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Doric Entablature: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the design, features, and history of the Doric Entablature and test your understanding of ancient Greek art, architectural styles, and temples.

A Column (and Entablature) on Classical Architecture

When we talk about classical architecture, we are generally referring to the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. In those times, the highest forms of architecture were large, public buildings, like the temples to the gods. The three main styles of classical architecture are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The main distinguishing features are the columns and the entablatures. Columns are the upright supports, the entablature is the structure that rests above the columns.

The Doric Entablature is a specific style of entablature and one of the ways to recognize Doric architecture. The Doric Order is the oldest style of classical architecture, dating to around 750-480 BC in Greece, an era called the Archaic Period. It was the first architectural style of Greece that was built in stone, not wood, reflecting evolving engineering and construction techniques.

Doric Order
Doric Order

Design and Features

In classical architecture, the proportions of the parts of the entablature are defined by the proportions of the column; the Doric entablature is generally around 1/4 the height of the column.

The entablature is split into three parts: the architrave, frieze, and cornice. The architrave is the horizontal layer that rests directly on the columns and supports the weight of the entablature. It is plain, but has several cone-shaped protrusions at the top to repel water, called 'guttae'. Above the guttae is a long, horizontal strip called the taenia.

Parts of Doric Entablature
Doric Entablature

The frieze, the next section, is divided into an alternating pattern of 'triglyphs' and 'metopes'. The triglyph is a panel with three horizontal columns carved into it. The guttae of the architrave are only found underneath the triglyphs. The spaces in between the triglyphs are the metopes. Sometimes they were decorated with carvings, and sometimes they were left plain.

The triglyph were supposed to align directly above the center of each column and in the middle of the space between columns. However, with the Doric Order being the Greeks' first buildings using stone instead of wood, the last two columns on each end were closer together to support the weight of the entablature. This made the last triglyphs off-center. Greek architecture was obsessed with harmony, ratio, and balance, so this was a major problem and has been called the 'Doric Corner Conflict'. It was resolved in the next order of architecture.

The final piece of the entablature is the cornice, the protruding section below the 'piedmont', the triangular section for carvings or statues that rests on top of the entablature. The Doric cornice consists of two horizontal bands of stone, and sometimes guttae on the bottom, above the triglyphs.

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