Built In Art magazine


Classical Architecture


Dictionary of Architecture



An ornament consisting of a straight moulding of rounded section, with leafage or scroll work seeming to emerge from it.

aron's rod or caduceus


Small tesserae, or square stones, for tessellated pavements : also, small square tablets, or brackets, used to support vases, and other ornamental objects.



Lat. A small table, or desk.



Lat abaque, or abacus, abaco,

In architecture the abacus is the flat square stone which constituted the highest member of a column, being placed immediately under the architrave. READ MORE --->



Lat muro ,contremur Fr. , contramuro It.. A buttress, or second wall, added to strengthen another.


Lat.; abbaye, Ital.

An abbey properly means a series of buildings adapted for the domestic accommodation and religious ceremonies of a fraternity of persons subject to the government of an abbot, or an abbess. As such it is contra­distinguished from a priory, friary, nunnery, hospital, and college, and from all other ecclesiastical and military houses. Although strictly and clearly different in name, it is not easy to separate and distinguish the abbey, the priory, or even the cathedra], in their architectural features and general arrangements, from each other. The different orders of monastic communities had distinctions in dress, and in certain rites and ceremonies; but their dwellings and offices seem to have been designed more in accordance with the fashion or customs of the age when built, than by the rules of their respective orders. An abbey was of the highest rank amongst religious houses.

Senanque abbey
Cistercian Sénanque Abbey



Fr., from abreuver, to water. In masonry, the joint between stones, to be filled up with mortar.


Abutments, or Butments

From aboutir, Fr. to abut against. The ends of a bridge are usually so called; and the term is sometimes applied synonymously with buttress. Abutments are often strengthened with counter­forts.   (See Bridge.)



acanthus at eleusis temple

acanthe, Fr.; acanto, It. The plant Branca Ursina of Miller, called in English Bears-breech, the leaves of which are often imitated in decorating the Corinthian and Composite capitals of columns. Vitruvius relates a pleasing story about the origin of the Corinth­ian, or foliated capital, which seems rather more poetical than rational. MORE--->



Accessiones Lat. passages of communication between the various apartments of a building; synonymous with corridors.
Accubitus. A room annexed to large churches, in which the principal officiating clergy occasionally reposed.


The placing of two columns or pillasters very close together. This device is very common in neoclassic church fronts.

accouplement engaged columns
Accouplement of engaged columns, Hôtel d'Assezat, Toulouse


From axovu, Gr., to hear. The scientific study of sound, especially of its generation, transmission, and reception. In the design and construction of theatres, churches, halls, lecture-rooms, etc.. it is of the first consequence to adapt them for the conveyance of sound, without the inconvenience and detriment of an echo.


Statute or figure in reliefof wich on ly the head, hands and feet are of stone, the rest being of wood or other material.




From Gr. the top or summit of a city. The fortress or citadel of a Greek city was so denominated because placed on elevated ground. It generally contained the temple of the protecting divinity; as at Athens, where the temple of Minerva is on the Acropolis, and at Rome, where that of Jupiter Capitolinus is so placed. In the military architecture of the Middle Ages we recognize the Acropolis in the situation of the castle, or fortress, in every city and principal town.

acropolis argos greece
Acropolis at Argos, Greece



A pedestal for a statue, especially when large and high and adorned with unusual richness.

Acroterium / Acroteria.

From Gr. A terminating member, or ornament, at the apex and angles of a pediment. Some writers contend that the acroterium is the plinth, or pedestal, sustaining the ornamental finishing of the pediment; and others, that it is the ornament itself.    In Christian architecture, the cross at the apex of a gable may be called the acroterium.



Aditus, Lat. The approach, or entrance to any place, as the adit of a house, but more particularly applied to the horizontal shaft, or sough, of a mine. The aditus of a theatre, in Roman architecture, was the doorway whereby people entered from the outer portico, or corridors, to their seats.


Generic term covering a whole class of materials and structures made from earths, more or less aluminous, without artificial heat.



Formerly this word applied to the whole interior of a temple, but it is now understood to denote that part only whence the oracles were pronounced, and to which none but the priests were per­mitted to enter. The sanctum-sanctorum of the Hebrew temples was of a similar nature. In Christian architecture it is the chancel, or altar end of a church. The Emperor Theodosius was not permitted to remain in the adytum after his oblation at the altar. The only well-defined adytum of the ancients is considered to be that of the little temple at Pompeii, in which a statue of Isis was found.



Dim. of acclesia, Lat., a church. A term generally understood to signify a chapel subordinate to the mother church.



