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For other uses, see Cupola (disambiguation).

In architecture, a cupola /ˈkjuːpələ/ is a small, most often dome-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 or dome.

The word derives, via Italian, 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, belfry, or belvedere above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a tower, spire, or turret. The chhatri, 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, an ancient device found in Roman architecture, but being weatherproof was superior for the wetter climates of northern Europe.

The square dome-like segment of a North American railroad train caboose is also called a cupola. The cupola is used on barns as a vent for heat and moisture.

See also

  • Chhatri
  • Dome
  • Daylighting
  • Oculus
  • Roof lantern


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