The top part of a capital, not to be confused with an impost. Both of these terms have their roots in classical architecture. In a classical context the abacus is the upper part of a capital that the entablature rests on, while the impost is a heavy stone supporting an arch. Transferring the terms to medieval buildings has caused endless confusion and heated disagreements. The distinction applied here is explained more fully under impost.
A Mediterranean plant, with thick, fleshy, scalloped leaves. The Romanesque stylisation of the acanthus leaf, also called Winchester acanthus, is ultimately derived from that used in classical decoration, especially Corinthian and composite capitals, but bears little resemblance to the plant.
Applied to pairs of figures, animals, etc., placed symmetrically, back to back. They are still addorsed if their bodies are back-to-back and their heads are turned to face one another.
Applied to pairs of figures, animals etc., placed symmetrically, facing one another. They are still affronted if their bodies face one another with their heads turned back. Also called confronted.
Originally a stone table or block containing relics, consecrated for the celebration of the Eucharist. Nowadays most altars are simply wooden tables.
An arrangement of piers in an arcade in which two forms are used alternately, such as round and octagonal.
A roll moulding on an order, masking the edge between the face and the soffit (the arris).
A spiral form used at the corners of Ionic and Corinthian capitals, and their medieval derivatives.
A hanging for the front of the altar, originally of cloth but used to describe any kind of decoration in this position. Also called a frontal. See also reredos.
Highest point of arch, gable etc.
A series of arches supported by piers or columns: when applied to the surface of a wall it is called a blind arcade; when used ornamentally, it is called arcading.
An opening whose centre is higher than its sides. It may be a construction of stone voussoirs arranged to support each other and the weight of a wall above.
A horizontal stone supported by columns or piers. It is principally found in classical architecture, or in derivations from classical models, where it functions as an alternative to an arch.
One of the recessed orders of arches of a doorway etc. The wedge-shaped stones from which it is constructed are voussoirs.
The sharp edge where two surfaces meet at an angle.
Squared blocks of masonry cut to an even face.
A carved male figure used as a support; the female counterpart is a caryatid. In Classical architecture they are usually standing figures; in the Middle Ages they often kneel or bend under the weight.
A classical type common in the medieval period, with a concave moulding (scotia) between two convex ones (torus mouldings).
A cupboard or recess for sacred vessels, generally found in the north or south wall of the chancel.
A turned shaft usually combining convex and concave curves, typically found in the Anglo-Saxon period.
A form of cable ornament found, for example, on the neckings of capitals, in which the roll is carved like a screw-thread.
The moulded foot of a column, half-column, pier or pilaster, usually resting on a plinth.
A compartment in the layout of a church, marked by shafts, main arcade and often by vaulting over each single compartment.
An ornament resembling a string of beads. Not to be confused with nailhead.
An ornament in the form of a bird's head, or a human or beast's head, superimposed on the roll moulding of an arch. Beakhead is predominantly found on doorways as a repeated form but occasionally also on windows and chancel arches and, as a single motif, on corbels.
The tower or bell chamber of a tower where bells are hung, also known as the bell chamber.
A capital with a concave cone, like an inverted bell.
A small gabled or roofed housing for a bell or bells. See also bellcote.
A lightweight tower, usually of timber, erected on the roof of a church to house the bells. It is often set above the west gable of the nave.
An ornament consisting of a band or bands of raised short cylinders (roll billet) or square blocks (square billet) placed at intervals. When roll billet alternates with square billet it is called pipeline billet. Radial billet is an uncommon form of billet consisting of a row of half-discs set with their curved faces adjacent to one another. In an arch, the axes of the discs lie along radii of the arch, hence the name.
A series of arches supported by piers or columns applied to the surface of a wall.
The simplest form of capital, in which the top is square and the bottom round. The transition between them is most simply achieved by a gradual change of profile, but there are other options. The surface may be decorated. Variations are block capital with chamfers where the angles have triangular chamfers to effect the transition and block capital with ridges where the square shape of the top of the capital is preserved down to the necking by means of ridges at the angles.
A decoration applied to rolls, especially angle rolls in archivolts, consisting of three rings of which the middle is the largest.
A small rounded ornamental projection.
A base of bold, convex form.
A moulding in the form of a rope, often applied to the neckings of capitals and the rims of fonts. Double-strand cable has two strands of different thicknesses twisted together.
