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Classical Architecture


Architecture Dictionary: D

DADO. The die or part in the middle of the pedestal of a column between the base and cornice. It is of a cubic form, whence the name of die. The term is also applied to that part of an apartment between the plinth and impost moulding. In modern architectural terminology, the dado is the lower part of a wall, below the dado rail and above the skirting board.


DAIS, DEIS, dasium, low Lat
an elevated part of a floor; a platform in a hall, or banqueting room, raised above the level of the other flooring. On this was placed the principal table, having frequently a canopied seat, which was intended for the proprietor of the house. The genuine signification and etymology of this term have been much discussed: the word dais originally signified the wooden floor (d'ais, Fr., de assibus, Lat.) which was laid at the upper end of the hall, as we still see it in college-halls, Sec. That part of the room, therefore, which was floored with planks was called the dais, the rest being either the bare ground, or at best paved with stone; and, being raised above the level of the other parts, it was often called the high dais. In royal halls there were more dais than one, each of them being pro¬bably raised above the other by one or more steps; and that where the king sate was called the highest dais. At a dinner which Charles V. of France gave to the Emperor Charles IV., in 1377, Christine de Pisan says, " cinq dois [dais] avoit en la salle plains de princes et de barons, et autres tables partout dretouere fais de barrieres a l'environ." As the principal table was always placed upon a dais, it began very soon, by a natural abuse of words, to be called itself a Dais, and people were said to sit at the dais, instead of at the table upon the dais.


Dead Shore. A piece of timber worked up in brickwork to support a superincumbent mass until the brickwork which is to carry it has set or become hard.


DEAMBULATORY. Deambulatorium, Deambulacrum, low Lat., an ambulatory, or cloister, for exercise; also the ailes of a church, or the porticoes around the body of a church. " Pur-gavit templum, composuit sedilibus, et ornavit de super columnalia cum basibus, chorum purgavit et cryptam, et Deambulatoria aptavit, inibi locatis decenter altariis." . Guibert, Abbot of Gemblowis

romanesque deambulatory
Deambulatory, cloister of Fontevraud Abbey.

DECAGON: A geometrical figure having ten sides and ten angles. If the sides and angles are all equal, the figure is a regular decagon, and capable of being inscribed in a circle.

decastyle building
Decastyle portico with 10 columns

DECASTYLE: in ancient Architecture, a building with ten columns in front.


DELIQUIA. (Lat.) A term used by Vitruvius to designate the rafters which formed the ridge of the roof and threw the water on each side.


DELUBRUM, low Lat., a font, a baptismal basin. Among the ancient Romans, delubra were temples having basins or fountains, in which persons who came to sacrifice, or perform other acts of worship, previously washed or bathed themselves ; hence, churches furnished with fonts, in which the regenerated were purified by baptism, were likewise styled delubra. The term delubrum, according to Isidorus , is derived from the Lat. deluo, deluendo, to wash clean. " Apud Delubrum, ac sacrum fontem." Sebast. Peru sinus, in Vita B. Columbce Reatina.


DENTELE, an ornament resembling teeth, used in the Ionic and Composite cornices.


DENTIL, DENTICULUS, low Lat., from dens, a tooth: a small square projecting piece of wood, brick, or stone, forming a component part of an Ionic or Corinthian cornice.


DESCENSUS: a crypt, or chapel beneath the high altar of a church, in which were preserved the bodies, or relics, of martyrs and confessors.


DESTINA, Lat., a column, or pillar for the support of an edifice. The term is thus used by Vitruvius: "Destina, Furcae, Domus fulcra." [Papias, in MS. Bituric."] " Undefactum est ut acclinis destina, quae extrinsecus ecclesiae pro munimine erat apposita, spiritum vita exhalaret ultimum." [Beda Hist. Eccies. lib. iii. cap. 17.] Ecclesiastical writers employ the word to designate the aile of a church, and also for a cell, or obscure apartment.


DESTRABIA, low Lat., an ambulatory, the portico of a church.


DIACONICUM, DIACONIUM, low Lat.: a sacristy or vestry under the superintendence of a deacon. A place contiguous to the ancient churches, wherein were preserved the sacred vestments, vessels, relics, and ornaments of the altar. In modern language, the sacristy.


DIAGONAL-MOULDING: synonymous with the zigzag, or cheveron. (See CHEVERON and FRET.)


DIAGONAL-RIB: a projecting band of stone or timber passing diagonally from one angle of a vaulted ceiling across the centre to the opposite angle.


DIAPER: diasperatus, low Lat.; diaspro, Ital.: a panel or flat recessed surface covered with carving or other wrought work in low relief. Diaper signifies also a kind of linen cloth, wrought with figures in weaving.


