In architecture, a tympanum (plural, tympana) is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window, which is bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element.
In ancient Greek, Roman and Christian, tympana usually contain religious imagery, when on religious buildings. A tympanum over a doorway is very often the most important, or only, location for monumental sculpture on the outside of a building. In classical architecture, and in classicising styles from the Renaissance onwards, major examples are usually triangular; in Romanesque architecture, tympana have a semi-circular shape, or that of a thinner slice from the top of a circle, and in Gothic architecture they have a more vertical shape, coming to a point at the top. These shapes naturally influence the typical compositions of any sculpture within the tympanum.
In medieval French architecture the tympanum is often supported by a decorated pillar called a trumeau.
Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing) by Frederick Hart, tympanum over center doors, Washington National Cathedral.
Tympanum of Kumari-ghar at Basantapur Durbar Square,Kathmandu
The three tympana on the main façade of Notre-Dame de Paris, France
Tympanum of Banteay Srei, Cambodia, depicting Sunda and Upasunda fight over the Apsara Tilottama.
Sculpted tympanum in Stralsund, Germany
High-relief bronze tympanum of Writing, Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, DC, USA
Romanesque Tympanum in the cathedral of Trier from about 1180
Typanum of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Philippines
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Tympanum.|