aisle : the aisle runs laterally down the nave of a church, divided from the nave by rows of pillars or columns

altar : an altar is the symbolic representation of the tomb of Christ. The high altar, located at the end of the choir, is the focussing point of the whole church

altarpiece : see retable

anglo norman : refers to the period when, after the conquest of England by William of Normandy in 1066, political but also cultural -hence architectural- cross-Channel influences were fundamental. For instance, the churches on both side of the Channel have very much in common. Do not forget that in British English, Romanesque style is called 'Norman style'.

annulet : see torus

apse : The (usually semicircular) East termination to the choir of a church

arcade: a number of arches supported on columns or piers

arch : a curved structural member spanning an opening or recess in a curved or pointed formation. It can have various shapes - and names - such as the semicircular (or round) arch, the pointed arch, the equilateral arch, etc. (See these words)

archivolts : bands or mouldings surrounding an arched opening (doorway or window)


bas-relief : sculpture in which the carved forms project only slightly from the background. (also called low relief)

bay : part of the building comprised between two vertical shafts or supporting columns

blind arcade : a row of decorative arches applied to a wall to articulate its surface. When intersecting (see this word), it is a typically Norman decoration pattern


Canon : name given to the vicars and priests of a Collegiate church

capital : the (often heavily decorated) cap or crown above the shaft of a column on which the arch rests

caryatid: a woman-shaped column. This is part of Renaissance decoration, not of Gothic

cathedral: the main church of a province where the throne of the bishop is placed

chapel : part of the church, usually a recess on the side of an aisle with an altar (not the high altar) dedicated to a particular saint. The Lady chapel, the easternmost chapel, behind the choir, is often dedicated to the Virgin, hence the name

chevet : the easternmost arm of a church, the inside part of which is often the Lady Chapel

chancel : part of the church (between the crossing and the apse) containing the high altar. Sometimes bordered by railings. Also (loosely) called 'choir'

choir : see chancel

choir screen : decorated screen of wood or stone separating the choir from the rest of the church.

clerestory : 'clear story', the upper story of a church rising above the aisle roof with large widow openings

Collegiate church : the church used to be ministered by a College of Canons

colonnette : a small column

column : a cylindrical support with a base, a shaft and usually capped by a decorated so as to support the vault or the roof.

corbel : a bracket projecting from a wall, sometimes carved and decorated, sometimes fairly rough, used to help support weight from above.

crocket : a small ornament depicting stylized foliage looking a little like an upturned flower bud. One of the constituents of Early Gothic capitals
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crossing : the intersection of the nave, chancel, and transept of a church.(Also see transept)

cruciform : cross-shaped (e.g. the ground plan of a church with transepts)


diagonal ribs / arches : they rise up from the top of each corner pier and meet in the centre, marking the diagonals in a rib vault. They are the most visible features of such a vault


engaged column (also applied column) . A column which is attached to - or partially sunk into - a wall so that only half projects from the wall

equilateral arch : a pointed arch that is inscribed inside an equilateral triangle


'flamboyant' style : name given to late 15th century French Gothic architecture. Basically similar to its English counterpart, Perpendicular style. It is called after the pattern of the tracery that may evoke flames

flying buttress : a buttress (or abutment - see this word) attached to the top of the vaults by means of a half-arch which transmits the thrust of the vault into the ground, thus lending strength and solidity to the structure. This is one of the main and most recognizable features of Gothic architecture

frieze :in our church, this is the decorated carved line around the rose window


gable : in a church, this specifically refers to a triangular, ornamental architectural section above the main porch, as often seen in 'Flamboyant' (i.e. Late Gothic) churches

gargoyle : a spout usually carved in the shape of an animal or demon, and connected to a gutter for throwing rain water away from the foot of the wall

groove - grooved moulding : concave moulding set between two stone rings (see ' torus') at the base of a column

intersecting arches : blind arcades (see this word) which cross over each other. This decoration arrangement is typical of Normandy


jamb : the stones forming the side of a door or window


keystone : the central voussoir (or simply 'stone') of an arch that locks the other units in place. It occurs at the intersection of the ribs of a rib vault. It may be heavily carved and hang from the vault (pendant keystone) during Late Gothic or be ring-shaped


lancet arch : the basic Gothic pointed arch (usually applied to long, narrow windows)

lantern tower: the crossing tower (i.e. the tower above the space at the crossing) has with several windows for illuminating the crossing. A typically Norman design

