Systems of Scale: Underground Caverns

Having had a response from Dr. Alice Roberts on Twitter (@DrAliceRoberts) regarding her visit to a new London sewer, I’m drawn to the common use of ecclesiastical buildings to represent the size of underground cavernous spaces.

We often hear of natural caves or those excavated for mines, tunnels, hydroelectric halls in terms of the size of cathedrals. I assume this is because once inside a large church, one is struck by the volumous space. Alice Roberts responded to my equiry with reference to a “decent sized parish church” (thinking about it, clearly a scientist !), which suggested to me that we might be able to assign a spectrum of ecclesiastical buildings as analogies for cavernous volume comparison – the Church Scale ?

Let’s start from the smaller end of spectrum and work through (a first stab from memory):

Small Chapel – I can think of some in the Bavarian countryside

Medium Chapel e.g. Welsh

Norwegian Church e.g. in Cardiff or Swansea, wooden structures, with cafes attached.

Small Parish Church e.g. late saxon, early Norman, before gothic arch took off

Medium (or decent sized) Parish Church – the norm, but probably quite a spectrum in itself

Large Parish Church e.g. those found on the North Norfolk coast,

Small Cathedral e.g. Llandaff, Wells or those that started as a large city church and built onto.

Medium Cathedral or Basilica e.g. Gloucester, Hereford and most decent-sized Minsters.

Large Cathedral e.g. St Paul’s (often used), the Duomo on Florence , Cologne or Koelner Dom (I’m guessing these are as big on the inside as they are on the outside)

Extra Large: e.g. St. Peter’s Size (used more for it’s dome)

I’ll have to check the actual volumes, but I hope you get the picture.

I’ll update with numbers if there’s actually something on this… some in Wikipedia, but only some at the largest end. I was right about St. Peter’s being the largest, estimated at 1,200,000 m3. Cologne is about 400,000, with a few in bewteen.

P.S. Of course we could do height as well, but I believe the is well-charted territory.


About Dr_JAH

Independent Researcher
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