Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions

Stone Vaulting

The introduction of stone vaulting below the timber roof revolutionised the appearance of major churches. Stone vaults had the advantage of being fireproof, but also traditionally possessed symbolic significance as a way of marking the site of an especially sacred space, such as tombs or relic chambers in crypts. From the 11th century onwards, as major churches were rebuilt on an increasingly ambitious scale, they sought to recapture the grandeur of the ancient RomanGlossary Term basilicaGlossary Term, and the principle of the vaulted sacred space was extended to the whole building. The invention of the rib-vault, combined with the pointed archGlossary Term, made it possible for the vaultGlossary Term to be carried on walls pierced by large openings, as the ribs directed the thrust to the corners of each bayGlossary Term and flying buttresses helped to stabilise the weight of the heavy masses of masonry. From the 13th century onwards GothicGlossary Term stone vaults were elaborated to produce complex patterns by the addition of extra ribs and elaborately carved and painted bosses at their intersections.


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