Graphical Construction Glossary >> Roofs and roofing. >> Finial
A finial in architecture.
At first glance you may be forgiven for thinking that the embellishments shown on the roofs above are Crosses.
While they certainly do adorn many churches and from what I can gather they first appeared on the scene in the Gothic era, the close up under shows that they are indeed just a decoration.
This last photo, and the one that gave me the idea for this page, is of a quite new building that the architect decided to embellish in the traditional way but a simpler touch.
A touch like this in my opinion adds to the visual appeal of a building.
All to often we have to settle for TV aerials and satellite dishes
It seem to me that this custom could easily go back to pre Christian times.
We have a tradition in the building trades of what is known as a topping out ceremony. In older times when the last piece of masonry was laid at the top, the highest point, it was customary to have a celebration.
Along with the celebration, tradition has it that some sort of tree is hoisted to the highest point of the structure. What the significance of the tree is or it's origin I don't know.
What I do know is that it still goes on today in all sizes of jobs. I have seen many times roofing carpenters nail a branch of a tree with plenty green leaves on it, to the apex of a house roof, in just about the same place that a finial would go.
These guys were mainly Greek migrants, but also I have seen Scandinavian do it also. When asked why the simple answer is "because it's tradition".
Looking at a few of my old text books and other sources, many finials are foliage based, which makes me wonder if they are the builder's way of fixing a permanent record of the topping out?
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