The Sphere between Stereotomy and Cartography. From Stony Traits to the Representation of the Cosmos


  • Alessio Bortot Università Iuav di Venezia



stereotomy, cartography, Murcia Cathedral, vault systems, spherical vault, Alonso de Vandelvira


In the Murcia Cathedral there is an important repertoire of vaulted systems showing very refined structures and decorations which were built with stereotomic technique. The painter and architect Jacopo Torni (1476-1526) and the essayist Alonso de Vandelvira (1544-1626) are some of the personalities who were involved in it. This paper focuses on the drawings published in Vandelvira’s treatise and analyses in detail two uncommon case studies in the field of this construction technique: the Capilla de Junteron’s vault and the one covering the room of the anti-sacristy. A digital restitution of the case studies will then be offered, with the aim of highlighting the geometric genesis of their stone joint through the intersection between architectural volumes and fundamental geometric entities. The contribution is also intended to investigate the relationship among stereotomy, astrolabes and cartography. We would like hypothesizing how the tools for the observation and calculation of celestial phenomena (astrolabes and planispheres) may have been assumed as inspiring models for the subdivision into blocks of some vaulted surfaces. Celestial and terrestrial maps, assumed as projections on the plane of spatial models, could therefore have indirectly influenced the history of constructions through a logic of subdivision into blocks that would have solved the problem of the development of the sphere on the plane according to cartographic logics, or by approximating meridians and parallels to portions of ruled surfaces.


Barbé-Coquelin De Lisle, G. (ed.). (1977). Tratado de Arquitectura de Alonso de Vandelvira. Albacenete: Confederación Española de Cajas de Ahorros.

Bortot, A., Calvo López, J. (2020). Material construction and abstract geometry in the Traité de la Coupe des Pierres by Jean-Baptiste de la Rue. In J. Calvo López, A. Bortot, G. Piccinin (a cura di). Geometria e costruzione. Stereotomia e configurazione in architettura, pp. 19-31. Roma: Aracne editrice.

Calvo López, J. et al. (eds.). (2005). Cantería renacentista en la catedral de Murcia. Murcia: Colegio de Arquitectos de Murcia 2005.

de L’Orme, P. (1567). Le premier tome de l’Architecture. Paris: Morel.

de Vandelvira, A. (1585 ca.). Libro de trazas de cortes de piedras. Manoscritto, Biblioteca de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

Gutiérrez-Cortines Corral, C. (1987). Renacimiento y arquitectura religiosa en la antigua Diócesis de Cartagena, Reyno de Murcia, Gobernación de

Orihuela y Sierra del Segura. Murcia: Colegio de Aparejadores y Arquitectos Técnicos.

Maignan, E. (1648). Perspectiva horaria, sive de orographia gnomonica tum theorethica tum pratica libri quattuor. Roma: Typis, & Expenfis Philippi Rubei.

Minenna, V. (2014). La mappa del nuovo mondo: dall’Archivio delle Indie agli spazi stereotomici generativi. In G. Fallacara, V. Minenna (a cura di). Stereotomic Design, pp. 30-37. Lecce: Edizioni Gioffreda.

Palacios Gonzalo, J.C. (1987). La estereotomía de la esfera. In Arquitectura, n. 267, pp. 54-65.

Pérouse de Montclos, J.-M. (1982). L’architecture à la Française, XVIe, XVIIe, XVIIIe siècles. Paris: Picard.

Pinto Puerto, F. (2000). Transformaciones. De la línea a la superficie. In A. Graciani et al. (eds.). Actas del Tercer Congreso Nacional de Historia de la Construcción. Sevilla, 26-28 ottobre 2000, pp. 815-826. Madrid: I. Juan de Herrera, SEdHC, U. Sevilla, Junta Andalucía, COAAT Granada, CEHOPU.

Rabasa-Díaz, E. (2000). Forma y construccion en piedra: De la canteria medieval a la estereotomia del siglo 19. Madrid: Akal.

Snyder, J.P. (1987). Map Projections - A Working Manual. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Vilella, M. (1998). Jacopo Torni detto l’Indaco (1476-1526) e la cappella funebre “a La Antigua” di Don Gil Rodríguez de Junterón nella cattedrale di Murcia. In Annali di architettura. Rivista del centro internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, n. 10-11, pp. 82-103.



How to Cite

A. Bortot, “The Sphere between Stereotomy and Cartography. From Stony Traits to the Representation of the Cosmos”, diségno, no. 8, pp. 35–46, Jul. 2021.