A Glossary of Architectural Terms for Medieval Churches


flat slab on the top of a capital


semi-circular or polygonal aisle around an apse


vaulted semi-circular or polygonal end of a chancel or chapel


masonry of blocks of stone cut with even faces and square edges


recess or cupboard for sacred vessels for Mass


globular flower with three petals enclosing a ball. Popular decoration in the 1st quarter of the 14th century


a shaped small pillar or column

Bar Tracery

window tracery consisting of bars of stone set in the window opening (compare to Plate Tracery). Bar tracery was introduced into England c. 1250


parapet with a series of alternate indentions and raised portions (Embrasures and Merlons) also called crenelation

Beak Head

row of bird or beast heads biting the roll moulding. A Norman ornamental motif

Billet Frieze

series of short, raised rectangles at regular intervals. A Norman ornamental motif


projection covering the intersection of ribs in vaulting

Cable Moulding

moulding imitating a twisted cable. A Norman ornamental motif


top part or head of a column


part of the east end of a church in which the altar is placed. Often used for the whole of the east end beyond the crossing

Chancel Arch

arch at the western end of the chancel

Chantry Chapel

chapel endowed for the saying of masses for the soul of an individual


zigzag decoration used in the Norman period


The windows in the upper story of a church


block of stone (sometimes sculpted) supporting some feature on its upper surface

Corbel Table

series of Corbels just below the roof. Often seen on Norman buildings


parapet with a series of alternate indentions and raised portions or embrasures and merlons. (Also called Battlement)

Cross Vault

vault consisting of two Tunnel Vaults intersecting at right angles. Also called Groin Vault.


the intersection of Nave, Chancel and Transepts

Cushion Capital

Romanesque Capital formed from a cube with the bottom half rounded off to the circular shaft underneath


tracery ornament of the Decorated style


Early English decoration consisting of
a series of raised four- corner stars

Double Splayed

window openings that are wider on both the external wall face and the internal wall face, but are narrower in the middle of the wall thickness. Double Splayed windows are found in the late Anglo-Saxon Period


the indentations in a Battlement.
(See also Merlons.)


The use of alternate horizontal and upright Through Stones to form the Jambs of a window

Flying Buttress

arched buttress transmitting thrust of a vault, etc. from an upper wall to an outer support or buttress

Geometrical Tracery 

Bar Tracery consisting mainly of circles or trefoils, quatrefoils, etc. Characteristic of the period c. 1250 – 1310


sharp edge of the intersection between two cells of a Groin Vault

Groin Vault

vault consisting of two Tunnel Vaults intersecting at right angles. Also called Cross Vault.


the straight side of a doorway, window or arch


pointed arch window in the shape of a knife blade

Lierne Rib

minor, tertiary rib – i.e. a rib that does not spring from one of the main springers or from the central Boss (hence Lierne Vault.) Introduced into England in the 14th century and continuing in use until the 16th century.

Long and Short

a form of Quoin in which long stones are alternatively set vertically and horizontal, found in the late Anglo-Saxon period


the raised portions of a Battlement.
(See also Embrasures.)

Monolithic Head

window in which the semi-circular head is formed of a single shaped stone


tracery ornament of the Decorated style similar to a Dagger, but curved


uprights, or verticals that divide a window into ‘lights’.
(See also Transoms)


Early English decoration consisting of a series of raised pyramids


covered porch at the main entrance to a church


the western part of a church

Ogee Arch

arch with double curve drawn with compass from points A, B & C. Introduced into England c.1300 and popular during the 14th century


a series of concentric stages receding inwards towards the opening of an arch, doorway or window

Pilaster Buttress

rectangular thickening of the wall as a buttress

Pilaster Strip Work

decorative projecting decorative strips of stonework found on late Anglo-Saxon buildings


small drain (usually set in a wall near the altar), used for washing Mass vessels

Plate Tracery

window tracery consisting of openings cut through the wall (compare to Bar Tracery). Plate tracery was introduced into England c. 1200.

Quadripartite Vault

rib vault where one bay is divided into four parts


the corner stones of a building


vault with diagonal ribs running along the Groins


rib along the longitudinal ridge of a vault. Introduced into England in the early 13th century.

Scalloped Capital

development of the Cushion Capital where the semi-circular surface is covered with a series of truncated cones

Sexpartite Vault

vault where one bay of a Quadripartite Vault is divided into two parts by a transverse rib, so that each bay of vaulting has six parts

Single Splayed

window openings that are wider on the internal wall face than on the external wall face. Single Splayed windows are found throughout the Anglo-Saxon period and in the Anglo-Norman period


the underside of an arch or lintel, etc.


triangular surface between the side of an arch, the vertical line from its Springer and a horizontal line from its apex; also the surface between two arches


the start of an arch from its Springing


the level at which an arch rises from its supports

Through Stones

large stones which run right through the thickness of the wall used in window, door or arch openings. (A feature of Anglo-Saxon buildings.)

Tierceron Rib

secondary rib which issues from one of the main springers or the central boss and leads to the Ridge-Rib. Introduced into England in the early 13th century. (Hence Tierceron Vault)


transverse (north – south) part of a cruciform church


horizontal members in a window. (See also Mullions)

Transverse Arch

arch separating one bay of a vault from the next


arcaded wall passage or blind arcade facing the nave at the height of the aisle roof and below the Clerestory

Tunnel Vault

semi-circular vault similar in principle to a railway tunnel


D-shaped space between the top of a door lintel and the head of a semi-circular arch. Often carrying bass-relief sculpture


wedge-shaped stone that is used for the construction of an arch

Y – Tracery

tracery formed with a central Mullion which branches into two, creating a Y – shape