A cornice (from the Italian cornice meaning "ledge") is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture element – the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the top edge of a pedestal or along the top of an interior wall. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown.

The function of the projecting cornice of a building is to throw rainwater free of the building’s walls. In residential building practice, this function is handled by projecting gable ends, roof eaves, and gutters. However, house eaves may also be called "cornices" if they are finished with decorative molding. In this sense, while most cornices are also eaves (in that they overhang the sides of the building), not all eaves are usually considered cornices – eaves are primarily functional and not necessarily decorative, and a cornice has a decorative aspect to it.

The projecting cornice of a building may appear to be heavy and hence in danger of falling, particularly on commercial buildings, but often it may be very light, made of pressed metal.

An example of a cornice, above large corbels, along the top of the maxwell Center Building in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, United States.
Egyptian Building
The Egyptian Building (1845) in Richmond, Virginia, with massive cavetto cornice and bell capitals

In classical architecture

Cornice (PSF)
A Classical cornice

In Ancient Greek architecture and its successors using the classical orders in the tradition of classical architecture, the cornice is the topmost element of the entablature which consists (from top to bottom) of the cornice, the frieze, and the architrave.

In modern domestic architecture


A rake is an architectural term for an eave or cornice which runs along the gable of the roof of a modern residential structure. It may also be called a sloping cornice, a raking cornice. The trim and rafters at this edge are called rake-, verge-, or barge-board or verge- or barge-rafter.[1] It is a sloped timber on the outside facing edge of a roof running between the ridge and the eave.[2] On a typical house, any gable will have two rakes, one on each sloped side. The rakes are supported by a series of lookouts (sometimes also called strong arms) and may be enclosed with a rake fascia board (which is not a fascia) on the outside facing edge and a rake soffit along the bottom.


The cornices of a modern residential building will usually be one of three types: a box cornice, a close or closed cornice, or an open cornice.[3]:p.63

Box cornice

Wide box cornice
A wide box cornice with lookouts

Box cornices enclose the cornice of the building with what is essentially a long narrow box. A box cornice may further be divided into either the narrow box cornice or the wide box cornice type. A narrow box cornice is one in which "the projection of the rafter serves as a nailing surface for the soffit board as well as the fascia trim."[3]:p.63 This is possible if the slope of the roof is fairly steep and the width of the eave relatively narrow. A wide box cornice, which is common practice on houses with gentle roof slopes and wide eaves, requires the use of lookouts to give it support and to provide a surface to which to securely attach the soffits. Box cornices often have ventilation screens laid over openings cut in the soffits in order to allow air to circulate within the cornice.

Close cornice

Close cornice
A close cornice

A close, closed, or snub cornice is one in which there is no projection of the rafters beyond the walls of the building, and therefore no soffit and no fascia. This type of cornice is easy to construct, but provides little aid in dispersing water away from the building and lacks aesthetic value.[3]:p.65

Open cornice

Open cornice
An open cornice

In an open cornice, the shape of the cornice is similar to that of a wide box cornice except that both the lookouts and the soffit are absent. It is a lower-cost treatment that requires fewer materials, and may even have no fascia board, but lacks the finished appearance of a box cornice.

Cavetto cornice

Ancient Egyptian architectural tradition made special use of large cavetto mouldings as a cornice, with only a short fillet (plain vertical face) above, and a torus moulding (convex semi-circle) below. This cavetto cornice is sometimes also known as an "Egyptian cornice", "hollow and roll" or "gorge cornice", and has been suggested to be a reminiscence in stone architecture of the primitive use of bound bunches of reeds as supports for buildings, the weight of the roof bending their tops out.[4]

The cavetto cornice, often forming less than a quarter-circle, influenced Eygpt's neighbours and as well as appearing in early Ancient Greek architecture, it is seen in Syria and ancient Iran, for example at the Tachara palace of Darius I at Persepolis, completed in 486 BC. Inspired by this precedent, it was then revived by Ardashir I (r. 224–41 AD), the founder of the Sasanian dynasty.[5]

The cavetto took the place of the cymatium in many Etruscan temples, often painted with vertical "tongue" patterns, and combined with the distinctive "Etruscan round moulding", often painted with scales.[6]

Additional more-obscure varieties of cornice include the architrave cornice, bracketed cornice, and modillion cornice.[7]

Cornice return

Härnösands rådhus 08
A gable roof with two cornice returns.

