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Floral capitals on the Ringkirche in Wiesbaden Figurative capital of the Church of St. Nikolaus in Pulheim-Brauweiler
Floral capitals on the Ringkirche in Wiesbaden
Figurative capital of the Church of St. Nikolaus in Pulheim-Brauweiler

The capital [ kapiˈtɛl ] (to be emphasized on the last syllable, from Latin capitellum "little head" to caput "head") or the pillar knob , formerly also called the capital , is the upper end of a column , an ante , a pillar or a pillar Pilasters .

The capital is clearly sculpted. It is an important ornamental element and is usually floral, with volutes , or figurative. In the course of history, various forms of capitals have developed, which the stylistic studies investigate. The transition from the round of the column to the square cover plate is the basic formal theme of the column capital.



Egyptian architecture produced the first known stone capitals. There are essentially five different forms:

  1. Open papyrus capital
  2. Closed papyrus capital
  3. Lotus capital
  4. Palm capital
  5. The Hathor capital crowns the drum-shaped Hathor column , is cube-shaped and shows the face of the goddess Hathor on two opposite or on all four sides under a block-shaped attachment ( sistrum ).


In Greek architecture , the capitals are divided into three main types, which are determined in the order of the columns : the Doric , Ionic and Corinthian capital.


Classical Roman architecture was mainly based on Greek models; later, in rare cases, suggestions from the provinces were taken up.


In Indian art influenced by Persian there are - with the exception of the single edict columns of Emperor Ashoka - hardly any real columns; Most of the cantilevered support elements are more like pillars , while others have column-like inserts. Accordingly, apart from a few lotus capitals, there are predominantly fighter-like degrees.

Central America

Central American architecture has rudiments of monolithic or masonry or round supports composed of drums , but these have neither shaped bases nor capitals.

List of types of capital


  • Eagle capital: Capital with eagles, predominantly in Romanesque architecture. Often formed from four eagles standing on the corners of the capitals.
  • Achaemenid capital: see Persian capital
  • Egyptian capital: are lotus capital , lily capital , papyrus capital and tent pole capital .
  • Akanturkapitell
  • Acanthus capital : see Corinthian capital , see also acanthus
  • Antenkapitell: see Antenkapitell
  • Aeolian capital: The Aeolian capital is named after the Greek coastal landscape Aeolia , in which the Aeolian capital mainly occurs. It is the original form of the Ionic capital . The capital consists of a wreath of drooping leaves with a leaf knob. There are two volutes facing upwards. A palmette grows out between the volutes.
  • Antique capital: This is the collective term for all capitals of the Greeks and Romans. These include the Aeolian capital, the Antenkapitell, the Doric capital, the Ionic capital, the Corinthian capital and the composite capital


  • Image capital: see figure capital
  • Leaf capital : A capital with stylized or lifelike leaves is called a leaf capital. Acanthus leaves, for example, are used on ancient capitals (see Corinthian capital ). This capital was adopted in stylistic modifications from Romanesque architecture. Native leaf shapes such as maple leaves, oak leaves, ivy leaves and vine leaves were first used in a natural way, later increasingly stylized in the Gothic. A mixed form with flowers can also be found in the medieval capitals. In the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism periods, the classical form of the Corinthian capital with acanthus leaves was used again.
  • Flower capitals: Typical flower capitals are the Egyptian lotus capital , lily capital and papyrus capital . In the Middle Ages, flowers also appear in capitals, but always mixed with leaves. This mixed form is called a leaf capital.
  • Byzantine capital


  • Umbelkapitell: A flower capital in which the petals are open is called an umbel capital. These capitals are wide.
  • Double cube capital: With the double cube capital, two semicircular arcs lie next to each other on each of the side surfaces.
  • Doric capital: The structure of a Doric capital is a notch starting from the column shaft, the column neck (Hypotrachelion), the straps or rings (Anuli), the actual capital, which rests on the column with a bulge or cushion (Echinus), and as Finish the square cover plate (abacus). See also: Doric order .


Figure capital
  • Folded capital : Romanesque capital
  • Figure capital, figurative capital : This type of capital, also known as “picture capital”, depicts people, animals and even mythical creatures ( chimeras ). These figures are sometimes combined into whole scenes, often a whole legend is depicted on the capitals of a row of arches or a sheet mask is chosen. This form of capital, which occurred in rare cases in late antiquity, has been found in Romanesque architecture in France since around 1100. In later times ( Gothic , Renaissance , Baroque, etc.) the capitals are again without figurative decoration.



