A finial can be thought of as an architectural finial, which simply is a decorative or ornamental architectural piece usually mounted at the apex or very top of any architectural structure. Finials can also denote the decorative ornaments, knobs, balls, terminations or tops to posts, poles, rods, furniture or lamps. In typography, finials are the curves terminating type font strokes. This blog concentrates on architectural finials which may be placed on top of a roof, gable, tower, turret, pinnacle, steeple, spire, arch, dome, gazebo, canopy, cupola, chimney cap, wall, garden structure or other architectural device. Finials are used decoratively to emphasize the apex, peak, ends or corners of these architectural structures. Finials also provide heightened architectural interest, flourish, elegance, majesty and provide the crowning touch to distinctive architectural structures, fine homes and distinguished buildings.
Copper Finials - Outdoor Roof - Garden Finials
Finials are usually thought of as the ornament or decorative piece mounted at the very tip of related architectural structures which are all taller than wider, such as pinnacles, turrets, spires, steeples and towers. These various architectural structures are somewhat similar or related, primarily differing in size, scale, location, shape or historical context. Often one of these structures is placed on top of another and the transition between them may either be obvious or be fairly seamless. Finials mounted at the very peak of these structures have historically been a cross, star, ball, spear, cone, needle or may have been something more elaborate or ornate. Tall finials fitted with an extension and insulated may also be utilized as a lightning rod. Architectural devices such as finials have sometimes been scaled up in size to where some finials start to resemble and perhaps becomes a small spire or pinnacle.
Octagonal Finial Spear - - Hexagonal Finial Ball Aluminum - - Scrolled Copper Finial
Pinnacles are simply defined as small decorative turrets or spires historically located at corners of a roof, parapet, buttress, tower, pier, gable or elsewhere. Pinnacles are largely an ornamental structure, usually round in shape like most turrets or else tapering like a spire and are terminated at their peak by a pyramid, small spire or finial. Pinnacle is also described as an architectural ornament forming the cap or crown of a buttress or small turret and used on parapets at the corners of towers and other locations. Pinnacles while decorative also help promote the loftiness or towering majesty of a building structure.
Spires are simply any slender, pointed architectural structures on top of buildings or other structures such as towers. Spires can be conical, pyramidal and octagonal in shape terminating in a point or else have a decorative finial perched on top. Many centuries ago, spires originally were a simple, four sided, squat, pyramid shaped roof capping on top of church towers. Spires evolved towards ever slimmer and much taller forms with a more organic connection to the tower below. Early spires had crockets or steps at their edges for ease of maintenance by steeplejacks. The word spire is derived from the Anglo Saxon word for spear. In fact many modern spires can be even more pronounced spear or needle shaped than their pointy predecessors. Spires may convey several symbolic attributes. Pointing at the heavens, they can have a celestial or religious connotation which is why they were popular on top of cathedrals and churches. Spires provided a spectacular visual culmination to churches while being a symbol of heavenly aspiration. Spires also connote the religious order's or building patron's wealth and prestige. A spire's spear shape can also be symbolic of martial power, might and strength or in public buildings of civil power and hope. Reaching to the skies, spires can also be symbolic of aerospace, outer space and the future. Modern spires include the Space Needle in Seattle and the extremely tall spires located on the tallest buildings or skyscrapers in the world. The planned Freedom Tower in New York will be topped with a spire. Spires are never out of fashion and continue to be used in modern architecture. At the very top of spires you often will find a decorative or ornamental finial. Modern day finials have taken on many forms or shapes with unlimited designs and the pointy, spear shaped finial designs are reminiscent of spires. Some pointy finials have increased in size and scale and are perhaps considered smaller spires and called spires by some.
Steeples are tall mostly ornamental towers usually topped with a spire and finial. Steeples usually comprise a series of stories, each typically diminishing in size and topped off by a small pyramidal roof, cupola or oftentimes a spire. Steeples are very common in Christian churches and the use of the term typically connotes a religious structure or church steeple. Steeples may be free standing towers or else are incorporated structurally into the entrance or center of a building, such as a church or temple. Steeples usually taper towards a point at the top, are surmounted or topped by a spire, or are themselves simply a large spire. Steeple design was possibly originally influenced by obelisks and pillars dating back to ancient Egyptian architecture. Obelisks are simply four sided tapering towers or pillars ending in a pointed or pyramidal top. Obelisks were historically monolithic, meaning carved out of a single stone and were used as monuments placed at the entrance to temples.
Cathedrals with Turrets, Spires, Pinnacles and Finials
(photos courtesy Aleister Crowley and Georges Jansoone - CC by SA)
Turrets are simply small attached towers or tower shaped projections from a building. Typically most turrets are round with a conical or other pointed roof though sometimes a domed roof. Some turrets are square or octagonal in shape. Turrets are usually topped with a pinnacle, spire or decorative finial. Turrets are always smaller structures attached to the edge of a building compared to towers which are larger and invariably start from the ground. Turrets can extend out from the sides or corners of a building via corbels or extend up from the roof top effectively adding another story. Rounded turrets also provide contrast to angled lines of a building.
Assorted Turrets - Copper Finials - Conical Octagonal Copper Roof
Towers are slender buildings characterized by great height, always much taller than their width or length. Often very tall towers taper from story to story towards their top and often terminate in a pyramidal roof or pointed spire, usually octagonal or conical. Many church towers and public building towers were designed to incorporate a spire. Towers symbolize prestige, supreme power, authority, majesty and might, similar to what steeples and spires convey.
Modern day finials come in all shapes, designs and sizes to enhance any style of current architecture. Finials add a decorative, crowning touch to most any architectural structure including roof peaks, domes, turrets, towers, steeples, spires, chimney caps, cupolas, gazebos, canopies, landscaping - garden walls and posts. View 50 different finial designs including weathervanes, pineapple finials and ornate finials at Rutland's Copper Finials webpage. Rutland also provides CAD design drawings and specifications for all of their standard finials, located on each individual finial model's webpage. Rutland finials come in many different sizes; many of Rutland's larger finials are 3 to 6 feet in height and still larger finials and spires may be constructed. Rutland's architectural copper work and metal fabrication craftsmen will fabricate any of Rutland's standard finial designs in a number of different sizes, different base shapes and will also custom manufacture finials and spires to your own architectural design and exact specifications.