A cornice return is an architectural detail that occurs where the horizontal cornice of a roof connects to the rake of a gable.[3]:p.67 It is a short horizontal extension of the cornice that occurs on each side of the gable end of the building (see picture of the Härnösands rådhus with two of these). The two most common types of cornice return are the Greek return and the soffit return (also called a boxed or box soffit return). The former includes a sloped hip-shape on the inside of the cornice under the eaves which is sheathed or shingled like the rest of the roof above it and is considered very attractive; the latter is a simple return without these features.[8]

As window treatment

The term cornice may also be used to describe a form of hard window treatment along the top edge of a window. When used in this context, a cornice represents a board (usually wood) placed above the window to conceal the mechanism for opening and closing drapes. If covered in a layer of cloth and given padding, it is sometimes called a soft cornice rather than a hard cornice.



Projecting cornice of a painted wooden Italianate residence

Cornice plaster MET 40-170-267

Cornice with running leaf pattern, Nishapur, 10th century (Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Roman cornice of ionic order, from Imperial palace on the Palatine hill in Rome (Flavian epoch)

Nimes maison carrée

Cornice of the Maison Carrée, Nîmes

See also


  1. ^ Christy, Wyvill James (1879). "Bargeboard" in A universal dictionary for architects, civil engineers, surveyors, sculptors ... London: Griffith and Farren.
  2. ^ Allen, Edward; Thallon, Rob (2011). Fundamentals of Residential Construction. John Wiley & Sons. p. 251.
  3. ^ a b c d Anderson, Leroy Oscar (2002) [1970]. Wood-frame house construction. New York: Books for Business. ISBN 0-89499-167-1.
  4. ^ Brier, Bob, Hobbs, A. Hoyt, Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 200, 2008, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313353069, 9780313353062, google books
  5. ^ Dominique Collon, et al. "Iran, ancient, II, 3." Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press, accessed 5 January 2017, subscription required
  6. ^ Winter, Nancy A., "Monumentalization of the Etruscan Round Moulding in Sixth Century BCE Central Italy", pp. 61–67, in Monumentality in Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture: Ideology and Innovation, edited by Michael Thomas, Gretchen E. Meyers, 2012, University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292749821, 9780292749825, google books; Example in the reconstructed Etruscan temple at Villa Giulia
  7. ^ Harris, Cyril M. (2003). American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 77. ISBN 978-0393731033. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  8. ^ Spence, William P. (1999). Neumann, Rodman P., ed. Carpentry & Building Construction: A Do-It-Yourself Guide. New York: Sterling. p. 273. ISBN 978-0-8069-9845-9.

External links

  • Media related to Cornices at Wikimedia Commons
Brake (sheet metal bending)

A brake is a metalworking machine that allows the bending of sheet metal. A cornice brake only allows for simple bends and creases, while a box-and-pan brake also allows one to form box and pan shapes. It is also known as a bending machine or bending brake or in Britain as a sheet metal folder or just a folder.


A corniche is a road on the side of a cliff or mountain, with the ground rising on one side and falling away on the other. The word has been absorbed into English from the French term route à corniche or "road on a ledge", originally derived from the Italian cornice, for "ledge".


A dentil (from Lat. dens, a tooth) is a small block used as a repeating ornament in the bedmould of a cornice. Dentils are found in classical Greek and Roman architecture and also in later styles, such as Beaux Arts Classicism, Classical Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Greek Revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance Revival, and Second Empire.

Detroit Cornice and Slate Company Building

The Detroit Cornice and Slate Company Building is a Beaux-Arts style industrial office building located at 733 St. Antoine Street (at East Lafayette Street) in Downtown Detroit, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974.


An entablature (; nativization of Italian intavolatura, from in "in" and tavola "table") is the superstructure of moldings and bands which lies horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave (the supporting member immediately above; equivalent to the lintel in post and lintel construction), the frieze (an unmolded strip that may or may not be ornamented), and the cornice (the projecting member below the pediment). The Greek and Roman temples are believed to be based on wooden structures, the design transition from wooden to stone structures being called petrification.

Fascia (architecture)

Fascia () is an architectural term for a vertical frieze or band under a roof edge, or which forms the outer surface of a cornice, visible to an observer. Typically consisting of a wooden board, uPVC or non-corrosive sheet metal, many of the non-domestic fascias made of stone form an ornately carved or pieced together cornice in which case the term fascia is rarely used.

