Golden Architecture: Gold leaf throughout time at the world’s famous historical sites
From the ancient Temple of Solomon to modern day capitol buildings, gold leaf has been an integral component of architecture to designate important structures since the dawn of humankind. Due to gold’s resilience, golden-domed buildings can stand up to weather, deterioration and even modern pollution, keeping them beautiful sites for generations.
One of the earliest examples of gold in architecture is the Temple of Solomon in what is modern-day Jerusalem. Scholars and archeologists have pointed to verses in the Bible that tell us, “Solomon overlaid the house with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold.” Today, archeologists imagine what the temple may have looked like.
Gold in architecture became an integral component of Byzantine and Roman churches and basilicas in 400 AD, most notably the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The church was built by Pope Sixtus III and is one of the earliest examples of gold mosaics. The mosaics were made of stone, tile or glass backed on gold leaf walls, giving the church a beautifully intricate backdrop.
In Constantinople, the capitol of the Byzantine Empire for over 1,000 years and now modern-day Istanbul, the famous Hagia Sophia church continues to be one of the most awe-inspiring examples of gold mosaics. Soaring pillars, arches and vaults, all originally covered in gold leaf, hold up the central dome of the church. It was said that this gave the church a perpetual warm glow. Unfortunately, the much this was destroyed in the 8th century, although some smaller mosaics have survived today in various churches around Istanbul.