'Must Know' Structural Features of a
: A continuous aisle which wraps a circular structure or an apse at its base.
Designed for use in Processions.
Apse : Particular to the East end of Cathedrals, the Apse is a semicircular form serving as a culmination. The Apse, generally domed, will often form the Altar. The term is derived from the Medieval Latin: absis or apsis.
Choir : The section of a Cruciform Cathedral located between the Nave and the main Altar. But be careful! The exact perimeter of the Choir is often disputable from cathedral to cathedral. By definition: the place where the psalms are sung. Loosely used to define the whole East end of a cathedral, and as a synonym for Chancel.
Flying Buttress : A masonry support branching from the sturdy piers and vertical Standing buttresses. Their role is to transfer the great weight of the vaulted roofs off to this more solid support of the firmly set abutments. In French: "arc boutant."
Lady Chapel : If you are considering taking on some part time work in one of the Notre Dames, you had better memorize this term.
The Lady Chapel will be found in all the Notre Dames, as well as many of the Great Gothic Cathedrals. Usually located behind the Sanctuary, these spaces are dedicated to - sometimes set aside for the use of - the Blessed Virgin.
Pier : Without piers there would be no Great Cathedrals to speak of. The solid standing piers serve as the main support to the heavy strain of the Gothics vertical aspirations. The piers take on many column shapes (rounded, cross and rectangular) but will also take the form of a segment of wall. The term derives from the Norman French: piere or pere.
Rose Window : Arguably one of the finest developments in the history of Western art. Evolving from the simple round windows of the Romanesque period these intricate works of glass, metal and stone literally flowered into holistic representations of the known Universe.
While glass windows were used in cathedrals of other countries, the Rose Window was initially a French creation, first appearing at St-Denis.
Sexpartite Vault : Essentially a four part (Quadripartite) vault to which an additional transverse rib has been incorporated which divides the vault into six segments. This is yet another form which remained distinct to the Gothic period.
Tracery : Located throughout Gothic cathedrals, tracery adds much to the distinctive style of Gothic ornament. The variety of Tracery patterns within these cathedrals is nearly endless. Their interlacing lines are incorporated into vaults, walls, columns, windows and the woodwork of the screens.
“Great edifices, like the great mountains, are the work of ages. Often art undergoes a transformation while they are waiting pending completionpendent opera interruptathey then proceed imperturbably in conformity with the new order of things. The new art takes possession of the monument at the point at which it finds it, absorbs itself into it, develops it after its own idea, and completes it if it can. The matter is accomplished without disturbance, without effort, without reaction, in obedience to an undeviating, peaceful law of naturea shoot is grafted on, the sap circulates, a fresh vegetation is in progress. Truly, there is matter for mighty volumes; often, indeed, for a universal history of mankind, in these successive layers of different periods of art, on different levels of the same edifice. The man, the artist, the individual, are lost sight of in these massive piles that have no record of authorship; they are an epitome, a totalization of human intelligence. Time is the architecta nation is the builder.”
Victor M. Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris
“The word Architecture has, I suppose, to most of you the meaning of the art of building nobly and ornamentally. Now I believe the practice of this art to be one of the most important things which man can turn his hand to, and the consideration of it to be worth the attention of serious people, not for an hour only, but for a good part of their lives, even though they may not have to do with it professionally.
But, noble as that art is by itself, and though it is specially the art of civilisation, it neither ever has existed nor never can exist alive and progressive by itself, but must cherish and be cherished by all the crafts whereby men make the things which they intend shall be beautiful, and shall last somewhat beyond the passing day.
A great subject truly, for it embraces the consideration of the whole external surroundings of the life of man; we cannot escape from it if we would so long as we are part of civilisation, for it means the moulding and altering to human needs of the very face of the earth itself, except in the outermost desert.
Neither can we hand over our interests in it to a little band of learned men, and bid them seek and discover, and fashion, that we may at last stand by and wonder at the work, and learn a little of how 'twas all done: 'tis we ourselves, each one of us, who must keep watch and ward over the fairness of the earth, and each with his own soul and hand do his due share therein, lest we deliver to our sons a lesser treasure than our fathers left to us.”
, Hopes and Fears for Art