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Arcades supported by pillars in Correggio

A pillar is building the name given to a vertical support that the burden of the overlying components (for example, sheets , beams , ceiling , roof structures picks).


The word has been documented in German since the 10th century (mhd. Pfīlære , ahd. Pfīlāri ) and borrowed from the late Latin pilare , which goes back to the Latin pila ("pillar, support").

The pillar may be considered a derivative of the stator (post, stile) in the frame or as the reduction of a wall piece to be construed. It should also be able to function as a room closure. The supporting function is characteristic.

Columns known as pillars often have a square floor plan, but polygonal or round shapes are also called this. Diverse shapes of the pillar developed within the architectural style epochs. In this respect, like a column, it can also be divided into a base , shaft and capital . In this regard, the term is used inconsistently.

Apart from the technical jargon for architecture, the term pillar is also used for non-load-bearing elements. Bricked fences and borders of driveways are often referred to as pillars , actually posts or posts . Freestanding pillars that serve as monuments without a load-bearing function are called steles . In the national survey there are measuring pillars and , architecturally, steles.


Designations can also refer to the position of a pillar on the building:

The free pillar stands "free" without connecting its cross-section to a wall - that is the normal form of the pillar.

Round pillars

In particular, a distinction between the round pillar and the technical term pillar is unclear. There is the opinion that a pillar with a round cross-section should be distinguished from the column if it has neither a taper nor an entasis (swelling of the shaft of the column). Other authors point out that a lack of entasis is also characteristic of many pillars. A general distinguishing feature is that round supports that are comparatively strongly pressed or are very slim are called pillars, while the column is tied to a theory of proportions. In connection with his investigations into the Gothic cathedrals, the art historian Hans Jantzen made a strict distinction between the “ancient column” and the “Gothic round pillar”, which he specifically called round pillars. The author emphasizes the functional, despite the similar form, the Gothic was not a reception of antiquity . Since there are also polygonal column shapes, the name for non-European architecture is finally becoming fluid.

Wall-mounted pillars

Wall pillars with a supporting function with pillar-like corner (or double wall) and half wall pilasters (or throat pilasters) in column design; historicism
  • The wall pillar is integrated into a wall as a partial pillar
  • A corner pillar is integrated into a wall corner as a wall pillar
  • The double wall pillar is a double, coupled wall pillar

The latter forms can be compared to a pilaster - the word has the same linguistic root and is also derived from the column as a pseudo-architecture, and so round pilasters are also referred to as half-columns . But here simpler pillar-like shapes can appear, which then as a pilaster be called: The distinction is then whether the supporting or fassadengliedernde ornamental effect predominates, and also inconsistent. In addition, the transition to the frame is smooth at brick building openings . The exact characteristics of the wall or facade element often only reveal the floor plan of the building.


Riveted steel pillar

Pillars can be differentiated according to the material and can, for example, be referred to as wooden pillars , masonry pillars or concrete pillars .


If there is a pillar between two windows, it is called a trumeau . For the special use of the word Trumeau in portals, see Trumeau .

Architectural history

The pillar of Roman architecture was usually relatively simple in design due to the simple vault construction. With more complex vault constructions and their arches, the load-bearing pillars also developed more differentiated shapes. For example, with the cross pillar with a cross-shaped floor plan.

In the Romanesque period, so-called 'templates' were added to the core of the pillars to accommodate the arches of the arcades and the vaults. These pillars, which consist of several elements (links), are called link pillars . The 'templates' can be semicircular or square.

In the Gothic period, Chartres developed its own form of articulated pillar, the cantoned pillar . It consists of a round or octagonal pillar core and 'templates' in front of it. If the 'template' is designed as a slim round shaft, it is called a service . In the course of the High Gothic period, the pillar was formed more and more densely by services - this creates the bundle pillar , which consists of a bundle of slender services or profiles and replaces the articulated pillar. A special shape that emerged from this is the palmette pillar , over which vaulted ribs spread out in all directions.

Jantzen writes in connection with the reshaping of the pillars between the central nave and the side aisle in Gothic cathedrals:

“The Romanesque designed the arcade pillars as a cross-shaped wall pillar, which, even if it is still provided with templates, structurally still retains the connection with the 'wall', which is understood as a homogeneous mass of the wall. The Gothic cannot use this pillar, as it kneads the 'wall' through plastic and basically assumes that it is made up of round rod-shaped elements. "

The Gothic architecture also developed the buttress in the outer space to support the outer wall against the thrust of the vault or as a support for the buttress arches.

From the Renaissance onwards , the distinction between column and pillar blurred, as did the decorative elements of pilater and pilaster, especially in the Baroque era with its tendency to hide functional elements behind ornaments. The classicism preferred the strict separation again before the eclecticism of historicism final borders are lifted. Only modernity is largely turning away from the pillar again, in concrete construction the pillar becomes a central structural and design element, but apart from functionalism and related currents, it takes on a wide variety of forms.

