The Corinthian Order

 “Vignola wrote an important architectural book in the middle of the 16th century, The Five Orders of Architecture. Among these orders, the Corithian one is the most sophisticated. Its name derives from the Greek city of Corinth.”

Corinthian capital

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the inventor of the corinthian order.

According to Vitruvius, Callimachus created this particular style, which is characterized by the representation of acanthus leaves on the capital. The oldest example is in the Apollo Temple at Bassae (450-420 BC).

Temple of Apollo Epicurius Archaeological site, Bassae, Greece

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Greek architecture and religion has been handed down to the Roman Empire. Indeed you can see the Corinthian Order in the Pantheon today, the most ancient monument come down to us. It is associtaed with goddesses.

Unlike the Doric and Ionic order, the Corinthian order was not much used in ancient Greece. Usually the architrave is divided into three parts: as a result, the entire composition is richer in ornaments.

Important examples of the use of the Corinthian order are linked to the circular buildings (usually called Monopteros), as you can see in the temple of Vesta in Rome.

Temple of Vesta, Rome. It has 20 exterior Corinthian columns standing on a 360 degree, 5-stepped tufa podium.

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In the middle of the 16th century, Italian architects such as Sebastiano Serlio and Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, who established a canonic version of the orders, founded a “Composite order”, composed by the combination of the volutes of the Ionic with the foliage of the Corinthian.

In Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the Corinthian Capital was still retained, because the Classical System had been replaced by a new esthetic composed of arched valuts springing from columns. It might be severely plain, as in the typical Cistercian architecture.



The Corinthian order is characterized by an important element: the carved capital, formed also by more vegetal elements than in the Iconic order. The stylized carved leaves of an acanthus plant grow around the capital, generally terminating just below the abacus.

The most important features are:

  • The striking capital, which is carved with two staggered rows of stylized acanthus leaves and four scrolls.
  • The shaft has 24 sharp-edged flutes, while the column is 10 diameters high. In its proportions, the Corinthian column is similar to the Ionic column, though it is more slender, and stands apart by its distinctive carved capital.
  • The abacus upon the capital has concave sides to conform to the corners of the capital, and it may have a rosette at the center of each side.
Structure of a Corinthian column

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Where can we find it? 

The Corinthian order was favored by Romans, probably because of its slender propeties. We can find this order in a lot of Roman architectural monuments, such as the Temple of Mars Ultor, the Pantheon in Rome, and theand the Maison Carrée in Nîmes.

The Maison Carrée is an ancient building in Nîmes, southern France. (4-7 AD)

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Corinthian columns on a neo-classical style building (U.S. Post Office on Broadway) in New York City

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