The results of an acoustic survey carried out in a group of Italian churches differing in style, typology, and location were used in order to study how the acoustic energy varies inside this kind of space. The effect of different architectural elements on sound propagation was investigated by means of three-dimensional impulse responses measured using a B-format microphone with sweep signals. Side chapels, columns, and trussed roofs appeared to scatter the reflections, so that the purely diffuse exponential sound decay begins after a time interval which grows with the source-receiver distance and with the complexity of the church. The results of the measurements were then compared with predictions given by existing theoretical models to check their accuracy. In particular a model previously proposed by the authors for a specific type of Romanesque churches was further refined taking into account the new findings and making some simplifications. Its application to the wider sample of churches under analysis showed that strength, clarity, and center time can be predicted with reasonable accuracy.
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