Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Thursday 6th May 2021

Walls and Windows

stone [1] became widespread from the late 11th century, when the NormanGlossary Term [2] invaders asserted their power by building defensive castles and by reconstructing cathedral and abbey churches on an imposing scale inspired by Continental and ultimately ancient RomanGlossary Term [3] precedent. The technique of thick wall construction which they employed was especially suitable for castles and towers, but was also adapted for major churches.

Outer skins of masonry enclose a rubbleGlossary Term [4] core, resulting in a wall at least six feet thick, whose bulk gave it such stability that the core could be omitted in places to create upper passages or even small chambers.

How did masons make thick walls look less heavy?

windows [5] during the 12th century was a response to an enthusiasm for allowing more lightGlossary Term [6] to enter the building. At the same time the developing skills of the glassmaker meant that windows could be used as a medium for illuminated pictorial imagery. In GothicGlossary Term [7] buildings larger windows combined with stone vaulting [8] could reduce the wall to a skeletal structure, with the weight of the vaults taken by projecting buttresses, sometimes with 'flying' arches anchored by tall pinnacles. The adoption of the pointed archGlossary Term [9] - the most obvious signature of the GothicGlossary Term [10] style - allowed for a more efficient handling of stresses and for greater versatility in design, as arches could be adapted to fit different widths.

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009