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Historical Church Architecture explained

Historical Church Architecture explained in easy to understand terms

Saxon Period
Simple, single or two-celled buildings with the entrance at the west; often in wood, but later in stone. Complete churches of this period survive at Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire and Escomb, County Durham.
800 - 1086
Most Saxon work was crude, with small deep-set windows, sometimes round-headed, sometimes triangular; rounded arches; long and short angle stones; surface stripwork and, occasionally, interlaced carving.
The rounded arch continued but evolved varied and vigorous mouldings, especially for doors, windows, etc. Round pillars were frequent; towers were mostly square; vaults were barrel-roofed; and the general effect was solid and impressive. Aisles were added later in the period. Norwich Cathedral is a good example.
This term is applied especially to the later forms of Norman
Gothic The long period of architecture which exists from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries and embodied the Early English and Decorated styles. The original influence was the architecture of twelfth century France.
Early English (Gothic)
The first period of English Gothic church architecture. A marked contrast, with pointed arches, lancet windows (usually constructed in groups of three, five or seven) and without mullions. Also deeply cut mouldings and delicate carving of foliage and dog-toothed ornamentation were popular. Spires now become prominent. The cruciform plan became more common in larger churches and elsewhere chancels were lengthened. Salisbury Cathedral is an example of building in this period.
Decorated (Gothic)
About 1272-1350
Window tracery developed and became very ornamental, windows being wider and sub-divided by mullions. Wooden roofs became less steep and were often enriched with carving, while the treatment of foliage on capitals, etc., was freer and more naturalistic. Spires were adorned with crockets and pinnacles. Arcade pillars were more slender, vaulting more complex. Exeter Cathedral is a good example of building in this period.
Perpendicular (Gothic)
The emphasis of the vertical line was most prominent. Panelling was used on walls and took the form of perpendicular lines. Windows were of great size, with flattened arches; parapets were pierced and battlemented, and the buttresses, which had gradually increased in boldness, now reached their greatest development and sometimes took the "arched" or "flying" form. Fan tracery vaulting, a characteristic development of English Gothic, was also brought to great perfection.
Tudor (Gothic)
The name frequently given to late Perpendicular work. Towards the end of this style Gothic began to show the influence of the Renaissance. Architectural interest now centred more on the great house than on the church, and the style was adapted accordingly. In place of the great pointed window, bays and oriels are found. The grouping of chimneys became a prominent feature, and both brick and stone were used.
Renaissance Period
Italian influence in English church architecture which formed the period between the Middle Ages and the Refirmation.
Elizabethan (Renaissance)
Mainly domestic, it consisted of the traditional structural forms with the use of classic detail as the influence of the Renaissance spread. Oak panelling, elaborate plaster work in ceilings and profuse interior decoration were featured.
Jacobean (Renaissance)
This style was similar to Elizabethan but with semi-circular arches, mullioned windows, carved woodwork, screens, canopied pulpits and a more extensive use of the classic "orders". Many magnificent mansions were built during this period.
Indigo Jones Period (Renaissance)
This great architect finally established English Renaissance architecture, and it became a national art. Design was more formal and classic in character; ornament was rather bold and heavy; and more attention was given to interior decoration, with elaborate plaster work. One of Indigo Jones's best known works was the banqueting Hall of Whitehall Palace, London, now the Royal United Services Museum.
Hanovarian Period(Queen Anne)
Not a style applied generally to parish church architecture, but may be applied to other building during this time
Pillar and Portico Era
mid 17th-mid 19th cent
Term applied to the Classical age and included the Baroque and Rococo styles.
Wren Period (Renaissance) and Queen Anne
St. Paul's Cathedral and about 50 other churches were built by Sir Christopher Wren after the fire of London. Dome construction, a distinguishing feature of Byzantine architecture, was mastered, as at St. Paul's, whilst steeples with diminishing storeys were prominent features. The domestic work was classic in design and detail, featuring oak panelling, elaborate plaster work, wood carving and rich mouldings.
Attention was given to ordered formalism, dignified and restrained in character, and regard was paid to symmetry. Elaborate plaster work superseded oak panelling. Doorways were given pillared porches. Grecian influence is noticeable, especially towards the end of the period.
Neo-Gothic period
Late 18th cent.
Style of church-building which had a frivolous approach in both design and materials to the true Gothic.
Greek Revival
c 1760-1830
Period of church and domestic building along Classical lines which flourished in England.
Nineteenth Century (Regency and Victorian)
A century of no one characteristic style, but of successive revivals, it produced in quantity more than any other century. The Classical Revival had a tremendous vogue. Greek details were freely copied, and used in every design. Houses had their classical porticoes, public buildings their colonnades, whilst even a church steeple was a copy of a temple. Meanwhile, a small number of artists and poets were instrumental in reviving the Gothic style. Numbers of churches were constructed in some form of Gothic, and the Houses of Parliament were built in this style. Lastly came a revival of Renaissance principles.
