A Brief Survey of the History of Copper Roofing

From the domes of the Middle East to the rooftops of cathedrals, castles, and towns of Europe, Copper has made its appearance throughout history. Here are some of the more well-known examples:

Kronborg Castle, located in Helsingor, Denmark—the castle Shakespeare set his Hamlet in and called Elsinore. The copper roof dates to its Renaissance construction in 1420 A.D., although it’s been burned to the ground and rebuilt since.

The Pantheon—Rome’s spectacular and best preserved of the ancient Roman monuments, the masterpiece has a copper roof. When Michelangelo first saw it, he is reported to have said, “It looks more like the work of angels, not humans.” Originally built as a “temple to the gods,” it was later turned into a church.

Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany—is famous for its copper roofs.

The Lovamahapaya Buddhist Temple—located in Sri Lanka got its copper shingle roof in the third century B.C. It’s located in the ancient city of Anuradhapura.

St. Mary’s Cathedral—located in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany. The cathedral was a prime example of European Medieval architecture with its copper roof. Installed in 1280 A.D., it was destroyed in the bombings of World War II.

The Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies—located in Pomona, California is well known for its splendid copper roofing, designed in the late 1970/80s with the goal of constructing a building that used renewable resources without environmental degradation. The copper roof comes to mind as a significant implementation of this goal.

The Jurassic Museum of Asturias (MUJA)—located in Colunga, Asturias, Spain. Built in the late 1990s, it has a three-lobed copper roof designed to resemble a dinosaur’s foot.

Copper has been so popular for roofs, domes, spires, and vaults throughout history because of its durability, corrosion resistance, beautiful appearance, and its ability to form complex shapes. There are circular domes, conical spires, barrel vaults, along with simple copper rooftops throughout the world. Today, copper roofing material complements both traditional and modern buildings and architects find it desirable because of its beauty and warmth. Lifetime costs make it especially appealing since testing of 18th-century copper roofs in Europe has shown that it may be possible that these amazing copper roofs could last hundreds of years.

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Karl Stickle