niche

A niche in classical architecture is an exedra or an apse that has been reduced in size, retaining the half-dome heading usual for an apse. Nero’s Domus Aurea (AD 64–69) was the first semi-private dwelling that possessed rooms that were given richly varied floor plans, shaped with niches and exedras; sheathed in dazzling polished white marble, such curved surfaces concentrated or dispersed the daylight.
The word derives from the Latin nidus or nest, via the French niche. The Italian nicchio for a sea-shell may also be involved, as the traditional decoration for the top of a niche is a scallop shell, as in the illustration, hence also the alternative term of “conch” for a semi-dome, usually reserved for larger exedra.
In Gothic architecture, a niche may be set within a tabernacle framing, like a richly-decorated miniature house (“aedicule”), such as might serve for a reliquary. The backings for the altars in churches (“reredos”) can be embedded with niches for statues. Though a niche…

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