  • Ionic capital: with two spirals in the capital, the volutes . See also: Ionic order .
    • ... classic shape
    • ... medieval shape
    • Ionic Renaissance capital


  • Janus capital: two-headed capital (derived from the Roman god of the beginning and the end)


Composite capital
Head capital
  • Fighter capital
  • Chalice block capital : the lower part of the capital in the shape of a chalice (i.e. widening conically towards the top), the upper part designed as a square block Romanesque capital
  • Chalice capital upwards conically widening capital, usually continuously round, the transition into the square only takes place with the cover plate.
  • Tuber capital
  • Bud capital : capital with leaf buds, typical form of the early Gothic, mostly in a slender calyx shape; (French chapiteau à crochets).
  • Composite capital : A capital made up of different parts that originally did not belong together. A capital that consists of two parts. E.g .: A Corinthian capital with an Ionic closure. It did not appear until the Romans, so it helps to distinguish between Greek and Roman columns.
  • Basket capital Capital with plaited ribbons, Byzantine
  • Corinthian capital : see also Corinthian order
    • Preliminary stage: Either double-volute capitals or Ionic neck capitals are regarded as preliminary stages of the Corinthian capital. The distribution of the oldest Corinthian capitals in the Peloponnese suggests a reference to the Peloponnesian double-volute capitals.
    • ... classic shape: the body of the capital, called kalathos , is surrounded by two staggered wreaths of different heights, each made of eight stylized acanthus leaves . So-called caules develop from the corner leaves, each of which releases two plant stems of different strengths. The sturdier stem, called volute , grows towards the abacus corner, while the smaller stem, called helix, turns towards the center of the respective face of the capital body. The volutes support the abacus , as it were , the side surfaces of which are concave . A rosette or abacus flower adorns the center of each of the four abacus sides.
    • ... medieval shape
Lotus capital with lions, Sarnath , India


  • Lily Capital
  • Lotus bud capital


  • Mukarnas capital


  • Nabatean capital


  • Ox head capital


Persian capital
  • Palm capital: on the one hand a type of an Egyptian chapter, on the other hand an alternative name for the Romanesque hollow-leaf or pipe capital
  • Papyrus capital : a collective term for a group of Egyptian capitals in which papyrus shrubs were reproduced:
    • Papyrus umbel capital
    • Papyrus bud capital
    • Palmette papyrus capital: this capital shows alternately tapered palm fronds and small closed papyrus umbels, which were contrasted in color. This capital can be found in the temple of Philae .
  • Persian capital: Typical of the Persian capital, which is also called the Achaemenid capital, are the depictions of animals with two heads, mostly lions or bulls, but also mixed creatures of humans and animals. The meaning of these two-headed beings has not yet been finally clarified.
  • Pfeifenkapitell: -Roman Capital also Hohlblatt-, palm or Faltenkapitell with a plurality of concave or inverted truncated cone-shaped outlines.
  • Pilaster capital : the capital of a pilaster , a flat pillar with a base and a capital.
  • Mushroom capital: a Romanesque capital that was only used in the Ottonian period from around 950 to the second half of the 11th century. A squat throat rises above a "strikingly wide and bulging neck ring", on which a slightly protruding plate, designed as a spherical segment tapering upwards , rests the characteristic mushroom hat. At the top, the capital is closed off by a cover plate , which is unusually high in relation to the total height , which was worked together with the capital from a block. Well-known examples can be found in the crypt of St. Wiperti in Quedlinburg .
  • Upholstered capital : Romanesque capital, developed from the cube capital, the capital being thickened like a pillow. Particularly widespread in Worms Cathedral and its successors.


Tendril capital


  • Shield capital : Romanesque capital The shield capital is an early Romanesque cube capital in which the flat, vertical surfaces are provided with slightly profiled semicircular shields. It is mainly found in Lombardy, which is why it is also called the Lombard capital.
  • Stalactite capital occurs in Islamic architecture.
  • Sistrum capital: Egyptian capital
  • Sofa capital


Tuscan capital
  • Plate capital
  • Tuscan capital
  • Trapezoidal capital


  • Volute capital


Cube capital
(with double shield)


  • Tent pole capital : Egyptian capital . The tent pole capital is an extremely rare capital of Egyptian architecture. The bell shape of the capital is similar to the bell-shaped attachment on the tent poles, from which it gets its name. Tent pole capitals were only erected in the 18th Dynasty in Karnak and Thebes.
  • Tongue leaf capital : Romanesque capital
  • Brick cube capital: The brick cube capital looks like a trapezoidal capital and is made of bricks that have been ground off at the edges.

See also


Web links

Commons : Chapter  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Chapter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Müller and Gunther Vogel: dtv-Atlas zur Baukunst. Volume 1: General Part. Building history from Mesopotamia to Byzantium . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag , Munich 1974. ISBN 3-423-03020-8 , pp. 104f.
  2. Karl Nothnagel: Adlerkapitell , in: Real Dictionary of German art history . Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1933, Col. 180-188
  3. Chapter VI: The Architecture. In: William Matthew Flinders Petrie: The arts & crafts of ancient Egypt. Edinburgh and London 1909, pp. 66-67.
  4. a b Type: Hohlblattkapitell ('Pfeifenkapitell'). Arachne image database of the DAI .
  5. Monika-Marie Knoche: The mushroom capital. In: Aachener Kunstblätter. Vol. 41, 1971, pp. 201-210 (PDF).