Cupola

Cupola

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Encyclopedia
In architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, a cupola is a small, most-often dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof
Roof
A roof is the covering on the uppermost part of a building. A roof protects the building and its contents from the effects of weather. Structures that require roofs range from a letter box to a cathedral or stadium, dwellings being the most numerous....

 or dome.

The word derives, via Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, from the lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella from the Greek κύπελλον kupellon) small cup (Latin cupa) indicating a vault resembling an upside down cup.

Cupolas often appear as small buildings in their own right. They often serve as a lantern
Roof lantern
A roof lantern is a daylighting cupola architectural element. Architectural lanterns are atop a larger roof and provide natural light into the space or room below. In contemporary use it is an architectural skylight structure...

, belfry
Bell tower
A bell tower is a tower which contains one or more bells, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none. In the European tradition, such a tower most commonly serves as part of a church and contains church bells. When attached to a city hall or other civic building, especially in...

, or belvedere
Belvedere (structure)
Belvedere is an architectural term adopted from Italian , which refers to any architectural structure sited to take advantage of such a view. A belvedere may be built in the upper part of a building so as to command a fine view...

 above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a tower
Tower
A tower is a tall structure, usually taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires....

, spire
Spire
A spire is a tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building, particularly a church tower. Etymologically, the word is derived from the Old English word spir, meaning a sprout, shoot, or stalk of grass....

, or turret
Turret
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...

. The chhatri
Chhatri
Chhatris are elevated, dome-shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture. Chhatris are commonly used to depict the elements of of pride and honor in the Rajput architecture of Rajasthan. They are widely used, in palaces, in forts, or to demarcate funerary sites...

, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.

The cupola is a development during the Renaissance of the oculus
Oculus
An Oculus, circular window, or rain-hole is a feature of Classical architecture since the 16th century. They are often denoted by their French name, oeil de boeuf, or "bull's-eye". Such circular or oval windows express the presence of a mezzanine on a building's façade without competing for...

, an ancient device found in Roman architecture, but being weatherproof was superior for the wetter climates of northern Europe.