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Styles & Traditions

Geometric Tracery

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Westminster Abbey, London., E end

'GeometricGlossary Term' is a termGlossary Term used for the early type of bar traceryGlossary Term, a French invention adopted for the East end of Westminster Abbey, begun in 1245. The chapel windows, seen to the left, are divided into two lights separated by a slim central mullionGlossary Term with a pointed archGlossary Term above filled by a foiled circle.

The principal of the window with several lights surmounted by a circle could be elaborated for larger areas, by increasing the number of lights and circles. Large C13 windows of the GeometricGlossary Term period had an even number of lights arranged in pairs, each pair with its own circle. See how a complex GeometricGlossary Term window is composedThe largest example is the eight-lightGlossary Term east window of Lincoln Cathedral Angel ChoirGlossary Term where the window is made up of two times two pairs, or 4 + 4 lights, with a total of 13 circles of different sizes in the window head.

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Types include: Basket arch or Anse de Panier (French, lit. basket handle): three-centred and depressed, or with a flat centre. Chancel: dividing chancel from nave or crossing in a church. Crossing: spanning piers at a crossing in a church. Depressed or three-centred: with a rounded top, but curving inward more at the sides. Four-centred: with four arcs, the lower two curving inward more than the upper, with a blunt central point; typical of late medieval English architecture. Jack arch: shallow segmental vault springing from beams, used for fireproof floors, bridge decks, etc. Ogee (adjective ogival): a pointed arch with a double reverse curve, especially popular in the 14th century; a nodding ogee curves forward from the wall face at the top. Parabolic: shaped like a chain suspended from two level points, but inverted. Relieving or discharging: incorporated in a wall to relieve superimposed weight. Shouldered: with arcs in each corner and a flat centre or lintel. Skew: spanning responds not diametrically opposed. Stilted: with a vertical section above the impost i.e. the horizontal moulding at the springing. Strainer: inserted in an opening to resist inward pressure. Three-centred: see Depressed, above. Transverse: spanning a main axis (e.g. of a vaulted space). Triumphal arch: influential type of Imperial Roman monument, free-standing, with a square attic or top section and broad sections to either side of the main opening, often with lesser openings or columns. Tudor: with arcs in each corner joining straight lines to the central point. Two-centred: the simplest kind of pointed arch.

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.


English Gothic architecture c. 1240-1290. During this period the French invention of bar tracery allowed for larger windows subdivided by stone mullions and tracery, in place of the single lancets of the Early English style. Geometrical tracery is the earliest kind of this bar tracery, i.e. with patterns formed by intersecting moulded ribwork continuing upwards from the mullions, using simple forms, especially circles, chiefly foiled.


Compartment of a window defined by the uprights or mullions.


Vertical member between window lights.


Pedestal or pilaster tapering downward, usually with the upper part of a human figure growing out of it; sometimes called a terminal figure.