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Usually square uppermost part of capital.


A thistle-like Mediterranean plant, whose serrated leaves were the model for Corinthian capitals, and is often modified and used as a decorative motif on Romanesque capitals.


The side of a nave (q.v.) separated from the nave proper by a colonnade; by extension, a similar feature in the transept (q.v.) or choir (q.v.).


Passageway around the choir, often a continuation of the side aisles of the nave. Cf. Radiating chapels.


Or altar frontal, ornamental covering for the front of an altar, originally made of fabric; later produced in stone, wood, precious metals or enamel; often contains figurative or symbolic pictures.


Object, picture or symbol used primarily in folk art to ward off evil; important feature of representations of animals and demons in Romanesque art.

Apse   A semi-circular or polygonal vaulted space behind the altar in a church.
Apsidiole   Small apse-like chapel.
Arcade   A series of arches carried on piers or columns.
Archivolt   Molding around the face of an arch, often ornamental.
Ashlar   Hewn or squared stone, or stone facing.
Atrium   The colonnaded forecourt on the west side of an Early Christian church, originally the open central forecourt of an Roman house; cf. Galilee.


Barrel vault  

Semi-cylindrical vault with parallel abutments and of constant cross-section.


In the architectural sense use in this sites, a rectangular building with a definite orientation (i.e. symmetrical about the longitudinal axis only), consisting of a central nave (q.v.) and side aisles (q.v.) separated by colonnades, with or without a transept (q.v.). Cf. Central plan.



  A vaulted division of a nave, aisle, choir or transept (qq.v.) along its longitudinal axis.
Biforium   Window divided into two arched areas by central column.


(arch, arcade)

  An arch or arcade with no opening, usually as decoration on a wall.


Callote   The interior of a small dome or domical vault.
Capital   The head of a column.
Central-plan building  

Building symmetrical about its central point; a Central-plan building may be round, square, polygonal or cross-shaped. Cf. Basilica.

Chancel   Interchangeable with Choir (q.v.); sometimes, the area in front of the altar.
Chevet   An apse (q.v.), typically with ambulatory (q.v.)  and radiating chapels (q.v.)
Choir   Term borrowed from classical Greek theater, used in Christian architecture to refer to the area at the end of the nave which is reserved for the clergy or monks, and which contains the altar and choir stalls.
Choir stalls   The rows of stepped seats on either side of the choir, facing inwards, for the use of the clergy.
Clerestory   The exterior wall of a nave (q.v.), above the level of the aisles (q.v.), with windows.
Cloister   Quadrilateral enclosure surrounded by covered walkways, the centre of activity for the inhabitants of a monastery.
Concha   Semi-circular niche with a semi-dome, usually called an apse.
Console   Ornamental bracket that projects from the wall; also called a corbel.
Corbel   see Console
Crossing   The area of a church where the nave is intersected by the transept.

Underground chamber beneath the altar in a church, usually containing a saint´s relics. Though the chamber is underneath the choir, it can some times extend as far as the crossing. It is not always completely underground, so that the choir and altar are sometimes considerably higher than the nave and aisles; as a result, very impressive flights of steps were some times built to connect nave and choir.




Tree-ring dating, method of dating the age of trees by the number of rings. The varying tree growth in dry and wet years causes uneven yearly rings; because of this, it is possible to use trees grown over a period of time in the same climate to produce a sequence of tree-rings. This is turn makes it possible to date the wood used in buildings precisely.

Domical vault  

A dome-like vault with diagonal and transverse ridge ribs, used mainly in the Late Romanesque architecture of south-west France and Westphalia.


Central tall, strong tower in French castles which, unlike the keep, was designed for permanent habitation.


The room where monks slept in monasteries, and later, when individual cells were introduced, the term was applied to the building or floor which contained the cells.

Dwarf gallery  

A low exterior passage lit by an equally low arcade, just below the roof of a building and usually in the apse of a church.



Engaged column   A column embedded in a wall, not free-standing.


or gospel book


A liturgical book (handwritten in the Middle Ages, printed later) containing the complete text of the Gospels. Evangeliaries are among the most impressive examples of medieval book illumination.




Wall painting done with pigments suspended in water, which are painted onto wet plaster; the pigments are united permanently with the plaster as they dry.




A chapel or porch at the entrance to a church.


An upper storey, similar to a tribune, running along the side of a building and open on one side to the interior; in a church (basilica) above the side aisles, over the ambulatory (central-plan building) and also over the west end. The gallery was used to keep certain groups of worshippers apart (women, noblemen).

Great Hall   Main living quarters of a castle or imperial palace.
Groin vault  

Type of vaulting caused by two equally large barrel vaults (q.v.) crossing at right angles; the angle formed by the intersecting vaults in the groin, hence the term.



Hall church   Church whose nave (q.v.) and aisles (q.v.) are of equal height; a similar form has a raised nave but no clerestory (q.v.). Loosely, an aisle-less church.
Iconography   Originally the discipline concerned with determining Classical portraits. In art history, the researching and interpretation of the content and symbolism of depicted object, and in particular, Christian picture themes; and important feature is the consideration and researching of literary sources in philosophy and theology, which influenced the various motifs and the way they were depicted.
Impost   In church architecture, the course of stone at the top of column or pilaster from which the arch or vault springs, and which transfers its weight to the column or brickwork. Also: Voussoir.
Intrados   The inner face of an arch or vault.


Jamb   The part of wall (cf. Reveal) lying at an angle to the sides of windows or portals, frequently containing columns or statuary within each stepped area. Cf. Portal.


Keep   Tall, strong tower in medieval castle, used as an observation post and last refuge for those living in the castle, and, unlike the donjon, not designed for permanent habitation.

© Ing. arch. Milan Falta    2015



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