Last edited 06 May 2021


A cupola is a small structure located on top of a building’s roof or dome. It is common for cupolas to have a round or square bases, but they may also be polygonal.

Originally, cupolas had functional purposes, such as to admit light and air or to provide a lookout position. In these cases, the entire main roof of a tower or spire might be referred to as a cupola. Cupolas differ from bell towers, steeples or campaniles in that they are details on a structure rather than being a structural part of a building.

Cupolas with small windows to allow light into the area below are called ‘lanterns’ and are often found at the top of domed roofs.

A variation of a normal cupola is one that can be reached by climbing an internal stairway. This is often called a belvedere or widow’s walk.

Modern cupolas are mostly ornamental architectural features crowning the main roof, sometimes providing a position for a flag, religious symbol, weather vane, and so on.

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