In classical architecture, the tympanum is the triangular or segmental area enclosed by a pediment on the exterior of a building. The area of a triangular pediment is defined by the horizontal cornice along the bottom and the raking cornice that slopes along the sides. The area of a segmental pediment is defined by the segmental cornices along the sides. It is usual for the tympanum to be decorated with religious imagery or intricate bas-relief sculpture.
In European Gothic architecture, tympana were included over church portals and had a more vertical shape, meeting at a point at the top.
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