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Styles & Traditions


Gothic Windows and Tracery

The commonly used names, Early EnglishGlossary Term, DecoratedGlossary Term and PerpendicularGlossary Term were first used by Thomas Rickman, in his Attempt to Discriminate the Style of Architecture in England, first published 1812-15.  Choose from the options below to learn more about the different phases of traceryGlossary Term.

Inside Gothic Windows and Tracery:
Early English Tracery
Geometric Tracery
Decorated Tracery
Perpendicular Tracery

The grouped lancetGlossary Term windows of the Early English period of GothicGlossary Term gave way by the mid 13th century to the traceryGlossary Term window. GothicGlossary Term traceryGlossary Term is based on the geometry of circles, as is clearly visible in the earliest examples where the heads of the windows are filled by one or more roundels. The lower part of the window opening was divided up into several 'lights' by vertical mullions of coursed masonry, the roundels are composed of curved 'bars' of masonry, often with petal-like cusping around the inside of the circle.

This invention of 'bar traceryGlossary Term' began in France in the earlier 13th century, and was rapidly adopted in England from the 1240s, the rebuilt choirGlossary Term of Westminster Abbey providing a prestigious example of the Geometric style.

From the late 13th century and through the 14th century the geometry became more complicated and subtle; the complex patterns of the Decorated style were created by combining parts of circles to form exuberant flowing or net-like designs.

During the 14th century an alternative approach developed, in which the traceryGlossary Term was reduced to a grid of horizontals and verticals, hence its name Perpendicular, whose rectangular compartments were convenient frames for images. The change took places only gradually, many 'DecoratedGlossary Term' forms continuing in use in the 15th century."

Interactive - The Phases of Gothic Tracery


Bar tracery

A form of tracery introduced c. 1250, in which patterns are formed by intersecting moulded ribwork continuing upwards from the mullions. It was especially elaborate during the Decorated period of English Gothic, i.e. c. 1290-c. 1400.


The part of a cathedral, monastic church or collegiate church where services are sung.


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.

Early English

(E.E.): The first phase of English Gothic architecture, predominant in the period c.1180-c.1250, and making use of the pointed arch for openings and vaulting. Sometimes called lancet style from its use of single narrow windows. These can be grouped together to form plate tracery. Larger arches frequently have narrow multiple mouldings, heavily undercut. Stiff-leaf ornament in high relief, and compound piers (i.e. with groups of shafts), often making use of Purbeck marble, are also characteristic of the period.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


Slender single-light, pointed-arched window. Hence lancet style, the first phase of English Gothic architecture (c. 1180-1250; also called Early English), from its use of such windows.


English version of late Gothic, developed from the 1320s, which continued into the early 16th century; sometimes abbreviated to Perp. Characterised by large windows with a grid pattern of mullions and transoms, with the mullions continuing to the head to the arch, which is often of flattened or four-centred form. This motif of panel tracery is used also for wall decoration, and on the fan vaults that were used for the most prestigious buildings.


Openwork pattern of masonry or timber in an opening, especially the upper part of an opening; most common in Gothic architecture. Blind tracery is applied to a solid wall. Plate tracery, the earliest form, introduced c. 1200, has shapes cut through solid masonry. Bar tracery, introduced c. 1250, has patterns are formed by intersecting moulded ribwork continuing upwards from the mullions. Bar tracery types include: curvilinear tracery, with uninterrupted flowing curves, typical of the 14th century (also called flowing tracery); geometrical tracery, typical of c.1250-c.1310, which uses simple forms, especially circles, chiefly foiled; intersecting tracery, used c. 1300, formed by interlocking mullions each branching out in two curved bars of the same radius but different centres; loop tracery (Scots), used c. 1500-45, with large uncusped loop-like forms; panel tracery, with even upright divisions made by a horizontal transom or transoms; reticulated tracery, early 14th century, with net-like patterns of ogee- (double-curved) ended lozenges; Y-tracery, used c. 1300, which branches into a Y-shape.