Capital Anatomy

Definition

In architecture, a capital is the topmost part of a column.

Greek Temple Anatomy

Parts

Capitals may be divided into three layers: necking, body, and abacus.

Capital Anatomy

The body of a capital typically flares out to meet the abacus. (The Ionic capital is an exception which, instead of a flared body, features a pair of connected spiral decorations called volutes.) The surface of the body may be plain or sculpted.

Necking is simply a moulding that clearly defines the end of the column shaft and the beginning of the capital. Necking is usually present in sculpted capitals, and occasionally found in unsculpted capitals.

The abacus, the topmost layer of the capital, generally features crown moulding. For the Doric and Tuscan capitals, however, the abacus is often just a plain square panel. The Ionic abacus is quite thin (see Classical Orders).

Common Western Capitals

unsculpted body Doric Capital
Doric Capital
Image credit: Hu Totya
Tuscan Capital
Tuscan Capital
Image credit: José-Manuel Benito
volutes Ionic Capital
Ionic Capital
Image credit: Derek Jensen
sculpted body Corinthian Capital
Corinthian Capital
Image credit: Derek Jensen
Composite Capital
Composite Capital
Image credit: Giovanni Dall'Orto
Romanesque Capital
Romanesque Capital
Image credit: Pépé Ciseaux
Gothic Capital
Gothic Capital
Image credit: Beckstet