An excellent limestone for masonry and sculpture, quarried in medieval times around Caen (Calvados) and along the River Orne, and exported to England in large quantities after 1066.
An arch with a raised lintel supported on curved springers with short vertical extensions.
A moulding found for example on the neckings of capitals, in which the roll is carved as a series of concave rings, like a cane bangle or bag handle.
The architectural member which surmounts a column and supports an arch. It often provides the visual transition between a round column or shaft below and a square impost block above, which in turn supports the springing of the arch.
A carved female figure used as a support; the male counterpart is an Atlas.
A concave moulding of a quarter-circular section.
Form of decoration consisting of a row of rings joined together by clasps or masks. Occasionally, as in a metal chain, they are linked one to another.
A diagonal surface made when the sharp edge or arris of a stone block is cut away, usually at an angle of 45 degrees to the other two surfaces. It is called a hollow chamfer when the surface created is concave.
A chamfer applied to a base. This example has a plain chamfer.
A small carving, sometimes plain, sometimes ornamented, covering the transition between a chamfer and the main square faces of a block.
The east end of a church where the altar is situated, usually reserved for the use of the clergy and choir.
Decorative patterning arranged in squares as on a chequerboard.
A form of three-dimensional architectural ornament consisting of zigzags formed by mouldings. The term 'zigzag' is itself reserved for the essentially two-dimensional form. Forms are varied and complex, so a separate Chevron Glossary has been supplied.
Simple geometric patterns (often saltire-in-square or star pattern) bevelled into a surface.
A chisel with a serrated edge used for finishing ashlar surfaces in the 12thc., which leaves distinctive parallel tooling marks.
The uppermost storey of the walls of an aisled church, pierced by windows.
A pier formed of a number of shafts with no angular elements separating them. See also compound pier.
Decoration involving sunk square or polygonal ornamental panels. In the Roman period it was used as a vault decoration, and in the Middle Ages a similar ornament is often produced by complex arrangements of chevron or lozenge ornament.
A column of small dimensions.
A carved figure attached to a column.
A pier with several shafts attached or detached, or half-shafts against the faces of it. compound piers have angular pieces separating the rolls, clustered piers do not.
In a doorway, window or arcading, an arch which does not rest on a column and capital, but is carried uninterrupted to the plinth.
A corbel is a projecting block of stone or timber to support a feature above. A row of corbels, often carved, supporting a parapet, stringcourse or the eaves of a roof is called a corbel table.
British Romanesque versions of the Roman Corinthian capital are usually very simplified, and can vary widely in form, but always have angle volutes and one or more rows of leaves on the faces.
A moulded ledge, projecting horizontally along the top of a building or feature such as a screen, etc.
Wall built with regular layers (courses) of ashlar.
Wall made with irregular stones or flints levelled up in courses.
An ornamental finish along the top of a wall, screen or canopy.
A form of volute capital common around 1200. The angle volutes are elongated into hooked crockets, and there may be extra crockets projecting from the capital faces.
The central space at the junction of the nave, chancel and transepts of a cruciform church.
The tower over a crossing.
The vaulted chamber below the sanctuary or eastern arm of a church; usually at least partly underground. In monastic and secular buildings it is called an undercroft.
Normally described as a capital formed by the intersection of a cube and a sphere. It has flat semicircular faces below the abacus, and the triangular lower angles of the bell are all that remain of the spherical form. The semicircular faces are called shields. In variations of the cushion capital, the angles may be keeled or tucked. The shields and the bell may be decorated with carving.
Cusping is a repeated design of curved foils meeting at points (cusps).
A double-carved moulding of two types. Cyma recta has a concave curve above and a convex one below. Cyma reversa has a convex curve above and a concave below.
The area of a wall below window sill level, sometimes decorated with blind arcading and surmounted by a string course.
A round arch with a flattened head.
A repetitive geometric surface decoration composed of small lozenges or squares.
An ornament consisting of a series of four-pointed stars raised pyramidally.
A pilaster behind a half-column and wider than it.
Conical mouldings placed end to end in a row, sometimes used to decorate the orders of an arch.
Similar to fret but consisting of open triangles.
The overhanging edge of a roof.