The word fascia derives from Latin "fascia" meaning "band, bandage, ribbon, swathe".

The term is also used, although less commonly, for other such band-like surfaces like a wide, flat trim strip around a doorway, different and separate from the wall surface.

The horizontal "fascia board" which caps the end of rafters outside a building may be used to hold the rain gutter. The finished surface below the fascia and rafters is called the soffit or eave.

In classical architecture, the fascia is the plain, wide band across the bottom of the entablature, directly above the columns. The "guttae" or drip edge was mounted on the fascia in the Doric order, below the triglyph.


In architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon the architrave ('main beam') and is capped by the moldings of the cornice. A frieze can be found on many Greek and Roman buildings, the Parthenon Frieze being the most famous, and perhaps the most elaborate. This style is typical for the Persians.

In interiors, the frieze of a room is the section of wall above the picture rail and under the crown moldings or cornice. By extension, a frieze is a long stretch of painted, sculpted or even calligraphic decoration in such a position, normally above eye-level. Frieze decorations may depict scenes in a sequence of discrete panels. The material of which the frieze is made of may be plasterwork, carved wood or other decorative medium.In an example of an architectural frieze on the façade of a building, the octagonal Tower of the Winds in the Roman agora at Athens bears relief sculptures of the eight winds on its frieze.

A pulvinated frieze (or pulvino) is convex in section. Such friezes were features of 17th-century Northern Mannerism, especially in subsidiary friezes, and much employed in interior architecture and in furniture.

The concept of a frieze has been generalized in the mathematical construction of frieze patterns.

Henry Longfellow School

Henry Longfellow School was a historic school building located in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was designed by Henry deCourcy Richards and built in 1915. It was a three-story, six-bay, brick building on a raised basement in the Classical Revival style. It featured a stone cornice and beltcourse and a brick parapet. The school was named for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.Demolition of the school commenced on August 17, 2015 in conjunction with the plans to rebuild and widen Interstate 95 as part of the ongoing reconstruction of the Interstate in Northeast Philadelphia.

Immagine in Cornice

Immagine in Cornice, Italian for "picture in a frame", is a live concert film documenting the 2006 five-concert tour of Italy by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam. It was released on September 25, 2007.

Listed buildings in Manchester-M1

Manchester is a city in Northwest England. The M1 postcode area of the city includes part of the city centre, in particular the Northern Quarter, the area known as Chinatown, and part of the district of Chorlton-on-Medlock. The postcode area contains 192 listed buildings that are recorded in the National Heritage List for England. Of these, 14 are listed at Grade II*, the middle of the three grades, and the others are at Grade II, the lowest grade.

The area was an important commercial centre, and this is reflected in the listed buildings, as more than half of them originated as warehouses built mainly in the second half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century. These buildings also reflect the commercial wealth in the city at this time as many are elaborately decorated and designed in a variety of architectural styles, including Classical, Baroque, Romanesque, Gothic, and Edwardian Baroque. Some are in the form of an Italian palazzo, and one is in the form of a Scottish Baronial castle. Most of the warehouses have since been converted for other purposes, including offices, shops, hotels, and apartments. Industry in the city was stimulated by the arrival of canals in the late 18th century and railways in the early 19th century. The Ashton Canal and the Rochdale Canal pass through the area and form a junction within it. Listed structures associated with the canals include a flight of locks, an aqueduct, boundary walls, and bridges. Listed buildings associated with the railways include two stations, a viaduct, a warehouse, and goods offices. The area contained textile mills, some of which have survived and are listed, most of them in Chorlton-on-Medlock. On the edge of the commercial area is Piccadilly Gardens, an open space that contains a number of listed statues. Other listed buildings include houses, hotels and public houses, factories, civic buildings, offices, educational buildings, a former power station, and places of entertainment including former cinemas and a dance hall.


In architecture, a lunette (French lunette, "little moon") is a half-moon shaped space, either filled with recessed masonry or void. A lunette is formed when a horizontal cornice transects a round-headed arch at the level of the imposts, where the arch springs. If a door is set within a round-headed arch, the space within the arch above the door, masonry or glass, is a lunette. If the door is a major access, and the lunette above is massive and deeply set, it may be called a tympanum.

