AskDefine | Define portico

Dictionary Definition

portico n : a porch or entrance to a building consisting of a covered and often columned area [also: porticoes (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



Italian, from Latin porticus, porch, from porta, gate


  • a RP /ˈpɔːtɪkəʊ/


portico (plural: porticoes, porticos)
  1. A porch, or a small space with a roof supported by columns, serving as the entrance to a building.



Related terms

Extensive Definition

A portico is a porch that is leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls. This idea first appeared in Ancient Greece and has influenced many cultures, including most Western cultures.
Some famous examples of porticos are the East Portico of the United States Capitol, and the portico adorning the Pantheon in Rome.
Bologna, Italy, is very famous for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 kilometres of arcades, some 38 in the city center. The longest portico in the world, about 3.5 km, leads from the edge of the city up to Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.
Palladio was a pioneer of using temple-fronts for secular buildings. In the UK, the temple-front applied to The Vyne, Hampshire was the first portico applied to an English country house.
A pronaos is the inner area of the portico of a Greek or Roman temple, situated between the portico's colonnade or walls and the entrance to the cella, or shrine. Roman temples commonly had an open pronaos, usually with only columns and no walls, and the pronaos could be as long as the cella. The word pronaos is Greek for "before a temple". In Latin, a pronaos is also referred to as an anticum or prodomus.

Types of portico

The different variants of porticos are named by the number of columns they have.


The tetrastyle has four columns; it was commonly employed by the Greeks and the Etruscans for small structures such as public buildings and amphiprostyles.
The Romans favoured the four columned portico for their pseudoperipteral temples like the Temple of Portunus, and for amphiprostyle temples such as the Temple of Venus and Roma, and for the prostyle entrance porticos of large public buildings like the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine.
The White House' North Portico is perhaps the most famous four-columned portico in the United States.


Hexastyle buildings had six columns and were the standard facade in canonical Greek Doric architecture between the archaic period 600–550 B.C up to the Age of Pericles 450–430 B.C.

Greek hexastyle

Some well-known examples of classical Doric hexastyle Greek temples:
  • The group at Paestum comprising the Temple of Hera (c. 550 B.C), the Temple of Apollo (c. 450 B.C), the first Temple of Athena ("Basilica") (c. 500 B.C) and the second Temple of Hera (460–440 B.C)
  • The Temple of Athena Aphaia (the invisible) at Aegina c. 495 B.C
  • Temple E at Selinus (465–450 B.C) dedicated to Hera
  • The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, now a ruin
  • Temple F or the so-called "Temple of Concord" at Agrigentum (c. 430 B.C), one of the best-preserved classical Greek temples, retaining almost all of its peristyle and entablature.
  • The "unfinished temple" at Segesta (c. 430 B.C)
  • The Hephaesteum below the Acropolis at Athens, long known as the "Theseum" (449–444 B.C), also one of the most intact Greek temples surviving from antiquity)
  • The Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sunium (c. 449 B.C)
Hexastyle was also applied to Ionic temples, such as the prostyle porch of the sanctuary of Athena on the Erechtheum, at the Acropolis of Athens.

Roman hexastyle

With the colonization by the Greeks of Southern Italy, hexastyle was adopted by the Etruscans and subsequently acquired by the ancient Romans. Roman taste favoured narrow pseudoperipteral and amphiprostyle buildings with tall columns, raised on podiums for the added pomp and grandeur conferred by considerable height. The Maison Carrée at Nîmes, France, is the best-preserved Roman hexastyle temple surviving from antiquity.


Octostyle buildings had eight columns; they were considerably rarer than the hexastyle ones in the classical Greek architectural canon. The best-known octostyle buildings surviving from Antiquity are the Parthenon in Athens, built during the Age of Pericles (450–430 B.C), and the Pantheon in Rome (125 A.D). The destroyed Temple of Divus Augustus in Rome, the centre of the Augustan cult, is shown on Roman coins of the 2nd century AD as having been built in octostyle.


The decastyle has ten columns; as in the temple of Apollo Didymaeus at Miletus, and the portico of University College London.


  • Greek architecture Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1968
  • Stierlin, Henri Greece: From Mycenae to the Parthenon, TASCHEN, 2004, Editor-in-chief Angelika Taschen, Cologne, ISBN 3-8228-1225-0
  • Stierlin, Henri The Roman Empire: From the Etruscans to the Decline of the Roman Empire, TASCHEN, 2002, Edited by Silvia Kinkle, Cologne, ISBN 3-8228-1778-3
portico in Catalan: Pòrtic
portico in Czech: Portikus
portico in Danish: Portico
portico in German: Portikus
portico in Spanish: Pórtico
portico in French: Portique (architecture)
portico in Georgian: პორტიკი
portico in Macedonian: Портико
portico in Dutch: Portico
portico in Polish: Portyk
portico in Portuguese: Pórtico
portico in Slovak: Portikus
portico in Swedish: Portik
portico in Italian: Portico

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