An ornament of classical origin consisting of oval forms alternating with arrow heads. It is also called egg and tongue.
Laying of stones so that their strata (bedding planes) are vertical, rather than horizontal (the English term is edge-bedding). This technique allows long blocks of stone to be positioned upright, and is most commonly found in nook-shafts on doorways, especially those made of Purbeck 'marble'
Column attached to, or partly sunk into, a wall or pier.
A figure displaying its genitals, most commonly seen on corbels but sometimes on relief panels. It may also be known, euphemistically, as an acrobat.
The outer surface of an arch.
A narrow, flat, raised band running down a shaft or along a roll moulding.
An ornament at the top of a gable, pinnacle etc.
A surface ornament resembling the scales of a fish, consisting of rows of overlapping semicircular discs.
This has a broad, flat leaf at each corner, the pointed tip below the angle of the abacus. Similar to the waterleaf (see below), but the tips do not curve inwards.
A hard silicate rock found in the form of nodules in chalk geology. When fractured it exhibits a dark, glassy surface. Knapped flint has been deliberately fractured to give a shiny surface that can be used ornamentally. See also flushwork.
The decorative use of knapped flint and ashlar to produce surface patterns. Chequerwork is the simplest of these, but in the 14th-15th century flushwork was used for more complex ornaments, heraldic displays and lettering.
A series of shallow, concave grooves. In the Classical period, fluting was applied to the surface of shafts and columns, but its use was more varied in the Middle Ages.
A lobe defined by the curve of the cusping in an opening or panel, trefoil (three cusps), quatrefoil (four cusps), cinquefoil, multifoil. See also cusp
Any good quality fine-grained sandstone or limestone which cuts well in all directions.
Also called embattled ornament. Consists of horizontal and vertical straight mouldings, repeated to form a band, and often used in the decoration of arches.
A horizontal band in the plane of the wall decorated with ornamental or narrative relief.
The triangular upper portion of a wall to carry a pitched roof.
A storey above the aisle, opening on to the nave, also called a tribune; it is as wide as the aisle below it, and usually has its own windows.
The prepared ground of plaster and size for painting.
A vault produced by the intersection at right angles of two tunnel vaults. The curved intersections are called groins.
A geometric running ornament consisting of two or more intertwining bands.
Masonry laid diagonally along horizontal courses, each course laid in the opposite direction to that below it. Herringbone masonry is usually taken to be indicative of 11thc work.
An arch resembling a horseshoe in shape, usually round but sometimes pointed.
A figure made up of human, animal or imaginary forms combined to present a frightening, bizarre or comic appearance.
Horizontal projection immediately below the springing of an arch, sometimes immediately above the capital, sometimes used instead of a capital. Not to be confused with an abacus. The commonest C12th forms are chamfered, and hollow-chamfered. Either the upright face or the chamfer may be decorated, and there may be a quirk or an angle roll between face and chamfer.
Jambs arranged so they lean inwards towards the centre of the opening; a system more common in Ireland than elsewhere in the British Isles.
A form of decoration where individual carved strands or straps are intertwined, usually forming geometrical designs.
A base like an inverted cushion capital. Scalloped forms are also known.
The upright side of an archway, doorway, window or other opening. See also reveal.
Stones fitted together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
A moulding in profile resembling the cross section through the keel of a boat.
An ornamental form derived from the Greek key, or meander design. It should not be confused with fret.
The central stone in an arch or vault.
A projecting moulding above an arch or a lintel to deflect water. Also called a hoodmould or a dripstone.
Ornamental or figural terminations of a label.
A horizontal beam of stone or timber, bridging an opening. Often used in conjunction with the tympanum. When a lintel is triangular at the top, it is called a gabled lintel.
A diamond-shaped ornament.
A semicircular surface, often used as a field for carving; if it is above a door or window opening, it is a tympanum .
A round or elliptical halo usually framing the figure of Christ or the Virgin Mary.
Some of the types used in the 11thc. and 12thc. are:
Made of a single stone.
Enrichment in the form of a small pyramid repeated as a band.
An undulating (wavelike) form.
The circular moulding at the bottom of a capital.
A recess in a wall usually to contain a statue.
A roll moulding in the angle betwen two planes.
A shaft set in the angle of a pier, respond, jamb of a doorway or window.