Lat. Among the Romans an inferior kind of temple, not formally consecrated by the augurs, was called odes. It is distinguished from the templum, which received the formalities of consecration, and was very sumptuously decorated. By writers of the Middle Ages the term is often used to denote a chapel and it is sometimes applied to a house.



Lat., dim. - of edes. A small chapel, house, or building of any kind. The Romans sometimes used the term synonymously with ades; and it was not unfrequently applied to the niches, or tabernacles, in a wall, which held statues of the lares, or penates.




Lat., from aes, copper, and, by metonymy, money. A treasury. Among the Romans, the place where public money was deposited was called ararium.



Lat., from aggero, to heap. Earthen banks, or mounds, thrown up either for defence, as in encampments or as boundaries, by the British, Roman, and Saxon occupants of Britain.


Lat. aguglia or guglia, It.; aiguille, Fr., a needle. An obelisk; or a spire of a church tower.



Ala, Lat.,aile, Fr. A wing, or any part of a building flanking another; hence the French, " ailes de batiment," the wings of a house. The term is usually applied to the side passages, or lateral division of a church, which are partially separated from the nave and choir by columns or piers.

The nave itself, or central part of a church, is sometimes, though improperly, denominated the middle aile. In the abbey church of Westminster, Redcliffe Church at Bristol, and the cathedrals of York and Ely, the ailes are continued on each side of the transept; and in Salisbury, and some other cathedrals, on one side only. The naves of the ecclesiastical edifices of Great Britain have, with but one or two exceptions, only two ailes, while those on the Continent frequently have several, as in the cathedrals at Amiens, Milan, and Notre Dame at Paris, each of which has four; and it is recorded that old St. Peter's, at Rome, had the same number.



alabastrites, Lat.; albstre, Fr.; alabastro, It. and Port.; alabaster, Ger.

A species of gypsum. " Gypsum"is a mineral substance, chemically termed sulphate of lime, because, on analysis, it is found to consist of lime combined, in a certain proportion, with water and sulphuric acid. Gypsum, in its mineral state, more or less impure, is various in its structure; such as earthy, stony, foliaceous, and crystallised. In some states it is resplendent, reflecting star-like rays. The compact, or stony gypsum, is often pure white, and is the alabaster of modern mineralogists. In ordinary language, the word alabaster (a Latin term signifying a white star), has never been very determinate, either in ancient or modern usage. It has been applied to different species of snow-coloured stones, some of them sulphates, some carbonates, of lime, and others compounded of both. The sparry and crystallised gypsums are, from the nature of their lustre, called selenites, or moon-stones, and selenitic has been sometimes written as the adjective, in place of gypseous or gypsine." By a slight calcination and grinding, gypsum is converted into Plaster of Paris, which is chiefly used for making casts and models: in a less pulverised state it is sometimes applied to the formation of floors in barns and dwelling-houses. In churches we frequently find the effigies of ecclesiastics cut out of blocks of alabaster.



LOW Lat., from ala, a wing. A piazza, corridor, or covered way, in the flank of a building.



Low Lat. A beacon, or light-house. " Ascendent


Lat.; albini,low Lat. White-washers,distinguished from pectores, or plasterers.


Lat.; album-opus, low Lat. White-wash; or, according to Pliny and Vitruvius, a white stucco, or plaster, made of a pure kind of lime, burned from marble, and used to spread oyer the roofs of houses. Pectorium was a coarser kind of plaster.


In Spain, a palace, generally royal, which is defensible, though not necessarily a strong fortress. The buildings remain from the time of Moorish domination, and often contain much Moorish decoration. The best known examples are those of Segovia, Seville, and Toledo, together with the Alhambra.

alcazar of toledo spain
Alcazar of Toledo


Low Lat. A cellar, pantry, or an apartment for the reception of drinking-vessels,


Alcoranes and alcoratue, low Lat.; alcorano, It.; alcoran, Fr. High, slender towers, commonly called minarets, attached to mosques, whence the Mohammedans are summoned to prayers


Eng., Fr., and Qer.; alcova, It.; alcoba, Sp.; pro­bably derived from the Arabic al-kauban, a tent, al-kaab, the cave. This word strictly means a recess in a chamber for the reception of a bed, separated from the other parts of the room by columns, antes, and balusters; as in Windsor Castle, and in several baronial mansions. The word is used sometimes synonymously with bay. The French were parti­cularly partial to the alcove, using it almost always for state beds. They elevated the floor above that of the apartment, and did not raise the ceiling quite so high. The alcoves in the villas of Hadrian and Trajan were formed like niches. The term is commonly applied, in England, to ornamental and covered Beats in gardens.


LOW Lat. A palace, castle, or other large edifice.


