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Arca - art glossary
Category: Travel and Transportation > Glossary of art terms
Date & country: 04/09/2008, IT
Words: 68

Small structure intended to house a sacred image or statue. It may also be a niche set into the external wall of a building.

Alto-rilievo (High relief)
Technique of sculpting in which the figures are considerably raised or detached from the background. In a bas-relief the figures are only slightly raised from the surface.

A small projecting apse forming part of the main apse. A typical element of Gothic and Cluniac architecture.

The lowest of the three main elements of an entablature. Also a moulded frame around a door or window.

Large square block of stone usually used as quoins on the outer corners of buildings decorated with rustication.

Decorative architectural element situated above the cornice of a building and concealing the roof from view.

Religious building of circular design where the baptismal font is housed. Usually built beside or in front of a church or cathedral.

* Alto rilievo.

Lowest part of a building on which the entire structure rests. Also the lowest element of an order supporting the shaft of a column.

A form of indented parapet around the top of castles and towers which may either be defensive or decorative. A Guelf battlement was rectangular while the solid upright blocks (merlons) of a Ghibelline battlement were further indented with a 'V' shape.

* Corbel.

Byzantine art
Figurative art which came into being around the 4th century A.D. in the eastern

* Bell tower.

Latin term for the main road running in a north-south direction through a town or city and crossing the decumanus which ran from west to east.

The main church of a bishopric. The bishop officiates at the religious ceremonies and practices his spiritual teachings here.

Semicircular area of a Roman theatre or amphitheatre occupied by rows of seats for the public.

Derived from the Latin coenaculum - a room where one ate. Subsequently the term used for the room where Christ and his disciples ate the Last Supper and consequently paintings representing this scene.

Chapter house
Large room in a cathedral or monastery where the chapter (governing body) met to discuss and decide on matters concerning the religious community.

Outer vestment worn by officiating priest at mass.

Chisel (Cesello)
The cesello is a small chisel with a rounded tip used for engraving images or decorations on metal and stone.

Choir stalls
Canopied and carved seats for the choir and officiating clergy in a church.

Internal courtyard of a monastery or convent with a portico of slender columns supporting a roof and resting on a low wall.

Coffered ceiling
Square or polygonal panels set into a ceiling and often decorated with ornamental motifs.

Composite order
An order of Roman architecture characterized by a capital - much used in triumphal arches - consisting of acanthus leaves and large volutes. It is a combination of elements of both the Ionic and the Corinthian orders.

Architectural element which projects from a wall and supports beams and cornices.

Corinthian order
Architectural order which originated in Corinth around the 5th century B.C. The Corinthian capital is decorated with acanthus leaves from which small volutes emerge.

Horizontal decorative element found where the wall meets the ceiling. Also the uppermost main division of an entablature.

Cross vault
* Vault.

Cross window
Divided into four sections by a mullion and a transom.


* Cardo.

Dome (Cupola)
Curved or spherical vault (may also be semi-circular with an oval section) mainly found in religious buildings. The cupola rests on a 'drum' with a polygonal or cylindrical external structure and is crowned by a lantern through which light is admitted to the interior.

Drop arch
* Arch.

* Dome.

Outer curve of an arch with a structural or purely decorative function (* arch).

Fòndaco Store
In the early Middle Ages the term signified a building used not only as a hotel but also as a trading centre for merchants during their period of residence in foreign countries.

The middle of the three main elements of an entablature. A horizontal band with cornice above and architrave below. In the Doric order it consists of metope - a square panel sculpted with figures - and triglyph - panels with three vertical grooves. In the other orders the band of the frieze is usually continuous and is entirely decorated with sculpted figures.

Derived from the term grotto which was used in the 16th century to describe the ruins of the Domus Aurea (Nero's palace in Rome). It describes painted or stucco decoration in a style frequent in ancient Rome which represented imaginary and fantastic motifs (plants interwoven with mythical or semi-human and animal figures).

* Alto rilievo.

Horseshoe arch
* Arch.

Inlaid work
Technique of inlaying pieces of stone or wood (marquetry) of different colours to create a design or picture.

The inner curve or underside of an arch. Also known as a soffit.


Outer edge of an arch which may be purely decorative or structural in function.

Semi-circular space decorated with frescoes or mosaics usually situated above doors or windows where the vault joins the walls. Also used to describe a semicircular section above a painting or bas-relief.

Decorative feature added to an architectural element which may be simple or enriched in design.

* Aedicule.

Oval or circular opening or window in a wall or dome.

A convex moulding in the shape of a quarter circle which forms a horizontal band: usually a decorative member in a Corinthian or Doric cornice.

Pointed arch
* Arch.

Painting or panel in more than three sections which are hinged together. Three paintings or panels are known as a tryptych. These paintings often formed altar panels.

Elevated platform or reading desk in a church (occasionally also located externally) from which a sermon is preached.

Urn or container for the relics of a saint or martyr.

Ribbed vault
A form of cross vaulting in which the weight of the segments is evenly distributed over raised stone ribs.

A style of the figurative arts - especially sculpture - and of architecture which flourished throughout western Europe from the end of the 10th century until the middle of the 12th century (in Italy until the early decades of the 13th century). Typical features of the Romanesque style are: simple pillars often alternating with composite pillars; cross or barrel vault ceilings; external pilaster st...

Round arch
* Arch.

Room attached to a church for the storage of sacred vessels and vestments. Usually also a robing room for the clergy.

Segmental arch
* Arch.

Stained glass
Coloured or stained glass used especially in church windows to form figures or decorations. The colour is derived from metalllic oxide added during manufacture. Small pieces of the coloured glass are set into a framework to compose the design or image.

Street bench
Stone seat built into the base of the external wall of some palaces and residences.

* Atlas.

Terracotta, glazed
Pottery or china decorated with a vitreous finish obtained by combining silica (found in clay) and lead oxide. The pottery thus becomes impermeable and lustrous.

Three-lobed opening or arch.

Area consisting of the presbytery and apse of a church. In a Roman basilica the tribune was the semi-circular area where the judges sat; in early Christian churches it indicated the seats behind the main altar where the bishop and clergy sat.

* Polyptych.

The ashes of the deceased are kept in a funerary urn after cremation. Also a container for relics of a saint.

Arched roof of a building or part of a building. Various forms exist: 1) barrel vault - an extreme development of the Roman arch (weight was carried equally by both walls); 2) cross vault where two barrel vaults cross and are divided into four segments with weight-bearing ribs each supported by a pilaster. Where the ribs meet at the apex is a keystone; 3) fan vaulting - rising from a polygonal str...

Via Crucis
The fourteen Stations of the Cross representing the most important events in the passion and death of Christ.