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Squinches supporting a dome in Odzun Basilica, Armenia, early 8th century

In architecture, a squinch is a construction filling in (or rounding off) the upper angles of a square room so as to form a base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome. Another solution to this structural problem was provided by the pendentive, commonly used in Western architecture.


Squinches may be formed by masonry built out from the angle in corbelled courses, by filling the corner with a vise placed diagonally, or by building an arch or a number of corbelled arches diagonally across the corner.

History in the Middle East[edit]

Squinch in the Palace of Ardashir the Sassanian king

The dome chamber in the palace of Ardashir, the Sassanid king, in Firuzabad, Iran is the earliest surviving example of the use of the squinch, suggesting that the squinch may have been invented in Persia.[1] After the rise of Islam, it was used in the Middle East in both eastern Romanesque and Islamic architecture. It remained a feature of Islamic architecture, especially in Iran, and was often covered by corbelled stalactite-like structures known as muqarnas.

History in Western Europe[edit]

It spread to the Romanesque architecture of western Europe, one example being the Normans' 12th-century church of San Cataldo, Palermo in Sicily. This has three domes, each supported by four doubled squinches.


The word may possibly originate, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests, from the French word escoinson, meaning "from an angle", which became the English word "scuncheon" and then "scunch".[2][3]

In popular culture[edit]

The science fiction novel Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams uses squinches as an example of parts of a structure whose construction is implied and made necessary to facilitate the construction of other parts; areas of a created world or universe which are implied (and thus created) as a by-product of the creation of other areas.[4][failed verification] The expression is included in Peter Bottomley's lines: "He cuddled her under a squinch/ Advancing by more than an inch/ He managed by guile/ To make her more than just smile/ It was not a respectable clinch."[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana
  2. ^ "definition of Squinch". Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  3. ^ "The definition of squinch". Dictionary.com. 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  4. ^ Williams, Walter John. "Implied Spaces. Chapter 1". Baene Books. Retrieved 2015-10-24.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Squinches at Wikimedia Commons