Lat. An apartment in a Roman house appro¬priated to the use of persons playing with ala, or dice.



Alleia, or aleya, low Lat.; viottola, It.; allee, Fr., from after, to go; alladh, Irish. A passage from one part of a building to another; also the passage, or walk, between the pews of a church. In the old surveys of cathedrals.



Almonarium, low Lat.; aumonerie, Fr.; ailmosenhaus, Ger. A room or place whence alms were formerly distributed to the poor. In monastic establishments it was generally a stone building near the church, on the north side of the quadrangle, and sometimes had a priest's hall, and other apartments, annexed to it. To keep beggars from the refectory doors, the almonry was, in some abbeys, removed to the gate-house. At Christ Church, Canterbury, certain scholars attached to the house constantly resided in the almonry. From the closet in which the alms were kept, it was frequently called the ambry. A place in Westminster, near the abbey church, is still known by that name; and in the Will of Agnes Vincent, of Canterbury, proved 1518, is a bequest " to the children of the ambrye of Christ Church that bring my body to burial, to spend among them."


Gerontoeomium and ptochotrophium, Lat.; maison de charite, Fr.; ailmosenhaus, Ger

A building appropriated for the reception of poor aged people, and endowed with revenues for their support. Previous to the Reformation, alms-houses were seldom established; but, after that event, it became a frequent practice for private persons to endow and bequeath large sums for that purpose.— They were sometimes erected in church yards, as may be seen in many English parishes; and, when extensive, were provided with chapels and chaplains. There are many alms-houses in and near London, supported by the chartered companies of the city.



Arat Lat.autel, Fr. An elevated table of either stone, marble, or wood, dedicated to particular ceremonies of religious worship.


Contemporary altar at Notre Dame, Paris
Contemporary altar at Notre Dame, Paris



Low Lat.; the high, or principal altar in a Christian church.


Low Lat. A reading-desk.


A lustre, chandelier, or cresset, sus¬pended over an altar.


Lat. An altar where masses were said for the dead.


is the sculpture, or painting, ornamenting the wall behind an altar in a Christian church; and this may be said to occupy the place of the statue of the god in a pagan temple of the ancients. A curious altar-piece, enriched with niches, and images in high relief, remains in the church at Christ Church, Hampshire. It represents the genealogy of our Saviour, by a tree springing from the loins of Jesse. In the branches are numerous figures enclosed in rich tabernacles. Vestiges of the same kind of altar-piece may be traced in Lentwardine Church, Herefordshire. At New College Chapel, Oxford, is one with niches and tracery. In the walls of churches, over small altars, in different parts of the edifice, sculptured figures, within niches, or under canopies, were often introduced. In the transept of Bampton Church, Oxfordshire, are the figures of our Saviour and the Apos¬tles, each about eighteen inches high, in niches which have been gilt and painted.


. High relief; a mode of sculpture repre¬senting figures either entirely, or nearly, detached from the back ground.


From Fr. alter, to go. An alley, or passage.


Lat. from ambio.

An enclosure ; particularly applied to the space around a building, as a church-yard, or a castle-yard; but both the Greek and Latin terms are restricted to places of sacred import. Among the Romans, the ambitus was the space around a tomb, which was also called loculus, or locus. Some ancient inscriptions on tombs are maledictions on persons who violate, or defile, this sacred space. In subterranean tombs, the term meant a niche to receive an urn. In Christian churches the ambitus was esteemed holy, and afforded sanctuary for criminals.


LowLat.; ambon, Fr. A rostrum, from amfiaim, to ascend

Any raised platform. In the earliest Christian churches the ambo was an oblong enclosure, ascended by a double flight of steps, in the centre of the be ma, or east end of the church, whence the readers and singers ministered in the first service, called missa catechumenorum. The canonical singers, it appears by the fifteenth canon of the council of Laodicea, A. D. 361.

The latest erected ambo is supposed to be that in the church of St. Pancras, at Rome, on which is the date 1249. The churches of St. Clement, and St. Lawrence, without the walls of Rome, still contain ambones [Du Cange], and a fine specimen also remains in the cathedral of Salerno, where there are two pulpits of marble before the steps of the chancel. The largest is covered with beautiful mosaic, and supported by twelve Corinthian columns.

When the choral service became extended, and a more numerous body of persons was requisite for the celebration of the masses, the confined ambo gave way to the modern choir. The time of its disuse is considered by Ciampini to have been between 1309 and 1377, when the Popes resided at Avignon.

In an extended sense, the ambo was synonymous with the chorus canonicorum, which is thus described and explained by Durandus, A.D. 1286.