Special uses of the pillar

Bridge building

Pillar of the Europabrücke

In the bridge , there is also no single language. The supports of bridge superstructures between the abutments are called pillars or supports . The superstructures can be continuous beams or bars, frames or arches in a row. The wall-like components that extend over the entire width of the superstructure are often referred to as pillars, while narrower components, whose dimensions are much smaller than the superstructure width and which often consist of several elements, are often referred to as supports.

Historical bridges had pillars made of wooden structures, masonry, iron or steel structures. The trestle bridges sometimes had high scaffolding pillars of standardized wood or steel beams. The pillars and columns of modern bridges consist almost entirely of reinforced concrete ; occasional steel supports are the exception. Masonry is only used in the renovation of listed buildings or as facing masonry . Pillars in the river mostly have full cross-sections, while the pillars and supports of high valley bridges mostly have hollow cross-sections, i.e. consist only of reinforced concrete walls around an empty interior. In the interior there are usually ladders or stairs for the maintenance personnel, and in the case of very high bridges also elevators.

The pillars and supports usually consist of the head (which represents the support bank), the shaft and the foundation . They often have a suit , i. H. their cross-section tapers with increasing height. The connection to the superstructure can be rigid, articulated or movable, depending on the structural requirements. Occasionally there are also pendulum supports and pendulum piers. Supports arranged in pairs are often connected to one another and stiffened by crossbars or support beams.

Pillars can be named according to their location or function ( e.g. river pillars , dividing pillars ). If piers have to be erected in the area of ​​landslides, large concrete boxes open at the top are built into the slope, in which the complete pillar can be moved from time to time, as is the case with the Grünwalder Isar Bridge or the Ganter Bridge .

The highest pillar of the Europabrücke on the Brenner autobahn , completed in 1963, is 146.5 m high, making it the tallest bridge pillar in the world until it was replaced in 1974 by the 150 m high pillars of the Viadotto Rago in Calabria , followed by the Kochertal Bridge at 178 in 1979 m high pillars followed. Since 2004, the Viaduc de Millau has had the largest pillar in the world with a height of 245 m (on which one of the 98 m high steel pylons of the bridge stands).


  • Günther Binding: The Gothic columnar column. In: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 59.1998, pp. 29–58.
  • Günther Binding: pilaster - pilaster - pilaster. In: Monument culture in the Rhineland. Festschrift for Udo Mainzer on his 65th birthday, Werner Verlag, Worms 2010 ( workbook of the Rhenish Monument Preservation 75.2010), ISBN 978-3-88462-300-8 , pp. 128–141.

Web links

Commons : pillar  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Pillar in: PW Hartmann's large art dictionary

References and comments

  1. ^ Sentence based on Kluge Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 24th edition, 2002
  2. ^ Sentence after Hans-Joachim Kadatz: Dictionary of Architecture , Leipzig, 1988, Lemma Pfeiler
  3. so pillar In: Günther Wasmuth (Ed.): Wasmuths Lexikon der Baukunst , Berlin 1929-1932 (4 volumes)
  4. a b c sentence after Wilfried Koch: Baustilkunde , 27th edition, Gütersloh / Munich 2006, index of pillars and the following compounds under [567]
  5. List after Hans Koepf , Günther Binding : Picture Dictionary of Architecture (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 194). 4th, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-520-19404-X .
  6. ^ A b Sentence after Nikolaus Pevsner, Hugh Honor, John Fleming: Lexikon der Weltarchitektur , 3rd edition, Munich, Prestel, 1992, Lemma Pfeiler
  7. cf. Hans Koepf, Günther Binding: Pictorial dictionary of architecture. Stuttgart 2005, p. 402.
  8. Nikolaus Pevsner, Hugh Honor, John Fleming (on the one hand) and Wilfried Koch (on the other hand) agree on this, including Fritz Baumgart: DuMont's Kleines Sachlexikon der Architektur , Cologne, 1977, Lemma Pfeiler writes that the round pillar, in contrast to the column, is usually very much be pressed.
  9. cf. Hans Jantzen: Art of the Gothic. Classical cathedrals of France Chartres, Reims, Amiens , Art. 1.1 The nave , Rowohlt, 1957/1968, p. 18
  10. Duden - Trumeau - spelling, meaning, definition, synonyms, origin. In: duden.de. Retrieved June 25, 2018 .
  11. ↑ Composition after Günther Wasmuth (Ed.): Wasmuths Lexikon der Baukunst , Berlin, 1929–1932 (4 volumes), Lemma Pfeiler
  12. Quote from Hans Jantzen: Art of the Gothic. Classical cathedrals of France Chartres, Reims, Amiens , Rowohlt, 1957/1968, p. 18
  13. a b c Gerhard Mehlhorn (Ed.): Handbook bridges . 2nd edition, Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-642-04422-9 , p. 507 f.