Illustrated Glossary of Classical Architecture




In the Doric Order, the abacus is a square slab that sits on top of the column’s capital and supports the architrave or arch. The function of an abacus is to broaden the support provided by the column.



A series of columns or piers spanned by arches.


A rounded element that spans an opening is called an arch. A basic element of construction, arches apear in all types of achitecture. Arches can be decorative or structural. Early civilizations building arches include the Mesopotamians (as early as the 2nd millenium BCE) the Egyptians and the Greeks. Roman architecture adopted the arch from the Estuscans and used it extensively in building, bridges and their famous aqueducts.



The architrave is the lowest element of the entablature, and rests on top columns.



A small convex moulding

Attic Base

A common base used for columns in classical architecture, the Attic base is made up of an upper and lower torus, separated by a scotia with fillets.



In architecture a base is the lowest part or lowest main division of a structure. For columns, the base is the lowest portion of three parts, from top to bottom: the base, the shaft and the captical. Typically, Egyptian columns and Greek Doric columns have no base and are placed directly on the floor. Ionic columns may have an elaborate base built up of groups of mouldings and fillets.


A convex moulding, usually semi-circular. There are a variety of different types of beads. Examples include: angle bead, nosing bead, double bead and so forth.

Beak Moulding

Moulding shaped into a beak-like form.


A structural member that caries a load. Beams are usually placed horizontally and care a vertical load where the weight is transferred to walls, girders or columns.

bed mould


The moulding that appears under the projecting cornice. It is considered part of the cornice.



In reference to columns, the bell is a bell-shaped part of the capital between the neck moulding and the abacus. It is common to columns in the Corinthinian order where it is decorative with acanthus leaves.



In architecture, a cap is the top element in a division or structure.


The uppermost elements of a column. In classical architecture capitals are one of the most distinctive elements defining the different orders.


A vertical support element. In classical architecture, columns are visually distinctive elements that help define the order.

Composite Order - igoca

Composite Order

One of the five orders of classical architecture developed by the Romans. As the name implies, the Composite order combines elements from the Corinthian and Ionic orders.


A curved surface like the interior of a circle.

Conge - igoca


A concave moulding.


A round surface curved outward.

Corinthian Order - igoca

Corinthian Order

One of the five orders of classical architecture. Typically, Corinthian columns are slender and fluted. Their capitals are bell-shaped and ornately decorated with acanthus leaves.


The top element of the entablature including the following elements: the cyma, the corona and the bed-moulding.

Corinthian Order - igoca


A component of the cornice that has a vertical face and horizontal soffit.


A moulding with a double curvature is called a cyma or sometimes, a wave moulding. Used as the uppermost element in a cornice.

Cyma Recta

A cyma moulding having an upper concave curve and a lower convex curve

Cyma Reversa

A cyma moulding having an upper convex curve and a lower concave curve.

Cymatium - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A small cyma is called a cymatium. When a cyma is used as the crown moulding of an entablature, it is called a cymatium.

Dentils - igoca


Tooth-like blocks used in a close repeating pattern. Dentils are used in some Doric Order buildings in place of mutules. Dentils also appear on the bed moulding of Ionic, Corinthian and Composite orders.

Die - igoca


On a pedestal, the die is a rectangular block that separates cap from the base.

Die - igoca

Doric Order

One of the five orders of classical architecture, which also include: Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. The Doric order was developed in Greece and adopted by the Romans. Identifying features include columns that are stouter than the other orders, often 6 to 7 times as tall as the diameter at the base. In Greece Doric columns rested directly on the floor without the benefit of a pedestal or base moulding. Roman Doric columns tend to be slimmer and sit upon an Attic base. The Doric entablature is characterized by the triglyphs and metopes.
More on Doric columns and the Doric order

Eaves - Glossary of Classic Architecture


The edge of a roof. In most structures the eaves project beyond the surface of the wall protecting it from rain and snow.

Eaves - Glossary of Classic Architecture


Decorative moulding. Used on columns in classical architecture, the echinus sits below the abacus and above the necking

Entablature - igoca


In classical architecture, the uppermost elements supported by columns are referred to as the entablature. Components of the enblature include: the architrave, the frieze and the cornice.

Entasis - igoca


From the word “bowed,” entasis describes the subtle curve of a column.

Extrados - igoca


The convex curve formed by the outer edge of an arch. The inner edge is called the intrados.

