Cupolas are symmetrical ornamental designs that are added to the top of buildings. Most cupolas are shaped as domes and topped by some kind of decoration, such as a cross (on a church) or a statue (on a government building). Typically, a cupola is erected as a separate structure from the building’s roof and may sit in the center or off to one side of the roof.
The first known use of cupolas dates back to the 8th century where these domes were commonly used on buildings in Islamic empires. Originally, cupolas were used by criers who signaled the time for prayer by calling out from under the domes. Historians are not sure how cupolas spread to other countries, but they were eventually seen in Spain, Austria and England. Despite their religious origin, cupolas served other purposes. They allowed air to circulate through tall buildings and they provided small rooms that could be used as lofts.
Several prominent U.S. government buildings are adorned with cupolas. The large dome of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. is topped by a cupola, which is decorated by the “Statue of Freedom”. A similar design is atop the state capitol of Georgia, which has a golden cupola and a statute named “Miss Freedom”.
While cupolas can be constructed of just about any building material, many of them are made of copper. Unlike wood or fiberglass, copper needs no maintenance, making it an ideal material for outdoor structures such as cupolas. Another benefit of using copper to make a cupola is the metal’s aesthetic value. Over time, the copper’s shiny finish will become bronze and eventually a faded green color. These changes are normal and add character to a building.
Copper retailers such as Crescent City Copper sell copper structures of all types for buildings, including cupolas. You can view some photographs of copper cupolas on the Crescent City web site. While cupolas are commonly seen on municipal buildings, they can also add value and beauty to residential properties.
Image c/o: ell brown