What is the proper architectural term for a line of decorative statues on the roofs of buildings.

What is the proper architectural term for a line of decorative statues on the roofs of buildings. I’ve seen them in Moscow.

I look forward to your feedback

My immediate thought was a Frieze - which is a band towards the top of the wall and which can be decorated flat, eg with mosaic or tilework, in bas relief which is raised, or can include free-standing figures in the round.

Is that what you meant, or did you mean on top of the roof? The classical architectural term for a decorative sculpture or element, say at the junction of the corners of a roof, or the ends of the ridge is an akroteria. Gargoyles on roofs are an example of akroteria.

Yes at the edge of the roof. I don’t mean a frieze. I means actually statuettes lining the roof wall/wall reaching up to the roof level. Akroteria looks correct. To be more precise, the statuettes I saw were free-standing and spaced apart on the uppermost part of the wall reaching up to the roof.

Akroteria don’t come between the wall and the roof, though, they’re free-standing above the roofline.What you’re describing sounds more similar to (but not exactly like ) caryatids and telamons or just sculptured pediment.

And here i was showing off… We’ve reached and sailed past the limits of my classical architectural knowledge.

I looked up the technical name for the 140 statues above the colonnade forming the wings of St Peters in the Vatican, which sounds like the uber-example of what you’re describing. It seems to be called in scholarly works ‘the statues on the colonnade …’

Thanks Mr. Dibble. The link I have to the Hermitage Museum is similar to what I mean, except that the statuettes were white and classical and all the same height. I’ll try to find a link to the biding I mean. It’s not far from the Kremlin.


not caryatids because the statuettes were not holding up anything. They were freestanding

" a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head. "

possible terms:
Pedestals for statues and other ornaments placed on the apex and the lower angles of a pediment. They are also sometimes
placed upon the gables in Gothic architecture, especially in canopy work.
An ornamental projection from the face of a wall, to support a statue; brackets are sometimes nearly plain, or ornamented only
with moldings, but are generally carved either into heads, foliage, angels, or animals. Brackets are very frequently found on the
walls inside of churches, especially at the east end of the chancel and aisles, where they supported statues that were placed near
the altars.

Yeah, I figured, that’s why I said “not exactly like”. “Sculptured pediment” is perhaps the best you’ll be able to do for that sort of thing.

But if that link is what you mean, some of those would be akroteria, as they do stick out above the roof and are at the apex and/or corners. The ones that aren’t, are just ornamental sculpture - it’s a picayune difference, I know, and IMO you’re fine to call them all that. Banksiaman is redeemed.

Thanks Banksiaman and Mr. Dibble. Very helpful.

You sometimes get rows of freestanding or only partly engaged statues in front of an upper or attic storey or the entablature. The most famous ancient examples are the Dacian prisoners on the attic of the Arch of Constantine in Rome. There are lots of later variations, including this, this, this and this.

Thank APB… The only difference I can see between the Arch of Constantine


and what I am referring to is that there was no wall behind the statues. The statues were standing on a lintel/entablature. The Hermitage Museum comes closest. But the statues were much smaller and uniform in height and spacing along the roof.

The statues were freestanding and lined up on a horizontal roof. There were no gables. There was no pediment.

After much googling, I conclude they are not pediments, nor caryatids, nor statues in niches, nor ones with bladachins. They are simply rooftop statues. I haven’t found specific terms in English or in any other language.

You also have the Apostle Statues in the Vatican, the Quadriga in Berlin, and gargoyles at Notre Dame de Paris.

For completeness, since I don’t think this was visually cited above, here’s a quickie summary of Greek architectural terms.

And how could Banksiamin forget the antefix!

ETA: Found this excellent, rich http://www.buffaloah.com/a/DCTNRY/vocab.html, with all the above and more individually illustrated.

You see them a lot if you’re going to tourist sites in China. See Imperial roof decorations, which says they’re also called “roof charms”, “roof figures”, or “walking beasts”.

Today it seems that most of them have wires running above them for, I believe, lightning protection.

The imperial roof decorations only apply to Chinese/Asian decorations but not to Roman.
If I had the proper architectural term for the Capitoline roof statues I would have the word I’m looking for.