a central octagonal altar and with the exterior wall make two annular ambulatories, the outer one of which includes the entry porch and a number of chapels. The columns could not carry a heavy dome and probably only supported a light conical roof. The central ring is lit by clerestory windows in a curving wall supported by the columns. A transverse arcade which bisects the center was later added to stabilize the structure and makes a striking spatial division.

— JY,


The inner ring of columns, which the transverse arcade bisects, has a diameter of 76 feet. The outer wall of the church has a diameter of 210 feet.

The exterior is brick masonry and the roof is framed in timber. The contemporary interior is plain white stucco, but there is evidence that it was originally faced in rich marbles.

Sources on San Stefano Rotondo

Roger H. Clark and Michael Pause. Precedents in Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985. concentricity diagram, p203. — Updated edition available at

Sir Banister Fletcher. Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture. 18th ed., revised by J.C. Palmes. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975. ISBN 684-14207-4. NA200.F63. interior photo, p355. drawings, p366. discussion, p354.

Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture. London: The Butterworth Group, 1987. ISBN 0-408-01587-X. LC 86-31761. NA200.F63 1987. plan drawing, fig e, p279. [DP] — The classic text of architectural history. Expanded 1996 edition available at

Nikolaus Pevsner. An Outline of European Architecture. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1960. interior photo, f18, p29.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about San Stefano Rotondo


Web Resources
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