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What Is a Pediment?

A pediment is an ornamental triangle formed by a typically low-pitched gabled roof, used to adorn a building's main entrance. The triangular area may be plain, but is often filled with design detail and even sculpture. Pediments are traditionally considered exterior building features, but also have been used inside.

The triangular pediment is a common feature of Greek architecture.

A pediment is an ornamental triangle formed by a typically low-pitched gabled roof, used to adorn a building's main entrance. The triangular area may be plain, but is often filled with design detail and even sculpture. Pediments are traditionally considered exterior building features, but also have been used inside. Pediments are typically considered a feature of classical architecture.

Pediment or Portico?

The White House has a round portico.

A portico is another common architectural feature that is sometimes confused with a pediment. A portico is a covered entry-like a porch that juts out from the building and is supported by columns. The portico is considered to be pedimented if it contains a pediment on its gabled roof. Porticos may be square, rectangular and even circular. One of the most famous examples of a portico is the front entrance of the White House in Washington, D.C.

History

A pediment adorns a building's main entry.

Pediments, used by early Greek architects, are associated with an architectural style known as Greek Temple. Pediments originally were used on temples honoring the Greek gods to symbolize the power of the gods over the people. Pediments also were used by the Romans and later by monarchs and the Catholic Church. Associated with divine providence, the form became popular in the United States during the Greek Revival period when Thomas Jefferson favored that style.

Examples

Greek temples on the Acropolis feature some of the most famous pediments.

The Greek Parthenon and Pandroseion on the Acropolis are among the earliest and best-known examples of pediments. In the United States, the pediment and the associated columns and half-columns, known as pilasters, are often seen on government buildings, churches and courthouses. One of the most famous pediments is the Apotheosis of Democracy located on the east entrance of the White House, which features an array of symbolic sculptures carved inside the pediment.

Variations

Pediment may even be featured inside buildings.

One of the most common variations on the pediment is called a broken pediment, or an open pediment, in which the peak of the triangle is left open. A small pediment located over a window or a minor entrance door is often referred to as frontal. The use and design of pediments vary by architectural style.

Styles

A pediment lends formality to even a simple entrance.

Pediments are common in Greek Revival architecture and Georgian architecture, but examples of pediments can be found in many architectural styles throughout the world. Pediments may be grand or plain, but the triangular adornment often connotes a more formal aspect to a building.

About the Author

Jill Anje has written professionally since 1990, specializing in farming and gardening topics. She has written extensively for newspapers, businesses and nonprofit organizations and has been published in "Woman's Day" and regional California magazines. Anje graduated from a Midwest liberal arts college with a Bachelor of Arts in literature and writing.