A round opening or window, usually without stone tracery, but occasionally cusped. Oculus is the Latin word for 'eye'.
A masonry technique of square stones placed diagonally.
A male or female figure with the hands outspread in an attitude of prayer.
One of a series of recessed arches and supports on a doorway, chancel arch etc.
Classically-derived foliate form, often with voluted outer leaves
A screen at the entrance to a side chapel.
Round ornament, sunk like a dish. See also roundel.
A low pitched gable above doors, windows, etc.
A square or composite pillar performing a similar function to a column.
The flat version of a column against a wall. A pilaster strip is similar but without a base or capital.
A piscina in the form of a short shaft with a base and a capital hollowed out to carry water, usually set against a wall alongside an altar.
A termination crowning spires, etc. usually of pyramidal or conical shape, often carved.
A basin (free-standing or set in the wall) near the altar, usually on the south side, for washing vessels used in the Eucharist.
The projecting block beneath the base of a column, or projecting courses at the foot of a wall; the upper edge is usually chamfered or moulded.
An arch composed of segmental arcs struck from two or more centres. The two segments lean against one another and meet at a point.
Covered projecting entrance.
A colonnette or shaft merely suggested by the curved cutting of an angle stone and shallow vertical quirks.
The screen separating the choir from the nave and the choir from the aisles. See screen
A convex profile, usually applied to a frieze or impost (from the Latin word for a cushion).
Not a true marble, but a fossiliferous limestone quarried in Dorset from Peneril Point westwards to Warbarrow Tout. It ranges in colour from russet red, to greenish brown or blue grey, and is capable of taking a high polish. See also Sussex Marble.
Convex moulding of quarter circle profile, usually between fillets.
An arch in the form of a quarter-circle.
A vault divided into four sections by diagonal ribs of plain or moulded profile, springing from the corners of the bay.
A creamy-yellow limestone (but greyer than Caen stone) quarried in the Isle of Wight.
A deeply incised groove between mouldings.
Blocks of ashlar forming the corners of buildings.
An arch in which each voussoir is carved with motifs placed along the radius of the arch (as opposed to a tangential arch).
An enrichment comprised of parallel convex mouldings (the opposite of fluting)
An arch incorporated in a wall to redistribute some of the superimposed weight.
The arch on the inside of a doorway or window.
A decorated panel above and behind an altar.
A half pier or half column, bonded into a wall and supporting one end of an arch or arcade
That part of a jamb which lies between the door or the glass of a window and the outer wall surface. See also rear arch.
Arches forming part of vault.
A form of corbel decorated with a series of horizontal rolls. It is of Andalusian origin and is rare in England.
A convex moulding of a semi circular or greater section. If applied to the soffit of an arch, it is called soffit roll, if to the face of an arch, it is called a face roll. Composite roll mouldings are termed double or triple if the rolls are contiguous, or paired if they are separated by another feature.
The cross or crucifix. See also Rood beam, Rood loft, Rood screen, Rood stair.
A beam running across the chancel arch of a church carrying a cross or crucifixion, often flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist.
A narrow gallery allowing access to the rood on the upper section (the rood loft). It is reached by the rood stair.
A screen across the entrance to the sanctuary, topped by a rood beam.
A staircase from the nave of the church up to the rood loft. (Rood stairs in parish churches were mostly built in the 15th-early 16th centuries).
A rose-shaped carved decoration.
An arch in the form of a semicircle.
A circular relief. See also patera.
A wall of uncoursed rubble.
A strong room usually attached to the N side of the chancel where vestments and the utensils belonging to the altars were placed. It is synonymous with vestry
The area immediately around the main altar of a church.
A small bell rung during the mass, at the consecration of the host. It could simply be a handbell, but sometimes a small bell in the bell-chamber was used, and provision was made in the form of an opening to allow the ringer in the tower to see the sanctuary. In other cases the sanctus bell was mounted externally; outside the tower (as at Ickleton, Cambs) or in a bellcote on the east gable of the nave (as at Wingrave, Bucks). Bells in the tower or external bells could be heard by those not in church, and alerted them that a crucial stage in the mass had been reached.
An enrichment in the form of a band of raised triangles.
See fish scale .