Gothic Revival
Serious attempts by the nineteenth century designers to build in the Gothic style.
Towards the close of the 19th century came a great change in construction, with the use of iron and steel in building. The core of large present-day structures is a mass of steel girders, which are encased in masonry or concrete. Ultra modern houses and schools often feature flat roofs and large expanses of glass.

Technical terms used in Architecture

Abacus Flat slab of stone which forms the uppermost member of a capital. It is set between the lintel and the column below as a supporting stone and positioned to take the concentrated weight at the point from which an arch springs. Abaci may be square, round or octagonal.
Abbey Ecclesiastical dwelling church, etc., for the use of nuns or monks and presided over by an abbess or abbot. In the Middle Ages they acquired vast quantities of land which they worked and farmed themselves. Between 1536 and 1540 Henry VIII destroyed almost all of them, appropriated their land for the Crown and sold it.
Abutment Pillar or buttress of solid masonry which is essentially part of an arch which springs from it. Its purpose is to withstand the sideways stress imposed by the arch.
Acanthus Leaf Decorative leaf-form which was sculptured on Corinthian capitals, although a more fleshy version is widely used on other types.
Acoustic Jars Earthenware pots which were placed in various positions around the church in order to improve the sound.
Aisle Section of the church parallel and adjacent to one or both sides of the nave. Aisles usually run the full length of the nave and separated from it by a row of arches.
Almery See Aumbry
Alms Box Receptacle used to collect the offerings of the people in the parish towards any number of causes. These ranged from the large amounts needed to finance the Crusades to smaller donations for the poor.
Altar Flat-topped wooden or stone table, usually at the east end of the chancel, and raised above the level of the church. It contains the cross and other objects of importance.
Altar canopy Decorated ceiling either suspended over (as in a tester) or directly above the altar. The idea is simply to draw especial attention to the important feature below.
Altar frontal Richly decorated material which covers the front of the altar. The main colour in the cloth is changed with each season of the church's year.
Altar Rails Wooden or iron structure with gates, usually across the chancel in front of the altar. Sometimes the rails enclose the altar on three or four sides. They date from Elizabethan times and became popular in the seventeenth century as an alternative to chancel screens.
Altar Stone A stone slap, usually with five consecration crosses, one in the centre and another in each of the corners, forming the top of pre-Reformation altars.
A.M. Ancient Monument or building under the care of the Government.
Ambulatory Used loosely to describe any walkway such as an aisle, arcade or cloisters. More properly the aisle or processional pathway behind the high altar, or the semicircular or polygonal passage to a chapel beyond the wall of the church at the east end. They are usually bounded by an arcade or colonnade.
Anchorite cell Small dwelling in which a pious person (most were women) passed her days in solitary confinement. Such cells were usually built against the northern exterior of the church. The anchorite was able to see the high altar through a hole in the wall, and there was another on the outside to allow food to be passed in by the local people.
Angle Buttress Supporting masonry so constructed at the corner of a building that it exactly meets a similar structure built at a right angle to itself.
Annulet Small, narrow ring of stone or metal around a circular pillar or detached shaft. A feature of Romanesque and Gothic building.
Apse The semi-circular or polygonal end of the choir or chancel in certain churches, or as an extension to a trancept. The term is also used to describe a similarly shaped chapel extending anywhere beyond the walls of the main body of the church, but usually at the eastern end. Apses are often vaulted.
Apsidal See Apse.
Arcade A series of arches carried on piers or columns, as the nave arcades in churches. They may be open or closed (Blind Arcade), used to strengthen a wall or simply decorate it. Arcades may also support clerestory walls which form the roof of an adjacent aisle.
Arcading Technically an arcade. However, this term tends to be applied more to the use of a series of arches as decoration, carved or in relief. They may be found, for example, around the outside of font bowls where they provide settings for a series of figure sculptures in the sections beneath.
Arch Curved or pointed construction of wedge-shaped stones or bricks. It may divide tower, aisles, trancepts, chapels, chancel, etc., from the nave of the church. The stones are supported by mutual pressure and, in turn, can sustain a weight of masonry from above over an opening. Early arches are roundheaded, and the structures became more pointed as the architecture develops.
Arch Brace The curved member between the collar beam and the wall post in a roof. The term is often loosely used to describe any piece of timber which supports another.
Architrave Main beam resting on the uppermost member of a capital or the moulding around arches, doorways or windows.
Archivolt Decorative moulding which follows the contour of an arch face inpost to inpost.
Arch Ordering Set of overlapping, concentric steps in the shape of an arch.
Arcosolia Burial chamber.
