Millennium Dome 3, St Peter's Dome 1

St Peter's "special effect" - turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ - is very well done
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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, my wife and I stayed a few nights with her brother in Buxton, Derbyshire. Later on, we had to go to Rome for my son's wedding, although this wasn't our first trip to Italy this year - we had previously gone to Tuscany for the first time, where we visited the lovely if touristy hill town of Montepulciano. And the day before yesterday we went to North Greenwich.

Earlier this year, my wife and I stayed a few nights with her brother in Buxton, Derbyshire. Later on, we had to go to Rome for my son's wedding, although this wasn't our first trip to Italy this year - we had previously gone to Tuscany for the first time, where we visited the lovely if touristy hill town of Montepulciano. And the day before yesterday we went to North Greenwich.

Can you spot the common link between all these places?

Very good! They have all got a dome.

Greenwich has got the Millennium Dome, Rome has got St Peter's, Montepulciano has a church which is a copy in miniature of the first design for St Peter's, and Buxton has got the Devonshire Hospital.

Now, I didn't visit all these places merely to look at other domes before I finally got to the Millennium Dome on Saturday, but it does seem a shame not to take advantage of it and do a dome-for-dome comparison. After all, every journalist in the world will have written a piece on their Dome experiences by the end of the year, but how many, if any, will have put things into context by doing a Dome league table?

Here goes, then.

First of all, the echo. The great thing about a dome is that if you stand right under the centre and clap your hands, you will be deafened a moment later by the echo of your hands clapping. If you say, in mock horror, "A HANDbag?", you will hear the echo of Dame Edith Evans a second later, from the heavens. The Millennium Dome scores no points for this, not being a properly shaped dome. St Peter's may be all right, but it is full of other people's echoes the whole time: no points. Montepulciano is brilliant - eight out of ten. Buxton is even better, because if you take a friend in there, you can stand at one side of the dome and whisper - and the friend, 100ft away, will catch every word after it has bounced off the cupola. Top marks.

Next, the show. The Millennium scores top marks here, with one mark deducted for silly plotline. St Peter's scores five out of 10; the show is a traditional church service which is good but needs a lot of modernising. The special effect - turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ - is very well done, if that is what really happens. Nothing for Montepulciano and only a couple of points for the Devonshire Hospital at Buxton, where, every time I have visited it, there has been nothing more on show than ill people in bed and a few shuffling around in dressing-gowns.

Historical impact? Well, St Peter's in Rome tries very hard, but I am afraid its view of world history is heavily biased towards the Roman Catholic. To give one example, near the front door there is a monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie's father, James, the Old Pretender, which calls him "James III of England". Wishful thinking, Holy Father! Four points. Buxton is heavy with history, of course - before it was a dome and a hospital, it was the Duke of Devonshire's immensely round riding stable. Six points. Seven to Montepulciano, which is not only old but Catholic yet modest, and five to the Millennium Dome, because on Saturday they were celebrating Hallowe'en heavily which shows that they are keeping up with passing events.

Queueing? Millennium Dome six points (lots of queues but all very cheerful), Montepulciano 10 (nobody there but me and the wife, and an Italian family), Buxton 10 (no queues at all, except if you were ill and wanted a bed)and St Peter's two points only, and lucky to get that, because the Pope has made the mistake of nominating AD 2000 as a special Jubilee Pilgrimage Year, which means the Holy City is full of coach-loads of Catholics from eastern Europe, who all seem to have brought their own sandwiches with them, and who clog up St Peter's dreadfully.

Accessibility, finally. Nine for the Millennium Dome, with the excellent Jubilee Line. Eight for St Peter's, with some nice shops nearby. Four for Montepulciano, which is tiresomely hidden away in the wilds of northern Italy. None for Buxton Hospital, which has now been closed down and is inaccessible.

And the final score is: Greenwich and Montepulciano level on 29, Buxton one behind on 28, and St Peter's badly fourth with 19. If only the Devonshire Hospital had been open, it would have been an easy winner. Come on, Buxton - get your act together!

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