nLab Čech nerve

ech nerve


Homotopy theory

homotopy theory, (∞,1)-category theory, homotopy type theory

flavors: stable, equivariant, rational, p-adic, proper, geometric, cohesive, directed

models: topological, simplicial, localic, …

see also algebraic topology



Paths and cylinders

Homotopy groups

Basic facts


Čech nerve


In category theory


In a category CC with pullbacks (possibly homotopy pullbacks), given a morphism UXU \to X in CC its corresponding Čech nerve C(U)C(U) is the simplicial object in CC that in degree kk is given by the (k+1)(k+1)-fold fiber product of UU over XX with itself :

C(U)(U× XU× XUU× XUU). C(U) \coloneqq \left( \cdots U \times_X U \times_X U \overset{\longrightarrow}{\stackrel{\longrightarrow}{\longrightarrow}} U \times_X U \stackrel{\longrightarrow}{\longrightarrow} U \right) \,.

This is the internal nerve of the internal groupoid corresponding to the kernel pair of the morphism UXU \to X.

In (,1)(\infty,1)-category theory

The notion of Čech nerve makes sense in any (∞,1)-category with (∞,1)-pullbacks.

Consider a morphism f:ABf: A \rightarrow B in an (,1)(\infty,1)-category MM. The Cech nerve of that morphism is, by definition, the augmented simplicial object in MM obtained by the right Kan extension of that morphism (regarded as a functor from the obvious category into MM) along the inclusion of the first two objects into the augmented simplicial category. See Lurie HTT One can show that this gives a groupoid object in MM. The Cech nerve is essentially unique by uniqueness of adjoint \infty- functors.

See groupoid object in an (∞,1)-category.

Applications and occurences



For U= iU iU = \coprod_i U_i the disjoint union of a covering sieve {U iX}\{U_i \to X\} with respect to a coverage, the objectwise connected components of the Čech nerve is the subfunctor corresponding to the sieve

Π 0C(U)= ihom(,U i). \Pi_0 C(U) = \bigcup_i hom(-,U_i) \,.

This is described in more detail in the section “Interpretation in terms of higher descent and codescent” at sieve. This example is important in understanding the construction of the etale homotopy type of a scheme or more generally of objects in certain types of topos.

Remark (Historical and pedagogic note)

This example is more or less the way that Eduard Čech gave the original form of the construction that now carries his name. More on this can be found in the entry on Čech methods, and the discussion there of the nerve of an open cover. For the case of triangulable spaces (polyhedra), for the cover by open stars of vertices of a triangulation, one retrieves the simplicial complex used to triangulate the space. This is one of the strong roots of the modern theory of cohomology as nerves of open covers can be seen as analogues of triangulations, and then Čech cohomology is seen to extend simplicial cohomology to spaces that are locally nice. That is one of the first steps on the long route to Grothendieck‘s definition of topos as a generalisation of space, expressly so as to define a cohomology further extending Čech cohomology to the geometric objects studied in algebraic geometry.


An early appearance (in the form of the 0-coskeleton) is in Enlightenment 8.5(b) of

An early appearance of the term “Čech nerve” is in

Last revised on May 22, 2022 at 14:42:46. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.