A review of the “smeared crack” approach to the finite element analysis of small tensile strength (STS) materials is presented. The most widely applied strategies for crack modeling, shear transfer mechanism, and the definition of the mechanical constitutive laws and failure criteria are critically discussed. The models and special options in the ANSYS, ADINA, and ABAQUS programs are considered in detail, and applied to the analysis of a square panel under boundary pressures. The three solutions were compared in terms of the final broadening of the panel cracked zones. The results of the analysis of an hemispherical dome over a cylindrical drum are also presented. The Romulus Temple in the Roman Forum was the reference structure for this FE model. The problem was analyzed by a special procedure using the ANSYS “concrete” element. The results were compared with those of a “discrete crack” solution which reproduced the real cracked configuration of the building, and then with an experimental survey carried out by the flat jack technique.

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