In architecture, a cupola ( /ˈkjuːpələ/) is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.
The word derives, via Italian, from the lower Latin cupula (classical Latin cupella from the Greek κύπελλον kupellon) small cup (Latin cupa) indicating a vault resembling an upside down cup.
Interior of cupola ceiling in the old Synagogue of Gyor, Hungary.
Ribbed cupola crowns the minaret of the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
Inside of Armenian Orthodox church cupola in Lvov, Ukraine.
Cupolas often appear as small buildings in their own right. They often serve as a lantern, belfry, or belvedere above a main roof. In other cases they may crown a tower, spire, or turret. The chhatri, seen in Indian architecture, fits the definition of a cupola when it is used atop a larger structure.
The cupola is a development during the Renaissance of the oculus, an ancient device found in Roman architecture, but being weatherproof was superior for the wetter climates of northern Europe.
The square dome-like segment of a North American railroad train caboose is also called a cupola.