Saint Paul-Without-The-Walls, Rome. Author: Herbert Weber, Hildesheim. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. Wikimedia Commons.

18 April 2021

Tympanum. Archivolt. And Trumeau.

Archivolts surrounding a Tympanum.
Français: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, mittleres Portal.
Photo: August 2006.
Source: Own work.
Author: Welleschik
(Wikimedia Commons)

The following Text is from Wikipedia - the free encyclopædia,
unless stated otherwise.

In Architecture, a Tympanum (plural, Tympana; from Latin and Greek words meaning “Drum”) is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window, which is bounded by a Lintel and an Arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element.

In Ancient Greek, Roman and Christian Architecture, Tympana of Religious buildings usually contain Religious imagery. A Tympanum over a doorway is very often the most important, or only, location for monumental sculpture on the outside of a building.

English: The Late-Romanesque Tympanum of Vézelay Abbey,
Burgundy, France, dating from the 1130s.
Français : Vézelay (Yonne - France), Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine -
Tympan central du narthex (1140-1150).
Photo: 17 June 2002.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

In Classical Architecture, and in Classicising Styles from The Renaissance, onwards, major examples are usually triangular; in Romanesque Architecture, Tympana have a semi-circular shape, or that of a thinner slice from the top of a circle, and in Gothic Architecture they have a more vertical shape, coming to a point at the top. These shapes naturally influence the typical compositions of any sculpture within the Tympanum.

Bands of moulding, surrounding the Tympanum, are referred to as the Archivolt.

In Mediæval French Architecture, the Tympanum is often supported by a decorated Pillar, called a Trumeau.

English: The three Tympana on the lower part of the main façade of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, France. On the upper part, the twenty-eight Kings of Judea and Israel. On the lower part, from Left to Right, are: The Portal of The Virgin; The Portal of The Last Judgement; The Portal of Saint-Anne.
Français: Partie basse de la façade ouest de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. La rangée du haut représente les 28 rois d'Israël et Judée ayant précédé le Christ. En dessous, et de gauche à droite, le portail de la Vierge, le portail du Jugement Dernier et le portail Saint-Anne.
Photo: 28 October 2007.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Last Judgement Tympanum,
Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun, France.
Available on YouTube at

A Romanesque Trumeau,
Photo: 13 September 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: Zarateman
(Wikimedia Commons)

English: A Trumeau at The Great West Door,
Aix Cathedral, France.
Français: Détail du Portail de la Cathédrale Saint Sauveur,
Aix-en-Provence, France.
Photo: 23 August 2012.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)


  1. Absolutely fascinating and informative as usual,Zephyrinus! I never knew of “archivolts”; nor “trumeaus”:

    And yet I inherited an almost exact 8” high copy of the trumeau you have pictured from Aix Cathedral, from my late sainted aunt.

    And now I know where it came from: I will print it out and put it on the back for reference.

    Thank you! So fascinating!

  2. Thank You, Dante Peregrinus, for your most welcome Comment.

    Delighted that this particular Post had a personal meaning to you. What a lovely present from your Aunt.

    Now you can “Wow” all your guests at your next Dinner Party by regaling them with tales of “Tympana, Archivolts, and Trumeaux”. They should be riveted !!!


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