Fundamental theorem of Riemannian geometry

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In Riemannian geometry, the fundamental theorem of Riemannian geometry states that on any Riemannian manifold (or pseudo-Riemannian manifold) there is a unique torsion-free metric connection, called the Levi-Civita connection of the given metric. Here a metric (or Riemannian) connection is a connection which preserves the metric tensor. More precisely:

Fundamental Theorem of Riemannian Geometry. Let (M, g) be a Riemannian manifold (or pseudo-Riemannian manifold). Then there is a unique connection ∇ which satisfies the following conditions:

  • for any vector fields X, Y, Z we have
where denotes the derivative of the function along vector field X.
  • for any vector fields X, Y,
where [X, Y] denotes the Lie bracket for vector fields X, Y.

The first condition means that the metric tensor is preserved by parallel transport, while the second condition expresses the fact that the torsion of ∇ is zero.

An extension of the fundamental theorem states that given a pseudo-Riemannian manifold there is a unique connection preserving the metric tensor with any given vector-valued 2-form as its torsion.

The following technical proof presents a formula for Christoffel symbols of the connection in a local coordinate system. For a given metric this set of equations can become rather complicated. There are quicker and simpler methods to obtain the Christoffel symbols for a given metric, e.g. using the action integral and the associated Euler-Lagrange equations.


Let m be the dimension of M and, in some local chart, consider the standard coordinate vector fields

Locally, the entry gij of the metric tensor is then given by

To specify the connection it is enough to specify, for all i, j, and k,

We also recall that, locally, a connection is given by m3 smooth functions


The torsion-free property means

On the other hand, compatibility with the Riemannian metric implies that

For a fixed, i, j, and k, permutation gives 3 equations with 6 unknowns. The torsion free assumption reduces the number of variables to 3. Solving the resulting system of 3 linear equations gives unique solutions

This is the first Christoffel identity.


where we use Einstein summation convention. That is, an index repeated subscript and superscript implies that it is summed over all values. Inverting the metric tensor gives the second Christoffel identity:

Once again, with Einstein summation convention. The resulting unique connection is called the Levi-Civita connection.

The Koszul formula

An alternative proof of the Fundamental theorem of Riemannian geometry proceeds by showing that a torsion-free metric connection on a Riemannian manifold is necessarily given by the Koszul formula:

This proves the uniqueness of the Levi-Civita connection. Existence is proven by showing that this expression is tensorial in X and Z, satisfies the Leibniz rule in Y, and that hence defines a connection. This is a metric connection, because the symmetric part of the formula in Y and Z is the first term on the first line; it is torsion-free because the anti-symmetric part of the formula in X and Y is the first term on the second line.

See also

Template:Fundamental theorems