The History of How Cupolas Came to Be

The History of How Cupolas Came to Be

Cupolas- the ornamental structures that perch atop houses, barns and stables- can be very small or extremely large. For example, a huge cupola sits on top of Rome's St. Peters Basilica. Cupolas resemble a cup turned upside down, or cupula in Latin. Cupolas are both decorative and practical. Due to their incline, snow is able to slide off easily and prevent roofs from caving in.

Cupolas date back 8th century Islamic architecture when they were sometimes used to call for daily prayer. Although they were typically placed over the centers or corners of mosques, eventually they were also placed on domestic dwellings, particularly in India and the Middle East. Many people believe these early cupolas were the inspiration for the dome.

Although it has not been documented, there is speculation that cupola architecture was brought to Spain by the Moors of North Africa. It quickly spread throughout the continent, as is clear by the rounded domes of churches throughout Europe.

Onion dome architecture resembles an onion--large in diameter with a higher height than width. The onion dome is common to Russian Orthodox churches and buildings in Bavaria, Germany. However, they are also located across Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Eastern Orthodox helmet domes, Ukrainian pear dome and Baroque bud domes are other examples of cupola architecture.

In the United States, one of the most famous examples of cupola architecture is the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. During the early days of American government, citizens began to place cupolas on outdoor structures and atop their residences as a way of displaying individual style. Once Americans discovered the practical benefits associated with cupolas, they became quite popular all over the country, especially in New England.

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