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The roofing of wide spaces presented a challenge to the medieval builder

which resulted in some of the most impressive creations of the middle ages.
The architecture of ancient Rome had provided precedents for different
types ofstone vaulting. Vaults continued to be constructed over small
spaces, but in England in the early middle ages large spans hadtimber roofs
, developing the practices known to have been established as early as the
7th century for the great timber halls of the Anglo-Saxons. Timber roofs
achieved great sophistication in the 14th and 15th centuries, using a variety
of techniques to cover wide spans.
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 ancientRomanbasilica, and the principle of the
vaulted sacred space was extended to the whole building.
The invention of therib-vault, combined with the pointedarch,
made it possible for thevault to be carried on walls pierced by
large openings, as the ribs directed the thrust to the corners of
eachbayand flying buttresses helped to stabilise the weight of the
heavy masses of masonry. From the 13th century onwards Gothic
stone vaults were elaborated to produce complex patterns by the
addition of extra ribs and elaborately carved and painted bosses at
their intersections.
Groin Vaults
. formed from two
intersecting barrel vaults
(the groins are the edges of
the intersections). They are
built of
heavyrubblemasonry and
so need adequate support.
They were used in the large Canterbury Cathedral, Kent., Crypt
crypts introduced by the
Normans below their new
abbeys and cathedrals,
where the space was divided
into a series of small bays by
numerous columns, as at
Canterbury, Worcester and
Rib Vaults
In theRIB-VAULTthe main thrust is carried by
masonry ribs to the corners of each.
The ribs of cut stone form a framework, so
that lighter material can be used to fill the
cells in between. The adoption of the stronger
and more adaptable pointedarch, a concept
borrowed from the eastern Mediterranean,
made it possible tovault awkwardly shaped
spaces while keeping thevaultto a more or
less even height.

From the later 13th century most

major churches aspired to stone
vaults, although such costly additions
were not always carried out, and
sometimes a timber vault simulating
stone was provided instead.
Tierceron & Lierne
TheTIERCERON VAULThas additional
ribs (tiercerons, from tierce, third)
springing from wallshaftorpierat
the corner of eachbayto the ridge
ribs along the apexes of thevault.
Gloucester Cathedral,
Tierceron vault
The type was developed from the Choir

13th to early 14th centuries;

Wells Cathedral. Chapter House
examples of increasing richness can
be seen in the cathedrals of Lincoln,
Ely, Exeter and Wells
CathedralChapter House. 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
thevaultinto quadrangular bays
LIERNE VAULTS have short linking ribs
(liernes , from French lien to bind) in
thecrownof thevaultbetween the main
They provide the opportunity for
additional carved bosses at the
At its most elaborate, such
avaultresembles a net stretched below
the roof, creating a pattern which
During the period of the Decorated Style there was an
ignores the traditionincrease
of and elaboration of intermediate ribs
(tiercerons), ridge ribs, and a new set of ribs known as
Lierne ribs, from the French lien to bind or hold. The
name "lierne" is applied to any rib, except a ridge rib,
not springing from an abacus.
In the early plain-ribbed vaulting each rib marked a
groin, i.e., a change in the direction of the vaulting
surface, but lierne ribs were merely ribs lying in a
vaulting surface, their form being determined
independently of such surface, which, however,
regulated their curvature.
These liernes, by their number and disposition, often
give an elaborate or intricate appearance to a really
Fan Vaults
The FAN VAULT is a sophisticated form of
barrel vault built of cut stone, consisting of
inverted conoids decorated with a fan of
purely decorative surface ribs, often with
pendant bosses.
Gloucester Cathedral, Cloister
Fan vaults appear at first over
small spaces, the earliest
known structural examples are
those of the 14th century in the Peterborough
cloister of Gloucester Cathedral,
Cathedral. Retrochoir
On a large scale
the fan vault
associated with
buildings in the
style of the end
othic Windows and Tracery
The commonly used names,Early English,Decoratedand
Perpendicularwere first used by Thomas Rickman, in hisAttempt to
Discriminate the Style of Architecture in England, first published 1812-15.
The grouped lancet windows of the Early English period of Gothic gave
way by the mid 13th century to the tracery window.
Gothic tracery 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 tracery' began in France in the earlier 13th century,
and was rapidly adopted in England from the 1240s, the rebuilt choir of
Westminster Abbey providing a prestigious example of the Geometric
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.

Early English Tracery
The adoption of the pointed arch in the later
encouraged a new and more flexible approach
to window design. Lancet windows could be
used separately if the space was tight, or
grouped together in a single composition, with
windows either of identical height, or
graduated to fill a gable wall.
The pointed arch was also used to transform
the Romanesque tradition of decorative
arcading .


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.
Geometric Tracery
'Geometric is a term used for the
early type of bar tracery, 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 mullion with a
pointed arch above filled by a foiled
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
windows of the Geometric period had an
even number of lights arranged in pairs,
each pair with its own circle. See how a
complex Geometric window is composed. Westminster Abbey, London., E en
The largest example is the eight-light east
window of Lincoln Cathedral Angel Choir
where the window is made up of two times
two pairs, or 4 + 4 lights, with a total of 13
Flamboyant Flowing tracery
The latest phase of Bar tracery with
French Gothic uninterrupted
architecture, with flowing curves,
flowing tracery. typical of the 14th
century; also called
curvilinear tracery.
(lit. leaf): Lobe formed by
the cusping of a circular or
other shape in tracery.
Trefoil (three), quatrefoil
(four), cinquefoil (five),
sexfoil (six) and multifoil
express the number of
lobes in a shape.
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
Intersecting tracery Kentish cusp
A type of bar tracery used In tracery in the
c. 1300, formed by Gothic style, a
interlocking mullions each cusp or curved
branching out in two projection which
curved bars of the same has a v-shaped
radius but different opening set
centres. within the apex.
Also called a split
A curved dagger-shaped motif in tracery, popular
especially in the 14th century.

With multiple lobes (foils) formed by the cusping of a
circular or other shape in tracery.

Panel tracery
Bar tracery with even upright divisions made by a
horizontal transom or transoms.