A development of the cushion capital, where the shields and cones are multiplied to form double scallop, triple scallop or multi scallop capitals. Scallop capitals are susceptible to a large number of variations, of which the commonest include recessing the shields, or defining them with a groove; sheathing the cones, and carving wedges, fillets or rolls between the cones.
A concave moulding as on the base of a column betwen the two torus mouldings. See also base.
Seats for the clergy, generally on the S side of the chancel.
Part of a circle smaller than a semicircle.
An arch composed of a single segment, which is less than a semicircle.
A quadrupartite vault with an additional transverse rib passing through the point of intersection, i.e. composed of six separate surfaces.
The trunk of a column between the base and capital.
A ring around a circular pier or shaft.
The lower horizontal part of a window or door frame.
A development of the scallop capital where the cones appears to slip down the capital, leaving cusps where the shields would normally be.
The underside of an arch or lintel.
The triangular area between adjacent arches.
Angled reveal, a chamfered surface cut into the walls. The term usually refers to the widening of doorways, windows or other wall openings by slanting the jambs.
The first stone of an arch or vaulting rib above the springing point. A double springer is a gabled stone from which spring two adjoining arches.
The level at which an arch or vault rises from its supports.
An ornament seen on pier bases, running from the moulding of the base onto the angle of the square plinth. It is sometimes carved with foliage, animal or human heads, etc.
Fleshy leaf with a trefoil termination, extremely popular in England at the end of the 12thc and the beginning of the 13thc. It is often applied to capitals.
An arch with its springing line raised by vertical sections above the impost level.
The termination of a chamfer bringing the edge of a pared off stone back to a right angle. It may be a simple triangular plane, but is often ornamented with a pyramid or a scroll.
Holy water basin at the entrance to a church, usually on a pillar or set in a niche.
An horizontal course projecting from a wall, often moulded and at times richly carved.
Like Purbeck marble, a hard fossiliferous limestone capable of taking a high polish. It differs from Purbeck in having bigger fossils. Also known as Large Paludina Limestone, Petworth Marble, Bethersden Marble or Laughton Stone.
A gable which descends below the apex of an arch, the curve of which it passes or joins at a tangent.
Arch decorated with sculpture placed along the curve of the arch (as opposed to a radiating arch).
Either a block capital or a volute capital, with a T- shaped projection in the centre of each face.
A cushion capital without a sharply defined shield.
The small cubes of glass, stone, marble or flint used principally in mosaic but occasionally in sculpture.
The traces of an axe, chisel, drill etc. preserved on the stone. Precious evidence of carving practice.
The roll moulding on the base of a column or pier.
A blue black carboniferous limestone. When highly polished and waxed it has the appearance of black marble. It was quarried on the banks of the River Scheldt near Tournai and exported as raw material for sculpture but more frequently it was carved in the local workshops and exported as fonts, tombstones, columns etc.
Any arch used to support a vault, ceiling or roof, set at right angles to the space that it spans.
An ornament consisting of diagonals intersecting to form lozenges.
An arch with straight sides rising to a point.
The area of a wall, often arcaded, above the main arcade level and corresponding to the rafters of an aisle or gallery roof. Although it may contain a wall passage, it is not a gallery.
A form of cushion capital in which the shield is trilobed, the bell following the same profile.
A rocky deposit that forms when lime-rich water issues at springs. Because it has not been subjected to the pressures associated with normal sedimentation, it is a light honeycomb of a stone, readily carved into building blocks but not used for sculpture. It was used at Moccas and Bredwardine in Herefordshire.
The simplest form of vault, consisting of a continuous vault of semicircular or pointed sections.
A small tower, surmounting or attached to a building, usually used as a staircase.
The segmental field filling the head of an arch, generally over a doorway. It usually rests on a lintel.
An arched ceiling of stone.
A spiral scroll placed at each angle of a Corinthian-derived capital. The term strictly refers to the spiral scrolls of a classical capital but its more general sense applies to any curved ornament, particularly on capitals and consoles.
The wedge shaped stones forming an arch.
Any base with two rolls separated by a hollow deep enough to retain water.
Like a flat leaf capital, but with the leaves terminating in inturned spirals. The upper edge of the bell is sometimes carved between the leaf tips. The waterleaf form can be repeated, e.g. in octagonal pier capitals, to form multi-waterleaf capitals.
A wedge-shaped moulding usually separating roll mouldings..