The cushion is a very ancient article of furniture; the inventories of the contents of palaces and great houses in the early Middle Ages constantly made mention of them. Cushions were then often of great size, covered with leather, and firm enough to serve as a seat, but the steady tendency of all furniture has been to grow smaller with time.
Cushions were, indeed, used as seats at all events in France and Spain at a very much later period, and in Saint-Simon's time we find that in the Spanish court they were still regarded as a peculiarly honourable substitute for a chair. In France, the right to kneel upon a cushion in church behind the king was jealously guarded and strictly regulated, as we learn again from Saint-Simon. This type of cushion was called a carreau, or squaer. When seats were rude and hard, cushions may have been a necessity; they are now one of the minor luxuries of life.
The term cushion is given in architecture to the sides of the Ionic capital. It is also applied to an early and simple form of the Romanesque capitals of Germany and England, which consist of cubical masses, square at the top and rounded off at the four corners, so as to reduce the lower diameter to a circle of the same size as the shaft.