Look Up and Tell Us About the Most Incredible Decorated Ceilings!

Stumbling upon the Strahov Library in Prague was a beautiful surprise. Such a hidden gem. And the sweet docents are an added bonus <3.


The oldest part of Winchester Cathedral in England. Love the geometrics. Amazing that it is still in such good shape, given the age.


Oh, yeah. Los Angeles Central Library is pretty gorgeous.


Wow, thanks Eric, for kicking off another awesome thread!

I love this topic in particular, because “looking up” has felt like a moral imperative ever since I read, a young child, The Phantom Tollbooth. There’s a story in there about two cities, one in which Milo finds himself, that’s ugly and falling apart, and another city that’s off in the distance and magnificent. Milo learns the city he’s in became dirty because it’s inhabitants realized they could get to where they were going faster if they looked down at their feet while they walked. So everyone did, and they never noticed all the decay. The gleaming city in the distance was the city they thought they were really in…

So looking up is important, and fun!

Here are some of my favorite rewards for having looked up:

The ceiling of the I.M. Pei’s East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

And the lovely pattern of sunlight it casts on the floor, which is mirrored again in shadows of the coffered first floor ceiling.

Inspired, no doubt, by Louis Kahn’s ceilings for the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut.

(Detail photo by Liz Waytkus via Flickr)

And possibly also by the complex vaults of the lofty Kings College Chapel which I got to see at Cambridge University in England.

And… also, possibly inspired by… Frank Lloyd Wright’s ceilings for the Johnson Wax headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. (Pictured here: the lobby entrance. Fun fact: to celebrate the revolutionary chemistry which was being researched there, the glass rods in the ceiling are meant to evoke, and are actually made from the same glass as, test tubes!)

And at that same place, another stunning ceiling I’ve visited is the incredible lilypad forest of the Johnson Wax main administration room.

Some less transparent but nonetheless magnificent ceilings I’ve seen and loved include:

Rockwell Kent’s 1930’s ceiling murals at the jewel box Cape Cinema in Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod.

And all the way at the other end of the scale, the ceiling of one of the largest theaters in the world, at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

And in New York, one of my favorite ceilings from anywhere in the world, which comes complete with illuminated stars (!), is the massive barrel vault floating over Grand Central Terminal.

Which (fun fact!) has a hidden secret: when the restorers finished the years-long work which revealed the vivid color of the original painting, they left a tiny square un-restored, showing how thickly dark it had become from the previous century of cigarette and cigar smoke of commuting New Yorkers.

Lastly, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, the newest grand ceiling is at Santiago Calatrava’sOculus” at the World Trade Center. I’ve been there many, many times, but didn’t know until right now when I saw it on the web… The glass arc of the ceiling’s pinnacle opens up every year on September 11th, and the sun traces a beam of light across the length of the glowing chamber.


Both the train station and theater in Groningen (NL) have incredible ceilings. The one in the train station is remarkable since it’s painted paper mache, the one in the theater is colorful and a great contrast with the red velvet and gold decor below



Definitely seconding Chieza Sant’Inazio. The ceiling by Jesuit Bro. Andrea Pozzo opens up and invites the viewer to gaze into the heavens. Figures representing the four corners of the world beckon to global missionary reach of the Jesuit order. Above the transept, Pozzo created a false dome, tricking the viewer as they approach.


You couldn’t do a list like this without the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Breathtaking!!

  1. I didn’t read The Phantom Tollbooth until I was in my 30s and now I’m mad at all the adults who brought me up for not introducing me to it.
  2. Grand Central is easily one of my favorite ceilings.
  3. If we’re getting into movie theater ceilings, I may have to do a rundown of our collection here in LA. It is, after all, our local obsession. There’s not a cathedral in Los Angeles that looks as religious as our movie houses.

Oof. Didn’t see this at all. That’s what I get for booking the discount tour.

Oh I love the Phantom Tollbooth! And thank you for so many great roofs!

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Agra Fort, Agra, India. Carved details into marble


Small, but mighty. Small details in Adham Khan’s tomb, New Delhi, India.


Church of Christ Scientist, Boston, MA.


Galeries Lafayette, department store

L’église de la Madeleine

Napoleon Hall, Louvre


Notre Dame, before the fire

Petit Palais

Basilica of Notre Dame

Not sure which churches, there are so many

National Museum of Art



Three of my favorite ceilings are in Paris. First is in Galleries Lafayette:

Second is in the restaurant Fermette Marbeuf (currently closed for renovation):

And, last but not least, Marc Chagall’s ceiling in the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House):


What’s even more amazing is that this was all very deliberate. Apotheosis in the title means raising of a person to god-like status or idol. Also, the painter was really into the renaissance so there’s that to lol. Thanks for sharing :fist:


The recently restored Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress in Washington DC has beautiful ceilings.


The redwood 19th century ceiling of the Crown Room at the Hotel Del Coronado (San Diego) is beautiful.crown-room-at-hotel-del


It may not be as spectacular as some of the other ceilings that have already been posted, but I really love the dragon painted on the ceiling of the main hall of Tofuku-ji in Kyoto.
Here’s a sorta crummy photo I took of it:


Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold in West Virginia