Parts of a Column


A column is a cylindrical support that is usually a structural element. Columns used in architecture support a section of an entablature, which is the upper horizontal part of a classical building. However, there are some free-standing columns that are used for decorative purposes. There are five main types of columns, referred to as column orders, and each order consists of several parts.

1 Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Columns

Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns were invented by the Greeks. The Doric column is the oldest and simplest column and can be seen in the Parthenon, which is a temple in Athens. This column is fluted, meaning, having vertical grooves, a smooth rounded capital, and no separate base, also called a plinth. Instead, the column rests on a stylobate, which is a flat pavement where rows of columns are supported.

Ionic columns have spiral, scroll-shaped ornaments at the capital and rests on a rounded base.

Corinthian columns are influenced by Egyptian columns which have leaves and flowers on the capital. Corinthian columns rest on a base and have fluted sides.

2 Tuscan and Composite Order

Romans invented the Tuscan and Composite orders which are modified versions of the Greek orders. The Tuscan order is a simplified version of the Doric column. It is identifiable by its simple shaft that has no fluting and having an abacus capital.

Columns of the Composite order are a combination of the Ionic and Corinthian orders. It is called Composite because its capital has spiral scrolls found in an Ionic column and is decorated with acanthus leaves found in a Corinthian column.

3 Shaft

The shaft is long and narrow and is the main support of a column. It is found between the capital and the base and is either tapered so that it is thicker near the bottom and thinner as it reaches the top. The shaft of a column can also be fluted or un-fluted.

4 Capital


The capital is found at the top of the shaft and is the decorative element of the column. It divides the impost block, also called the abacus, from the shaft. Columns are identifiable by their capital which are either plain, have acanthus, olive or laurel leaves or scrolls. Some capitals also consist of separate parts.

5 Impost Block or Abacus

Impost Block or Abacus

The impost block, also referred to as the abacus, is the slab that is found between the capital and the architectural element above it, such as the entablature.

6 Plinth


The plinth is the foot, or the base of the column that rests directly on the stylobate. Plinths differ in design depending on the type of column. Plinths are also used as a platform for different objects such as a pedestal, statue or monument.

Veronica Romualdez has over 10 years of writing experience, which includes thousands of articles that have been published online as well as marketing copy for online stores. She's written e-learning/training material and technical and instructional manuals. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication and completed a course in interior design.