MissPres Word of the Week: Pediment, Broken Pediment

E.L. Malvaney has a submitted request for this MissPres Word of the Week,  emailing along the photo below saying,

“…Another word I’ve recently thought of that should be a word of the week is “broken pediment.”

I suppose to break the rules you have to know them first, so here is the definition for Pediment, along with a photograph of a Pediment above a doorway at the New Capitol Building.  According to Cyril M. Harris and his Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, ….

Mississippi State Capitol [New Capitol](049-JAC-0001-NHL-ML) 400 blk Mississippi Street, Jackson, Hinds County from MDAH HRI database accessed 10-26-17

Pediment: (ˈpedəmənt) 1. In Classical architecture, a triangular gable usually having a horizontal cornice, with raked cornices on each side, surmounting or crowning a portico or another major division of a facade, end wall, or colonnade. 2. A gable above or over a door, window, or hood; usually has a cornice, crowned with another configuration (such as broken sides) or its base may be broke in the middle.  

Now since we know the rule we can go ahead and break it. :) Here is the definition for Broken Pediment, along with a photograph of a Broken Pediment over a doorway at Lewis Hall at Ole Miss.  According to Cyril M. Harris and his Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, ….

Physics Building [Lewis Hall](071-OXF-1014) Oxford, Lafayette Countyfrom MDAH HRI database accessed 10-26-17

Broken Pediment: (ˈbrōkən ˈpedəmənt) 1. A pediment whose sloping or curving sides terminate before reaching the pediment’s highest point, resulting in an opening that is often filled with an urn, cartouche, or other ornament; sometimes called an open pediment or broken-apex pediment. 

Below are some examples of Broken Pediments I was able to locate.

I also looked for other examples in my photos and ran across several structures of varying time periods and locations that employ a Broken Pediment. The Mississippi examples I found were Classical & Colonial Revival Style structures dating from the early 1800s to the mid 20th century.   My personal favorite use of the Broken Pediment in the bunch was on Auburn in Natchez. Built in 1812 it uses a variety of Broken Pediments over several interior doors.  The examples at Auburn fill the gap left by the break with a pineapple(?) and shell motifs.

Mr. Harris’ dictionary gives a second definition for Broken Pediment…

Broken Pediment: (ˈbrōkən ˈpedəmənt) 2. A pediment with sloping or curving sides whose base is broken in the middle; also called a broken-base pediment.  

While I did not search extensively, I have not yet located a Broken Pediment above a door or window in Mississippi that fits this second definition.  Does the example from the New Capitol fit this definition? Does anyone know of a building that might sport one?

Have you got a favorite Broken Pediment on a structure in Mississippi? Then share it with us! If you run across a Broken Pediment this week take a photo and upload it to the Preservation in Mississippi Flickr page.

Categories: Capitols Old & New, Greenville, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Natchez, Ocean Springs, Universities/Colleges


8 replies

  1. I wonder if that “pineapple” could be a pine cone? I can’t recall which historic building I was in, but a couple of years ago, the docent pointed this out as a pine cone and said it wasn’t a pineapple. Who knows if it was true, but to me it does look more pine-coney than pineappley, and I’m a recognized expert in distinguishing between the two.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I found an example of a broken base pediment on a gable on a photograph of the Howry-Hull house I took here in Oxford. It is not over a window or door, but is the same design as several examples I found from architectural glossaries. I will post it on Flickr and you pineapple/pinecone/acorn experts can weigh in of if it counts. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now if your looking for architectural pineapples this is the king, It’s about 20 miles down the road from me and despite being an architectural stone conservator I’m ashamed to say I’ve yet to visit it! I believe its been referred to as the most bizarre building in Scotland (and that’s saying something)


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh and if your wondering how I came across the MissPres site I was in the midst of researching this broken, broken pediment… :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lol, I’m enjoying imagining the conversation that took place between the guys responsible for this interesting bit of architecture.
      “I can’t put my finger on it, buddy, but something just looks… off, you know?”
      “Yeah, like almost . . . broken. What should we do to try to make it look better?”
      “I’ve got just the thing! Something I’ve been working on for a while and just haven’t known where it belongs! It’ll do just the trick here, guaranteed!”

      Liked by 1 person

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