lierne : in a complex rib vault, liernes connect the keystone to the centre of the sides of the quadrilateral made by the vault. The rib from the origin of the arch to the lierne is called a tierceron. Both ribs are found solely in late Gothic architecture

lintel : the horizontal (often rectangular) member above the portal and under the tympanum. It is almost always richly decorated

loft: ( see Organ)

longitudinal rib / vault (or longitudinal ridge rib) A rib / vault which runs parallel to the nave axis in a longitudinal direction


mausoleum : a monument erected in memory or honour of a person or group. This not a tomb, the person's remains are elsewhere

mouchette : specific word for mullions (see this word) when talking about late Gothic tracery of the curvilinear style found in the upper part of windows

mullions : horizontal or vertical stone piers dividing a window into two or more 'lights' (or parts) (see also 'mouchette')

nave : the western part of the church (comprised between the entrance and the transept and usually excluding the aisles) where the congregation stands

napkin-fold style : carved decoration ( on a door generally) that recall pleated linen (a late Gothic or early Renaissance pattern)

organ: in addition to the instrument itself, the word often refers to the wood case that encloses it as well as the loft, the kind of gallery where the instrument is placed

orientation : the compass alignment of the church. The high altar is usually oriented to the east


pier : the word mainly refers to the large columns or pillars of the nave

pinnacle: A pointed and often ornamented termination of a spire, buttress, or other extremity of a building

piscina : a small stone wash-basin with a drain hole where to wash the sacred vessels

plinth : in the base of a 14th c. column , this is an upright and plain part set between an upper torus and a lower one

pointed arch: as (distinct from the round arch of the Romanesque period) this is the main identifiable feature of Gothic architecture. The basic pointed arch is called 'lancet arch'

pulpit : a raised stand from which the preacher used to address the congregation, it was often covered by a carved canopy.

portal : large and imposing doorway. (Do not mix up with 'porch') Often divided in the middle by a trumeau (see this word) )

porch : a projecting, entrance enclosing the portal and its trumeau. Above it, the lintel and further above the tympanum (See these words)

putti : carved or painted naked children representation (Renaissance style)


'rayonnant' style : name given to (approx) 1250 - 1370 French Gothic style. Basically similar to its English counterpart, Decorated style. The word 'rayonnant' (i.e. radiating) was first used to describe rose windows, the tracery of which always radiated from the centre

reliquary : a box in which the relic of a saint is kept

rood : a cross erected at the entry to the chancel. Like most roods, the one in Vernon has figures of the Virgin Mary on one side and St. John on the other.

rib: An arch of masonry, part of the framework on which a vault rests. They generally project from the undersurface of the vault. Logically, a rib vault is a masonry vault with a relatively thin web and set within a framework of ribs. Three types of ribs / arches are required: diagonal, transverse and longitudinal (See these words) Click here for more details

rose window : a large, circular window with heavily foliated tracery radiating from the centre

round arch (or semicircular arch) : the basic Romanesque arch


scotia: a convex moulding found on a column's base (like the edge of a pulley (See annulet)

shaft : part of a column between the base and the capital

spur : claw-looking ornament (emerging from the torus) carved on the angles of the square base of a pillar. Romanesque and Early Gothic design


thrust : pressure exerted by the vaults and roofing that tends to push the walls aside (Click on the icon for more details )

tierceron : minor rib in a complex rib vault (See lierne)

torus (or annulet): a convex moulding, i.e. a stone ring at the base of a Romanesque or early Gothic column. A larger torus is called a 'scotia'

transept : the north and south projections or "arms" of the cross, perpendicular to the nave and chancel. The central part is the crossing

tracery : ornamental stonework most often seen supporting window glass. The variety of tracery patterns is nearly endless, though, within a given period, they all have a definite similitude

transverse ribs / arches : A rib / vault which is perpendicular to the nave axis

triforium : a galleried arcade above the main arches of the nave and below the clerestory. Also called a "blind-storey

trumeau : vertical architectural member between the leaves of a doorway. A trumeau figure, i.e. a statue is usually located there. In Vernon, this a statue of the Virgin with Child. (Also see 'portal' and 'porch')

tympanum : the basically semicircular panel above a main doorway, usually heavily decorated (Also see 'portal' and 'porch')


vault : an arched structure of masonry forming a ceiling. The Gothic ribbed vault allowed a number of architectural developments to take place
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vestry (also called sacristy) : room where the vestments and sacred vessels are kept

voussoir : a wedge-shaped carved stone of an arch. The centre voussoir is the keystone (See this word)


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