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Glossary of Terms

AISLE The part of a church that runs parallel to the main areas - nave, choir, and transept - and is separated from them by an arcade.
APSE The circular or angular end of a church, usually the east end.
BUTTRESS Sometimes called a buttress pier, this is the large stone pier that rises across the aisle from the pier and is connected to the pier by a flying buttress.
CAPITAL The form, usually of stone, that supplies the visual transition between the top of a column and what ever the column supports.
CATHEDRAL A church of any size that contains the cathedra or bishop’s chair.
CENTERING The timber framework that supports the stones of an arch until the mortar between them is dry.
CHOIR The section of the church east of the transept that is sometimes raised above the level of the nave. It is called the choir because traditionally this is where the choir stands to sing during the service.
CLERESTORY The topmost part of the church building whose windows illuminate the central portion of the interior space.
CROWN The highest part of the church building whose windows illuminate the central portion of the interior space.
CRYPT A lower level, usually below ground, that is used for burial or as a chapel.
FLYING BUTTRESS A stone arch that carries the thrust vault to the buttress.
GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE The architectural style that developed in northern France and spread throughout Europe between 1150 and 1400. Large areas were covered by stone vaults supported on slender stone piers. By reducing the structure to piers the area between them could be and usually was filled with glass. The weight and pressure of the pointed vault is concentrated at the points where the vault touches the piers. This load is then split up. Some is carried down the pier to its foundation; the rest is carried across the flying buttress to the buttress and then down to is foundation. The most common features of Gothic architecture are the pointed arches and vaults, the large amounts of glass in the walls, and an overall feeling of great height.
HURDLES A Moveable work platform made of woven twigs.
KEYSTONE The central locking stone at the top of an arch.
LAGGING Temporary wooden planks or frames used to support the courses or layers of webbing stone until the mortar is dry.
MORTICE AND TENON A method of fastening one piece of wood to another. A mortice or square hole is cut into one piece of wood while a tenon or projection the same size as the hole is cut on the end of the other piece. The tenon is then tapped into the mortice, locking the two together without nails.
MULLION The narrow upright stone pier used to divide the panels of glass in a window.
NAVE The central area of a church where the congregation usually stands.
PIER The pillar or column that supports an arch.
RIB The stone arch that supports and strengthens the vault.
ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE The architectural style that developed between the end of the Roman Empire and around 1000a.d. in church architecture the nave became higher and narrower and the many columns that supported the triforium, clerestory, and roof were replaced by a few large piers. The flat wooden ceilings of the earlier churches, which kept burning down, were gradually replaced by round stone vaults. The round arch and the vault are the most common features of Romanesque buildings.
TEMPLATE The full-size wooden patter used by the stonecutter when he has to cut many pieces of stone the same size and shape.
TRACERY The decorative carved stonework of a medieval church window.
TRANSEPT In a Latin cross plan as at chateaux, the section that crosses the nave, usually separating the nave and choir.
TRIFORIUM The arcaded story between the nave arcade and the clerestory.
TRUSS A triangular wooden frame. The roof frame is constructed of a series of trusses fastened together.
TYMPANUM The sculptural area enclosed by the arch above the doors of a cathedral.
VAULT The form of construction, usually of brick or stone that is based on the shape of the arch. Used for the most part as a ceiling or roof.
VOUSSOIRS Blocks of stone cut in wedge shapes to form an arch.
WINDLASS A machine for hoisting or hauling. In the Middle ages this consisted of a horizontal wooden barrel with a long rope fastened to it. The barrel was supported at both ends. When it was turned the rope would gradually be wound up around it.