Ambulatio, ambulacrum, Lat.; ambulatorium, low Lat., from ambulo, to walk; ambulatoire, Fr.

A cloister, gallery, or alley, for walking in. Among the Romans, the ambulatory was uncovered, and bounded by trees, or hedges, which distinguished it from the xystus.


Amphiprostyle, Fr. ; amphiprostilo, It.C olumns on both sides.

A building having at each end a portico ; that in front termed the porticus, and that in the rear the posticus. The amphiprostyle was, according to Vitruvius, the third order of Roman temples.


amphitheatrum, Lat.; amphitheatre, Fr.

An amphitheatre is is an open-air venue used for entertainment, performances, and sports. The term derives from the ancient Greek ἀμφιθέατρον.




The veil or curtain, opening like folding-doors, which divided the chancel from the rest of a church.



The steps to any elevated situation, as the anabathra of theatres, pulpits. The term sometimes denoted a range of seats rising above each other; but it was more frequently applied to the stone blocks, placed in streets and highways, for travellers to mount, and dismount from, their horses


Apartments appropriated for the lodgings of persons who fled for sanctuary to privileged religious houses. By the laws of Theodosius, they were constituted as sacred as the altar itself.


According to DU Cange, it was a kind of tomb, over the bodies of saints: analogia is applied to pulpits wherein the Gospels and Epistles were read.


An ornament in form of the flook of an anchor, or arrow-head, is frequently cut in the ovolo of Tuscan and Ionic capitals, as well as in the bed-moulding of Ionic and Corinthian cornices. It is usually accompanied by representations of an egg; and thence popularly called "the egg and anchor."


An elbow, or angle, whence the French coin, a corner; also the English quoins, or corner-stones.


A console, or ornament cut on the key-stone of an arch, or on the side of a door-case


An apartment, cloister, or gallery, assigned to the male part of a monastic establishment. In a Greek house the andronitis was usually situated on the ground-floor, and contained the eating-rooms and other accommodations. In Christian architecture it applies to that part of a church wherein men were separated from the women. It sometimes signified a place where people met to converse on business, similar to modern exchanges; but the term was more particularly used among the Greeks and Romans to denote a passage between two houses, or the different apartments of a house.



Tthe ends of the walls of a building, as in the portico of a Greek temple. A portico is said to be in antis when columns stand between ants, as in the temple of Theseus, supposing the peristyle or surrounding columns removed.


Upright blocks with an ornamented face placed at regular intervals on a cornice. Antefixae were originally adapted to close and hide the lower ends of the joints of the covering tiles on the roof of a temple as they appear in the examples.


(Gr. atopvyfi, a flying off), the lowest part of the shaft of an Ionic or Corinthian column, or the highest member of its base if the column be considered as a whole. The apophyge is the inverted cavetto or concave sweep, on the upper edge of which the cylindrical shaft rests.


a temple without columns on the flanks or sides. The Greek Ionic temple is apteral.


a mode of ornamenting the walls of rooms, much used in the later ages of the Roman empire, which the Italians inappropriately enough call Grotesque, from having seen its first specimens in the grottos or excavations which restored ancient buildings to light; and which have since with still less propriety been called Arabesque, since the Arabs, prevented by their religion from representing animated nature, never knew them at all.


( araeostyle) a wide intercolumniation of four or more diameters.



( araeosystyle) Alternately areostyle and systyle; i.e. having columns alternately spaced two diameters and four or more diameters.


a series of arches with their impostsn piers, columns, or the like taken together and considered as a single architectural feature MORE--->


(Lat. arcus, a bow), a construction of separate or distinct blocks or masses of any hard material, cut wedge-wise, and arranged in a bowed form, so as to bear from end to end horizontally, or across an opening, though abutting or being supported only at the ends. MORE--->



(Gr. ogvi), chief, and Lat. trabs, a beam),

the chief beam, that part of the entablature which rests immediately on the heads of the columns, and is surmounted by the frieze: it is also called the epistylium or epistyle.

The moulded enrichment on the sides and head of a door or window is called an architrave.


This term is a contraction of the Italian architrave voltato. It is applied to the architrave moulding on the face of an arch, and following its contour.


the sharp edge or angle in which two sides or surfaces meet.


a convex moulding. This term is generally applied to small mouldings, and torus to large ones of the same form.


a low story above an entablature, or above a cornice which limits the height of the main part of an elevation. The etymology of this term is unsettled: Otherwise such a thing is unknown in Greek architecture; but it is very common in both Roman and Italian practice. What is here termed the tholobate in St Peter's and St Paul's cathedrals are generally termed attics.


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