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The dome of Florence Cathedral, which includes a cupola at the top Santa Maria del Fiore, Duomo.JPG
The dome of Florence Cathedral, which includes a cupola at the top

In architecture, a cupola ( /ˈk(j)pələ/ ) [1] is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. [2] Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome. [3] [4]


The word derives, via Italian, from lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella), from Ancient Greek κύπελλον (kúpellon) 'small cup' (Latin cupa), indicating a vault resembling an upside-down cup. [lower-alpha 1]


The cupola evolved during the Renaissance from the older oculus. Being weatherproof, the cupola was better suited to the wetter climates of northern Europe. [ citation needed ] The chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.[ citation needed ]

Cupolas often serve as a belfry, belvedere, or roof lantern above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a spire, tower, or turret. [4] Barns often have cupolas for ventilation. [5] [6]

Cupolas can also appear as small buildings in their own right.

The square, dome-like segment of a North American railroad train caboose that contains the second-level or "angel" seats is also called a cupola. [7] [8]

On armoured vehicles

The turret of a Japanese Type 91 Ha-Go light tank with its distinctive, bubble-shaped commander's cupola Type 91 Ha-Go (Bovington 2016).jpg
The turret of a Japanese Type 91 Ha-Go light tank with its distinctive, bubble-shaped commander's cupola

The term cupola can also refer to the protrusions atop an armoured fighting vehicle due to their distinctive dome-like appearance. They allow crew or personnel to observe, offering very good all round vision, [9] or even field weaponry, without being exposed to incoming fire. Later designs, however, became progressively flatter and less prominent as technology evolved to allow designers to reduce the profile of their vehicles.

See also


  1. In Italian, cupola simply means "dome", and the ornamental top element, allowing light to enter, is called a lantern (Italian: lanterna).

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dome</span> Architectural element similar to the hollow upper half of a sphere; there are many types

A dome is an architectural element similar to the hollow upper half of a sphere. There is significant overlap with the term cupola, which may also refer to a dome or a structure on top of a dome. The precise definition of a dome has been a matter of controversy and there are a wide variety of forms and specialized terms to describe them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spire</span> Structure on top of a roof, skyscraper or tower

A spire is a tall, slender, pointed structure on top of a roof of a building or tower, especially at the summit of church steeples. A spire may have a square, circular, or polygonal plan, with a roughly conical or pyramidal shape. Spires are typically made of stonework or brickwork, or else of timber structures with metal cladding, ceramic tiling, roof shingles, or slates on the exterior.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Florence Cathedral</span> Church in Tuscany, Italy

Florence Cathedral, formally the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, is the cathedral of Florence, Italy. It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, bordered by white, and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minaret</span> Architectural feature of mosques

A minaret is a type of tower typically built into or adjacent to mosques. Minarets are generally used to project the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) from a muezzin, but they also served as landmarks and symbols of Islam's presence. They can have a variety of forms, from thick, squat towers to soaring, pencil-thin spires.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caboose</span> Crew car on the end of trains

A caboose is a crewed North American railroad car coupled at the end of a freight train. Cabooses provide shelter for crew at the end of a train, who were formerly required in switching and shunting, keeping a lookout for load shifting, damage to equipment and cargo, and overheating axles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turret (architecture)</span> Small tower that projects vertically from a buildings wall; often a fortification

In architecture, a turret is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle. Turrets were used to provide a projecting defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification. As their military use faded, turrets were used for decorative purposes, as in the Scottish baronial style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oculus (architecture)</span> Circular opening in the center of a dome or in a wall

An oculus is a circular opening in the center of a dome or in a wall. Originating in antiquity, it is a feature of Byzantine and Neoclassical architecture. It is also known as an œil-de-boeuf from the French, or simply a "bull's-eye".

<i>Cupola</i> (ISS module) Observation module of the International Space Station

The Cupola is an ESA-built observatory module of the International Space Station (ISS). Its name derives from the Italian word cupola, which means "dome". Its seven windows are used to conduct experiments, dockings and observations of Earth. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour's mission STS-130 on 8 February 2010, and attached to the Tranquility module. With the Cupola attached, ISS assembly reached 85 percent completion. The Cupola's central window has a diameter of 80 cm (31 in).

A cupola is a relatively small, most often dome-like, tall structure on top of a building.

This page is a glossary of architecture.

This article contains a list of terms, jargon, and slang used to varying degrees by railfans and railroad employees in the United States and Canada. Although not exhaustive, many of the entries in this list appear from time to time in specialist, rail-related publications. Inclusion of a term in this list does not necessarily imply its universal adoption by all railfans and railroad employees, and there may be significant regional variation in usage.

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The Architecture of Bengal, which comprises the modern country of Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley, has a long and rich history, blending indigenous elements from the Indian subcontinent, with influences from different parts of the world. Bengali architecture includes ancient urban architecture, religious architecture, rural vernacular architecture, colonial townhouses and country houses and modern urban styles. The bungalow style is a notable architectural export of Bengal. The corner towers of Bengali religious buildings were replicated in medieval Southeast Asia. Bengali curved roofs, suitable for the very heavy rains, were adopted into a distinct local style of Indo-Islamic architecture, and used decoratively elsewhere in north India in Mughal architecture.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Functionally classified barn</span>

A functionally classified barn is a barn whose style is best classified by its function. Barns that do not fall into one of the broader categories of barn styles, such as English barns or crib barns, can best be classified by some combination of two factors, region and usage. Examples of barns classified by function occur worldwide and include apple barn, rice barn, potato barn, hop barn, tobacco barn, cattle barn, and the tractor barn. In addition, some barns incorporate their region into their style classification. Examples include the Wisconsin dairy barn, Pennsylvania bank barn, or the Midwest feeder barn.

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A roof lantern is a daylighting architectural element. Architectural lanterns are part of a larger roof and provide natural light into the space or room below. In contemporary use it is an architectural skylight structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lantern tower</span>

In architecture, the lantern tower is a tall construction above the junction of the four arms of a cruciform (cross-shaped) church, with openings through which light from outside can shine down to the crossing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of medieval Arabic and Western European domes</span> Domes in religious architecture

The early domes of the Middle Ages, particularly in those areas recently under Byzantine control, were an extension of earlier Roman architecture. The domed church architecture of Italy from the sixth to the eighth centuries followed that of the Byzantine provinces and, although this influence diminishes under Charlemagne, it continued on in Venice, Southern Italy, and Sicily. Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel is a notable exception, being influenced by Byzantine models from Ravenna and Constantinople. The Dome of the Rock, an Umayyad Muslim religious shrine built in Jerusalem, was designed similarly to nearby Byzantine martyria and Christian churches. Domes were also built as part of Muslim palaces, throne halls, pavilions, and baths, and blended elements of both Byzantine and Persian architecture, using both pendentives and squinches. The origin of the crossed-arch dome type is debated, but the earliest known example is from the tenth century at the Great Mosque of Córdoba. In Egypt, a "keel" shaped dome profile was characteristic of Fatimid architecture. The use of squinches became widespread in the Islamic world by the tenth and eleventh centuries. Bulbous domes were used to cover large buildings in Syria after the eleventh century, following an architectural revival there, and the present shape of the Dome of the Rock's dome likely dates from this time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of early modern period domes</span>

Domes built in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries relied primarily on empirical techniques and oral traditions rather than the architectural treatises of the time, but the study of dome structures changed radically due to developments in mathematics and the study of statics. Analytical approaches were developed and the ideal shape for a dome was debated, but these approaches were often considered too theoretical to be used in construction.

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The Karapur Miah Bari Mosque is a three domed ancient mosque and archaeological site located in the Barisal District of Bangladesh. It is located in Miah Bari, in the village of North Karapur in Raipasha-Karapur Union, Barisal Sadar Upazila.


  1. "cupola". Dictionary .
  2. "Glossary of Architectural Terms - C". Archiseek: Online Architecture Resources. Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
  3. "cupola". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved 2015-04-26.
  4. 1 2 "Just what is a cupola anyway?". Cupola Consulting. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
  5. "What is a cupola and why do barns have them?". 17 March 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  6. Active Interest Media, Inc. (November 1980). "Old-House Journal". Old House Journal. Active Interest Media, Inc.: 177. ISSN   0094-0178.
  7. "Railroad Dictionary: A". CSX Transportation. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  8. Zabel, Darcy (2005). The (Underground) Railroad in African American Literature . Peter Lang. p.  5. ISBN   9780820468167.
  9. "#15 Turrets: They are the Combat Power of the Tank". 22 November 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2023.