Solomonic Column

Pope benedict XVI sits between two Solomonic Columns at Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

A Solomonic column, also known as a barley-sugar column or a spiral column, is a column with a twisting or spiraling shaft.

Features of a Solomonic Column

  • Shaft of the column is turned in a twisting, corkscrew pattern
  • Capital (top) of the column can take many shapes, including the Classical Ionic and Corinthian forms

History of the Solomonic Column

The spiral shape, common in nature, has adorned buildings since the dawn of recorded history. According to legend, spiral columns ornamented the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. However, if Solomon's Temple existed, it was destroyed more than 500 years BC. In 333 AD, Constantine, the first Christian emperor, used spiral columns in a basilica dedicated to St. Peter. Could these columns have been relics from the Temple of Solomon? No one knows.

A new St. Peter's, constructed in the 16th century, incorporated spiral columns. Cosmatesque style mosaics decorate twisted Solomonic columns at the Basilica Of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Over the centuries, the spiral Solomonic column shape became became incorporated into many styles, including:

  • Byzantine
  • Moorish
  • Islamic
  • Romanesque
  • Baroque
  • American Spanish Revival
  • Spanish Mission

Craftsmen in England, France, and the Netherlands also used spiral-shaped columns and posts to ornament furniture, clocks and alters. In England, the corkscrew detailing became known as barley sugar or barley-sugar twists.

Learn More

  • Also Known As: Barley-sugar column, barleysugar column, spiral column, torso column, twisted column, turned column, curly column, corkscrew column
  • Common Misspellings: solmic, salamic, salomonic, solomic
  • Examples: Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
  • Book: Cosmatesque Ornament: Flat Polychrome Geometric Patterns in Architecture by Paloma Pajares-Ayuela, Norton, 2002