Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions


Tierceron & Lierne Vaults

Click to enlarge
Tierceron vault

The TIERCERONGlossary Term VAULTGlossary Term has additional ribs (tiercerons, from tierce, third) springing from wall shaftGlossary Term or pierGlossary Term at the corner of each bayGlossary Term to the ridge ribs along the apexes of the vaultGlossary Term.

Click to enlarge
Wells Cathedral. Chapter House

The type was developed from the 13th to early 14th centuries; examples of increasing richness can be seen in the cathedrals of Lincoln, Ely, Exeter and Wells Cathedral Chapter HouseGlossary Term. Although the tiercerons are not structurally essential, they are given the same thickness as the principal diagonal ribs; as a result the visual division of the vaultGlossary Term into quadrangular bays disappears.

Click to enlarge
Gloucester Cathedral, Choir

LIERNE VAULTS have short linking ribs (liernesGlossary Term, from French lier to bind) in the crownGlossary Term of the vaultGlossary Term between the main ribs. They provide the opportunity for additional carved bosses at the junctions. At its most elaborate, such a vaultGlossary Term resembles a net stretched below the roof, creating a pattern which ignores the tradition of individual bayGlossary Term divisions.

Further Reading:

On different types of 14th-century vaults, see: Jean Bony, The DecoratedGlossary Term Style, 1979



Division of an elevation or interior space as defined by regular vertical features such as arches, columns, windows etc.

Chapter house

The place of assembly for the members of a monastery or cathedral, usually located off the east side of the cloister.


The upper part of an arch or vault.


A distinctive phase of English Gothic which developed at the end of the 13th century and continued into the later 14th; sometimes abbreviated to Dec. Named from its elaborate window tracery, which abandoned the simple circular forms of Geometric in favour of more varied patterns based on segments of circles. Dec tracery makes much use of ogee or reversed curves, which were combined in the 14th century to produce reticulated and flowing tracery composed of trefoils, quatrefoils and dagger shapes. Similar inventiveness is seen in the patterns produced by the lierne and tierceron vaults of the period, in the three-dimensional handling of wall surfaces broken up by canopy work and sculpture and in imaginative spatial planning making use of diagonal axes.


Short decorative ribs in the upper part of a vault, not linked to any springing point; hence lierne vault.


Large masonry or brick support, often for an arch. A compound pier is composed of grouped shafts, or a solid core surrounded by shafts.


Vertical member of round or polygonal section, including the main part of a classical column, and by extension also of a pilaster.


In a rib-vault, an extra decorative rib springing from the corner of a bay; hence tierceron vault.


An arched stone roof, sometimes imitated in timber, plaster etc. For the different kinds see barrel vault, fan-vault, groin-vault, rib-vault, sail vault.