The term is usefully employed to describe the section of interior wall between the curves of a vault and its springing line. A system of intersecting vaults produces lunettes on the wall surfaces above a cornice. The lunettes in the structure of the Sistine Chapel inspired Michelangelo to come up with inventive compositions for the spaces.

In neoclassical architecture of Robert Adam and his French contemporaries, like Ange-Jacques Gabriel, a favorite scheme set a series of windows within shallow blind arches. The lunettes above lent themselves to radiating motifs: a sunburst of bellflower husks, radiating fluting, a low vase of flowers, etc.

A lunette may also be segmental, and the arch may be an arc taken from an oval. The spaces are still lunettes.

A lunette is commonly called a half-moon window, when the space is used as a window.

Mechanicsville School (Philadelphia)

Mechanicsville School is a former school building located in the Village of Mechanicsville neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1866–1867, and is a one-story, three-bay, vernacular stone building coated in stucco. It has a gable roof with wood cornice and brick chimney.The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It is now used as a private residence.

Metro Times

The Detroit Metro Times is an alternative weekly located in Detroit, Michigan. It is the largest circulating weekly newspaper in the metro Detroit area.

Mitre box

A mitre box (US spelling, "miter box") is a wood working tool used to guide a hand saw to make precise mitre cuts in a board.

The most common form of a mitre box is a 3-sided box which is open at the top and the ends. The box is made wide enough to accommodate the width of the boards to be cut. Slots are cut in the walls of the box at the precise angle at which the cut is to be made. These slots provide the guide for the saw to follow. Most commonly, the slots in the mitre box are cut at 45 degrees and 90 degrees.

The mitre saw combines the features of a mitre box with a backsaw.

In the past, mitre boxes were constructed mostly of wood. Some have had metal guides fitted to reduce wear on the slots. Today, mitre boxes are also available in other materials such as moulded plastic and cast aluminium.

When carpenters used to make their own mitre boxes, it was common to use a mitre box until its guide slots became worn and then make a new one out of scrap timber. There is still a case to be made for making one today; for example, if an odd size (say, 175 mm) cornice is to be fixed, then a custom mitre box with a bottom board that is 175 mm wide would ensure that the cornice sits true while the cuts are being made to it. The three pieces of timber that form the mitre box are nailed together, and the top steadying pieces are fixed with smaller panel pins. The angles are marked (at any angle, not necessarily 45 degrees) and the guide slots are cut with the same saw that will be used for the rest of the cutting.


A modillion is an ornate bracket, a corbel, underneath a cornice and supporting it, more elaborate than dentils (literally translated as small teeth). All of these words are commonly used as verbs in a historic tense to describe neatly any particular structure, such as a parapet or eaves. They occur classically under a Corinthian or a Composite cornice, but may support any type of eaves cornice. Modillions may be carved or plain.


A pediment is an architectural element found particularly in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture, and its derivatives, consisting of a gable, usually of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The tympanum, the triangular area within the pediment, is often decorated with relief sculpture.

Snow cornice

A snow cornice or simply cornice (from the Italian cornice meaning "ledge") is an overhanging edge of snow on a ridge or the crest of a mountain and along the sides of gullies.


for the commune of Niger see Tamaya, NigerA tamaya (霊屋, also otamaya, mitamaya, soreisha, or reibyō; literally "cornice of the Ghosts") is an altar used in Shinto-style ancestor worship, dedicated in the memory of deceased forebears. It generally has a mirror symbolizing the spirits of the deceased or a tablet bearing their names and is used not only to enshrine blood relatives, but also to honor respected non-family members.Since Buddhist funeral rites dominate in Japanese religious practice, tamaya are found less often in Japanese houses than their Buddhist counterpart, the butsudan. Their value are also below that of the more highly respected kamidana.

The Cornwall

The Cornwall, at 255 West 90th Street, is a luxury residential cooperative apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. Located on the northwest corner of Broadway and 90th Street, it was designed by Neville & Bagge and erected in 1909. The developers were Arlington C. Hall and Harvey M. Hall. The twelve-story brick and stone building is noted for its elaborate balcony and window detail, and the "spectacular" design of its "extraordinary" ornate Art Nouveau cornice, which the AIA Guide to New York City called "a terra-cotta diadem." In 1991, the building's owner-occupants paid $600,000 to have the cornice and ornamented balconies replaced with terra cotta replicas of the originals.Notable residents include New York Times "Streetscape" columnist and architectural historian Christopher Gray.

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