Fascia - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A flat horizontal surface. In classical architecture, fascia are often used in multiple bands, each projecting beyond the one below.

Fillet - igoca


A narrow band with a vertical face. Fillets are often interposed between curved mouldings.

Fillet - igoca

Fillet, Sunk

A fillet that is depressed between two other architectural elements.

Frieze - igoca


Sitting below the cornice and above the architrave, the frieze is the central element of the entablature. The frieze may be left plain or decorated in relief.


The front face or projection created by a pitched roof.

Gothic Style

Gothic architecture developed in Europe during the medieval period, from about 500 CE to 1500 CE. Evolving from Romanesque architecture it fell from vogue with the renewed interest in classical architecture during the Renaissance, from about 1400 CE to 1500 CE.

Hip - Glossary of Classic Architecture


An inclined section of the roof connecting two sloping roof planes that meet at the ridge.

Ionic order - igoca

Ionic Order

One of five orders of classical architecture, the others being: Tuscan, Doric, Corinthian and Composite. The Ionic and Doric styles were widely used in ancient Greece and later adopted by the Romans. Ionic columns are characterized by volutes in the capital.

Intrados - igoca


The inside curved soffit of an arch. The opposite face is known as the extrados.


The sides of a door or window frame.

Lean-to - Glossary of Classic Architecture


The lean-to is one of the simplest roofs formed by a single sloping plane.


A horizontal beam spanning the opening, such as one made by a door or window.

Modillian - Glossary of Classic Architecture


Brackets that appear beneath the corona. Frequently used in the Corinthian and Composite order.

Modillion, Block Modillions

Rectangularly shaped modillions.


A variety of decortive strips. Mouldings come in a variety of shapes and forms.

Mutule - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A rectangular block that hangs from the soffit of the cornice in the Doric order. Mutules appear over the triglyphs.

Necking - Glossary of Classical Architecture


On a Doric column, the necking appears as a plain section beneath the capital and above the astragal.

Ovolo - igoca


A convex moulding, among woodworkers it is referred to as a “quarter round.”

Parapet - Glossary of Classic Architecture


Pedestal - igoca


In classical architecture columns may sit on a pedestal, usually having a square die, a base and cornice.


A square pillar or the part of a wall that sits between doors or windows.


The lowest part of the base of a column or pedestal. The plinth helps to distribute the weight born by the column more evenly.

Post - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A vertical element that may be used to support walls or horizontal beams.

Reed - igoca


Sometimes called reed moulding or reeding, a series of convex mouldings running parallel.

Ridge - Glossary of Classic Architecture


Two sloping roofs join to create a ridge.

Romanesque Style

Develed in Italy and western Europe, Romanesque architecture appeared after the Roman classical period and prior to the Gothic period.

Sea-shell - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A decorative element in the shape of a sea-shell.

Scotia - igoca


A concave moulding between two fillets. A scotia is one of the elements used in the Attic base of columns.


The portion of a column between the base and the capital.

Soffit - igoca


The underside of a roof formed by eaves or a cornice.

Spandrel - igoca


The triangular space formed by the extrados of an arch and other wall elements.

String Course

Horizontal moulding usually made from a series of complex profiles.

Taenia - Glossary of Classic Architecture


A fillet positioned directly above the architrave. Part of the entablature.

Three-quarter Hollow

Moulding shaped by a three-quarter concave profile.

Three-quarter Moulding

Moulding shaped by a three-quarter convex profile.

Thumb Molding

Thumb-shaped moulding.

Torus - igoca


A semi-circular, convex moulding. The torus is one of the distinctive elements in the Attic base used by columns in classical architecture.


A rectangular detail, representative of the beams used in post and beam construction. In the Doric order, regularly spaced triglyphs appear on the frieze. The spaces between the triglyphs are called metopes.

Tuscan Order - igoca

Tuscan Order

One of the five orders of classical architecture. The Tuscan order was developed in Rome and does not appear in ancient Greece. Added to the classical orders by Renaissance architectural scholars who felt that the Tuscan order predates the Greek Doric and Ionic. Tuscan colums are unfluted with a simple base and unadorned capital and entablature.

Valley - Glossary of Classic Architecture


The area formed between the ridges of two adjoined roofs.

Valley Horizontal Valley

The area formed by the parallel ridges of two roofs.


Vaults are formed by the continuarion of an arch.


A spriral form which is a distinctive element of the capital of Ionic columns.

Wave Moulding

Moulding formed by two round mouldings.

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