DIASTYLE: according to Vitruvius, the third species of intercolumniation, having three diameters between the columns. That distance between columns which consists of three diameters, or, according to some, of four diameters. The term is sometimes used adjectively, to signify that the building is arranged with those intervals between the columns.


DIATONI. (Gr. Ata and Toros, an extension.) In ancient architecture the angle stones of a wall, wrought on two faces, and which, from stretching beyond the stones above and below them, made a good bond or tie to the work.


DIAZOMA. (Gr. diaa, through, and Zomaa, a cincture.) In ancient architecture, the landings or resting places which, at different heights, encircled the amphitheater like so many bands or cinctures, whence the name.

DICASTERIUM. (From Greek) In ancient architecture, the name of a tribunal or hall of justice.

DICTYOTHETON. (From Greek) In ancient architecture, masonry worked in courses, like the meshes of a net. Also open lattice work, for admitting light and air

DIE: truncus, Lat.; dado, Ital.; wurfel, Ger. a cubical block of stone, or wood, the sides of which form the vertical faces of an insulated pedestal between its base and surbase: probably so called from its resemblance to the die, or dice used in games of chance. The Italian word dado is, however, more frequently used than die. The square or naked piece in a pedestal, that part which is between the base and the cornice.


DIGLYPH. A projecting face, with two panels or channels sunk thereon.


DILAPIDATION. The state of decay and ruin into which a building has been permitted to fall.


DIMINISHED ARCHES. Those lower or less than a semicircle, called by the French voutes surbaissées.


Diminished Bar or a Sash. One thinner on the edge towards the room than on that towards the glass of the window


DIMININUTION of a COLUMN. The continued contraction of the diameter of the column as it rises. Most of the modern authors make the diminution to commence from one third of the height of the column; but in all the ancient examples the diminution commences from the bottom of the shaft. In Gothic architecture neither swell nor diminution is used, all the horizontal sections being similar and equal.


DIPTERAL: having a double range of columns on each of its flanks; according to the arrangement of Vitruvius, is the sixth order of temples.


DISCHARGE. (Fr. Décharger.) The relief given to a beam, or any other piece of timber, too much loaded by an incumbent weight of building. When the relief is given, the weight is said to be discharged.


DISCHARGING ARCHES. Those built over wooden lintels, whereby the bearing upon them is taken off. The chords of discharging arches are not much longer than the lintel, being the segments of very large circles. A temporary arch is frequently introduced, and removed on completing the building. Sometimes the arches are built without any lintel under them.


DISPLUVLATUM. (Lat.) In ancient architecture, a place from which the rain is conveyed away in two channels. According to Vitruvius, a cavadium displuvatum was an open court exposed to the rain.


DISPOSITION. (Lat.) One of the essentials of architecture. It is the arrangement of the whole design by means of ichnography (plan), orthography (section and elevation), and scenography (perspective view). It differs from distribution, which signifies the par¬ticular arrangements of the internal parts of a building.


DITRIGLYPH. An arrangement of inter-columniations in the Doric order, by which two triglyphs are obtained in the frieze between the triglyphs that stand over the columns.


DOG-TOOTH, a term used to designate an ornamental member much used in the hollow mouldings of doorways, windows, arches, of the Christian buildings at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Why called dog's tooth, it is not easy to explain, as the ornament does not resemble that canine member: it rather appears like four leaves of the chestnut-tree united, and brought to a point at one end, and expanded at the other, radiating from a central point.


Duomo santa maria del fiore florence
Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence


DOME: a cupola, the hemispherical covering of a building. The Italians call the principal church in a place ii duomo, the temple; hence many French and English architects apply the name to that member which is of such frequent occurrence in the domes of Italy; namely, the cupola. This.application, however, is improper; and the word evpola, signifying a large cap (as cupoletta does a small one), is the most correct word, and carries with it the full meaning of the object designated; which the word dome does not.

A surbased or diminished dome is one that is segmental on its vertical section, a surmounted dome is one that is higher than the radius of its base. There is great variety in the forms of domes, both in plan and section. In the former, they are circular and polygonal; in the latter, we find them semicircular, semi-elliptical, segmental, pointed, sometimes in curves of contrary flexure, bell-shaped, etc. The oldest dome on record is that of the Pantheon at Rome, which was erected under Augustus, and is still perfect. Below is a list of the principal domes in Europe, with their dimensions; the heights in the third column are from the ground



Feet Diameter.

Feet High.

Pantheon at Rome




Duomo, or Sta. Maria del Fiore, at Florence -



St. Peter’s at Rome.




Sta. Sophia at Constantinople




Baths of Caracalla




St. Paul’s, London




Mosque of Achmet -




Chapel of the Medici




Baptistery at Florence-




Church of the Invalids at Paris




Minerva Medica at Rome




Madonna della Salute, Venice




St G6n6vitve at Paris (Pantheon) -




Duomo at Siena-




Duomo at Milan




San Marco, Venice ...






DOMICILE, domicilium, Lat.; a dwelling-house.


DOMINICUM is a word used by early ecclesiastical historians to signify a church. " In Antiochia dominicum, quod vocatur, aureum sedificari cceptum."

DOWELS, pins of wood or iron, used at the edges of boards in laying floors, to obviate the appearance of nails on the surface. Floors thus constructed are called dowelled floors.


DIAZOMA. (Gr. diaa, through, and Zomaa, a cincture.) In ancient architecture, the landings or resting places which, at different heights, encircled the amphitheater like so many bands or cinctures, whence the name.


DOMUS CAPITULARIS, low Lat.; a chapter-house.


DOMUS PENSILE, Lat.; a pensile house; a house placed on, and partially projecting over, an ordinary level; particularly applied to a house projecting from a bridge.


DOMUS SCHOLARUM, low Lat.; a school house attached to an ecclesiastical edifice.


DOMUS TURRALE, Lat.; a house with a tower or towers. The term appears to have been in use in the thirteenth century.


DONJON: the principal tower of a castle, which is generally situated on a natural or artificial mount, and usually in the innermost court, or ballium: it was called also the donjon-tower, or keep. Its lowest part, or sub¬structure, was commonly used as a prison, cell, or dungeon, for the confinement of captives.



The gate or entrance of a house or other building, or of an apartment in a house. It must be proportioned to the situation and use for which it is intended. Thus, for an ordinary dwelling-house, a door should not be less than seven to eight feet high, and three to four feet broad , but to churches and public buildings the entrance* doors should be much wider, to allow of a multitude to pass out. So in stately mansions, the doors must be from six to twelve feet in width, and of proportionate height.

Doors are of various materials, forms, sizes, and patterns: those of Solomon's temple are recorded in Scripture as being made of olive-wood; the inhabitants of Babylon and of ancient Egypt probably used bronze and other metals. (See DOORWAY, and GATE.) The Greeks and Romans made their doors of various materials, and usually formed them of two leaves, or halves turning upon hinges, and opening in the middle; they were often covered with elaborate ornaments of ivory, and of precious metals. Those of the middle ages (of which a few specimens are given in the annexed Plates of Doorways) were often skilfully made, and adorned with ornamented handles, knockers, locks, and tracery; but as they were of more fragile materials than the buildings to which they belonged, the existing examples of ancient doors are not numerous.


DOORWAY, an opening in a wall used as the entrance to an apartment, or to an edifice. SEE DOORWAYS

Door Frame or Case. The wooden frame enclosing a door


Dormant TRee or Summer. The lintel of a door, window beam, Sec. A beam tenoned into a girder to support the ends of joists on both sides of it Summer, in some parts, is the common term for a girder.


DORMER. A window placed on the inclined plane of the roof of a house, tbe frame being placed vertically on the rafters. pro¬bably so called from lighting dormitories. It is sometimes called a porch-window; and Cotgrave, under the name of Fenestre Flamande (Flemish window), describes a singular variety of it. " A five-cornered window of timber work, bearing out, in the upper parts, from the roof of a house, etc., and settled in the bottome upon the height of the house-wall." Dormer-windows are frequently met with in the steep roofs of houses in France and Flanders, where they are often peculiarly rich in detail, and curious in construction.


DORIC order, one of the five orders of Architecture.

DOSEL, DOSER, from dos, Fr., the back; a hanging of rich stuff, or a screen of ornamental wood-work, at the back of a throne, or chair of state.

Dove-house, or Dove-cot. A building for keeping tame pigeons, the only difference between which and a common poultry house is, that the entrance for the birds must be placed at a considerable height from the ground, because of the flight of pigeons being so much higher than other birds.

Dove-tail (from its spreading like a pigeon's tail). A joint used by carpenters and joiners in connecting two pieces of wood, by letting one into the other, in the form of the expanded tail of a dove. It is the strongest method of joining masses, because tbe tenon or piece of wood widens as it extends, so that it cannot be drawn out, because the tongue is larger than the cavity through which it would have to be drawn. The French call this method queue d'hironde, or swallow's tail.


Double Curvature. The curvature of a curve, whereof no part can be brought into a plane, such as the cylmdro-cylindric curve,


Double Floor. One constructed of binding and bridging joists.


Double Vaults. Two vaults of brick or stone carried up separately with a cavity between them.


Doucine. The French term for the cyma recta.


Dowels. Pins of wood or iron used at the edges of boards in laying floors, to avoid the appearance of the nails on the surface. Floors thus laid are called dowdled floors.


Dragon Beam or Piece. In carpentry, a short beam or piece of timber, lying diagonally with the wall-plates at the angles of a roof for receiving the heel or foot of the hip rafter. It is fixed at right angles with another piece, called the angle tie, which is supported by each returning wall-plate, on which it is cocked down.


Drain. A subterraneous or other channel for waste water


Draught. In masonry, a part of the surface of the stone, hewn to the breadth of the chisel on the margin of the stone according to the curved or straight line to which the surface is to be brought When the draughts are framed round the different sides of the stone, the intermediate part is wrought to the surface by applying a straight edge or templet. In very large stones, when the substance needs much reduction, it is usual to make several intermediate parallel draughts, and thus the intermediate parts may be hewn down nearly by the eye, without much application of the straight edge or templet.

DRAWBRIDGE, a movable floor usually of timber, so constructed as to be raised or lowered at pleasure. Its principal uses were to serve the purpose of a roadway over water or a dry foes. Modern drawbridges to locks and docks are usually made to open and shut horizontally.

DRAUTE-CHAMBER, a retiring or withdrawing room.

DRESSED. A term in masonry which expresses the operation a stone has undergone before building it in the wall, whether by the hammer only or by the mallet and chisel, and then rubbing the face smooth. In Scotland the term is used to signify hammer dressing only.

DRIP, DRIPSTONE, DRIPPING EAVES, the projecting moulding or cornice, forming a canopy to a doorway, and to a window. It is usually hollowed in the under part, for the rain or condensed moisture to drop from. Horizontal mouldings on walls and the corona of a cornice are occasionally called dripstones. (See EAVES.)

DRIVING EAVES. (Dan. Dripper, to drop.) The lower edges of a roof wherefrom the rain drips or drops to the ground. By the Building Act dripping eaves are prohibited within the bills of mortality, towards any street or public way.


DROPS. (Sax. Dpoppan.) The frusta of cones in the Doric order, used under the triglyphs in the architrave below the taenia. They are also employed in the under part of the mutuli or modillions of the order. In the Greek examples they are sometimes curved a little inwards on the profile.


Droved and striped. Work that is first droved and then striped. The stripes are shallow grooves done with a half or three-quarter inch chisel, about an eighth of an inch deep, having the droved interstices prominent. This and the two preceding sorts of work are not much used in the southern part of England.

Drum. (Dan. Tromme.) The upright part under or above a cupola. The same term is sometimes applied to the solid part or vase of the Corinthian and Composite capitals.

DRY ROT. A disease of timber which destroys the cohesion of its parts; it is usually ascribed to the attacks of fungi, such as the Polyporus destructor and Meruliua lacrymant, whose spawn appears upon the surface overspreading it like a tough thick skin of white leather ; and there is no doubt of its being often connected with tbe appearance of such fungi Dry rot is, however, in some cases to be identified with the presence of fungi of a more simple kind than those just mentioned, such as those of the genus Sporotrickum


Dubbing out. A term used by plasterers to signify the bringing of an uneven surface to a plane by pieces of tile, slate, plaster, or the like.

DUN, DUNE, from dun, Brit., a hill; a circular building with a hemispherical, or conical roof, formed of rough stones without cement. There were formerly several examples of these houses enclosed within the areas of hill-forts in the northern parts of Scotland and the Orkney Islands. They are supposed to have been raised by the original inhabitants of those countries. Their walls were in some instances found to be double, with galleries, or horizontal passages running through them, connected by perpendicular openings from the top to the bottom. Some of the walls were vitrified; a circumstance which has been vari¬ously accounted for by different writers. Some maintain, that the vitrifaction was effected intentionally, when the walls were erected, as a mode of strengthening the building; whilst other writers have ascribed the vitrified masses to the operation of acci¬dental fires, or volcanic eruptions.


DUNGEON,dunjo,domnio, lowLat.; dongeon,Fr. SEE DONJON


Dwarf Wainscoting. Such as does not reach the whole height of a room, being usually four, five, or six feet high.

Dwarf Walls. Low walls of less height than the story of a building ; sometimes the joists of a ground floor rest upon dwarf walls. The enclosures of courts are frequently formed by them with a railing of iron on the top; and indeed any low wall used as a fence is a dwarf wall.


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