From the second floor visitors have an unobstructed view of the interior ornamentation of inner dome. Here visitors’ cannot help but find their eyes drawn upward in wonderment. The Rotunda rises nearly 100 feet from a circular walk on the second floor to the oculus, a large window located at the apex of the dome. Sixteen windows, each surrounded by eighteen light bulbs, shed light on the great domed space. The ornamentation of the dome includes bands of cast iron, plaster, and painted canvas. Like the rest of the building, the Rotunda ornamentation features design motifs common to neoclassic architecture, including columns with Corinthian capitals, egg and dart moldings, and festoons featuring cornucopias and fruit.
While a rotunda is a feature of nearly every state capitol in the United States, the California State Capitol Rotunda is by no means generic. In fact, perhaps the most impressive decorations in the Rotunda are those related the California’s State symbols. A band of cast iron grizzly bears look down on visitors and stylized versions of Minerva, the Roman goddess who is featured of the Great Seal of California, set atop the arched openings that lead into the second floor rotunda walkway. Such California specific ornamentation exists throughout the rest of the building.
What visitors cannot see is the fact that directly above the Oculus is a circular metal staircase that extends another 90 feet to the Cupola, a small open space located on top of the Capitol’s outer dome.
The frescoing of the interior dome reflects the Renaissance Revival style popular during Victorian times.
Classical Renaissance Elements
Fleur-de-lis patterns hand painted in soft pastels and decorative plaster festoons adorned in gold reflect light from the dome's skylights down to the halls below.
Majestic eagles, representing the United States, grace the Corinthian capitals of the 16 pilasters that surround the rotunda. California's grizzly bear can be seen on the 16 rondos in the frieze at the base of the dome.