Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) 1933 Rotunda and gold Venetian glass mosaic

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Looking up at a pillar and the ceiling.
One of my favourite buildings in the city of Toronto is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM for short), and my favourite space in the ROM is the 1933 rotunda with the spectacular gold and blue venetian glass domed ceiling. On this page I've collected some history and description of the room, some photos, even an audio tour from the ROM. It is a wonderful space, especially now that it can be enjoyed in relative peace, rather than as the cramped, busy, and loud main entrance to the museum. No visit to the ROM is complete without stopping in to the rotund for a moment or two.


I've included some photos from my photoblog to set the tone (click each image to view the full size photo in a new browser window).

One of the pillars         One of the windows in the rotunda

(Click here to see all my photos from the ROM.)

Ceiling mosaic

Thousands of sheets of Venetian glass were imported from Italy and used to create more than a million tiles (or tesserae) of gold leaf sandwiched between the glass. The three-dimensional aspect of the tiles, capturing and reflecting the light, helps give the mosaic its wonderful colour and depth.

Amongst the geometric patterns in rust, blue, and turquoise are patterns and symbols representing the wide range of influences in the museum. The four main bands of symbols represent:

  • Early cultures of the Americas
  • Classical Mediterranean cultures
  • Asia's ancient cultures
  • European cultures

Ancient architecture is also represented with four symbols. In the centre of the dome is a passage from the Book of Job: "That all men may know his work".

( For more details on the images, see the page on the ROM site. )

Looking up at a pillar and the ceiling.        The eastern end of the ceiling

History of the rotunda:

The rotunda is in the second phase of the museum building, serving as the main entrance when it was opened in 1933 through to the opening of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal addition on Bloor Street in 2007. The ceiling was recently restored, and the glass doors were replaced with oak doors similar to those from 1933.

The rotunda is now dedicated in honour of Ernest and Elizabeth Samuel, long time supporters of the ROM.

Another composite picture of the wonderful ceiling         A composite of two photos of the wonderful ceiling

More details:

There are lots of resources on the web, including: