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Illustrations of types of pediments

A pediment is an architectural element found particularly in Classical, Neoclassical and Baroque architecture, and its derivatives, consisting of a gable, usually of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the lintel, or entablature, if supported by columns. The tympanum, the triangular area within the pediment, is often decorated with relief sculpture. Another type of pedimental sculpture sits on top of the pediment. A pediment is sometimes the top element of a portico. For symmetric designs, it provides a centre point and is often used to add grandness to entrances.[1]

Alternatively, the tympanum may hold an inscription, or in modern times, a clock face.


neo-classical pediment of the Madeleine Church, Paris, with sculpture (1826-1834) by Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire[2]>

The pediment is found in classical Greek temples, Etruscan, Roman, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts architecture. A prominent example is the Parthenon, where it contains a tympanum decorated with figures in relief sculpture. This architectural element was developed in the architecture of ancient Greece and first appeared as gable ends of Greek temples. In ancient Rome, the Renaissance, and later architectural revivals, the pediment was used as a non-structural element over windows, doors and aediculae. Some used to protect windows and openings from weather.[3] As classical architecture moved to Britain during the Renaissance, pediments wouldn't fit with the steeply pitched roofs and became detached from the structure to only create an impression.[4] The form of the pediment is dictated by the primary function of the roof which in several areas is the dismissal of rainwater.[3]

A variant is the "segmental" or "arch" pediment, where the normal angular slopes of the cornice are replaced by one in the form of a segment of a circle, in the manner of a depressed arch. Both traditional and segmental pediments have "broken" and "open" forms. In the broken pediment the raking cornice is left open at the apex. The open pediment is open along the base – often " sculpture, "tondo" paintings, mirrors or windows. These forms were adopted in Mannerist architecture, and applied to furniture designed by Thomas Chippendale. The terms "open pediment" and "broken pediment" are often used interchangeably.[5] Another variant is the swan's neck pediment and is a refinement of a broken pediment with two "S"-shaped profiles resembling a swan's neck. Non-triangular variations of pediments are usually found over doors, windows, and porches.[6]

Short visual history of pediments

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Partridge, Chris (March 6, 2005). "Cash: Property: KNOW YOUR PEDIMENTS: A weekly guide to the language of architecture". Gale OneFile: News. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  2. ^ Luebke, Wilhelm (1 January 1878). History of Sculpture from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time: Tr. by F.E. Bunnètt, Volume 2. Smith. p. 468. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b Waterhouse, Paul (Oct 29, 1886). "PEDIMENTS AND GABLES.-I". ProQuest 6850264. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Partridge, Chris (March 6, 2005). "Cash: Property: KNOW YOUR PEDIMENTS: A weekly guide to the language of architecture". Gale OneFile: News. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  5. ^ Harris, Cyril M., ed. Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, Dover Publications, New York, c. 1977, 1983 edition p. 386
  6. ^ Scott, Gregory J. (April 14, 2016). "'P' Is For 'Pediment'". ProQuest 1781212675. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


  • Dictionary of Ornament by Philippa Lewis & Gillian Darley (1986) NY: Pantheon

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