Arcuated Carved in the shape of a box.
Armature Mediæval iron framework which supports the stained glass in windows which have no stone tracery.
Arris The sharp edge which is formed at the point where two wedge-shaped or curved pieces of stone or wood meet.
Art Nouveau Extravagant and floral description of the late Victorian and Edwardian years. This was often used in overwhelming profusion in church carving, panels,reredoses, etc., which were made around 1900.
Ashlar Varying sizes of squared stone blocks, sawn or hewn to a smooth face and joined together. The blocks usually have a large face area, even if they are not very thick. They are skillfully put together in level courses and used to surface exterior walls of coarse masonry.
Ashlar Piece Short upright supporting post between the inner wall plate and a rafter in a wooden roof.
Atlantes Sculptured figure of a man used as a pillar.
Atrium Covered colonnade before the door of a church.
Auditory Plan A style of church building which allowed everyone taking part in the service to be accommodated in one undivided interior. It was a feature of the Classical seventeenth century.
Aumbry Small cupboard, set of cupboards or recess built into the south or east wall of the church, but usually near the altar. They hold the ornaments or sacred vessels which are used at mass or communion.
Axial Tower Central tower which is built above the choir.
Baldachino Canopy above an altar and projecting over it. May be suspended from the ceiling or supported by columns.
Bale Tomb Table tomb surmounted by an incised roll top, at each end of which is a scallop inset by a skull.
Ball Flower Type of ornamentation which resembles a small ball, half enclosed by a globular flower which has three incurved petals. The whole is used at regular intervals in concave moulding and was a feature of the Decorated period.
Baluster Small vertical column or stone strip, usually fatter in the middle or at the base. One of a series used to support a rail.
Balustrade Whole series of small vertical columns or stone strips which support a handrail.
Banner cupboard Also known as banner stave locker. Large cupboard or wall recess which was used in mediæval times to store banners and professional crosses.
Baptistry Also called a Baptistery. Section of the church, usually at the west end, which is reserved for the administration of the sacrament of baptism and contains the font.
Barbican An outer defence to a castle or fortified town, especially double towers protecting a gateway or bridge.
Barge Overhanging exterior section of a roof which projects from, and runs the whole length of, the slope of a gable.
Barge Board Ornamental piece of timber on the gable of a wooden porch or roof, where the covering of the roof extends over the wall. It is so positioned to hide any exposed ends of horizontal roof beams.
Baroque Style of European architecture which developed a greater freedom and exuberance in its design than during the earlier Renaissance. It originated in late sixteenth century Italy and Spain and continued until the first half of the eighteenth century.
Barrel Vault Semicircular or curved chamber or roof with dual parallel lateral thrust and the same outline from all angles.
Barrow or Long Barrow see Tumulus.
Bar Tracery The simple patterns formed by continuing upwards the vertical members which divide a window into its lights. One of the earliest forms of ornamental stonework, which superseded plate tracery in the middle of the thirteenth century.
Base Lowest section of a pier or column, between the shaft and the ground. It comprises the plinth and associated moulding.
Basilica Properly a two-celled church which is built on a double colonnade and apse plan. The term is also used to describe any building which is used as a Christian Church.
Bas-relief The effect achieved by a slightly raised sculpture.
Batter Slight but regular inward slope of a wall from the base upwards.
Bastle A long,narrow stronghold, akin to a Pele, but rarely vaulted and seldom more than two storeys high. Found mainly in Northumberland.
Battlement Indented wall above a tower or the roof of a nave, consisting of alternate and equal solid and open areas. See also Embrasures and Merlon.
Bay Section of an arcade between two consecutive pillars, columns,pilasters or beams.
Beak Head Form of decoration depicting the head of a bird or animal with a long beak which extends over a convex moulding/ Typical Norman work and repeated at regular intervals.
Bed Head See Grave Board.
Belfry Part of the church tower, turret, or a detached building which contains the church bells.
Belfry Louvre See Louvre.
Bell Hollow structure of cast metal which contains a clapper. This causes a musical note as it strikes against the inside of the bell when it is rung.
Bell Capital Headstone of a column so moulded that the result resembles the appearance of an upturned bell.
Bellcote Small tower or arch which contains bells. Generally such are to be found at the west end of the church, or at the east end of the nave roof in the case of a sanctus bell.
Bench Long, plain, flat seating of wood or stone. There is often a similar backrest running the length of the seat, or else it is built against a wall.
Bench-End Vertical part of the bench which is adjacent to an aisle. Most of them are square-headed and they are often richly or quaintly carved, depicting people, events, biblical scenes and even mythical characters. The best are in Cornwall.
Bequest Board A notice, usually painted on wood, which describes some fund or local charity. May be found anywhere in the church but commonly affixed to the interior wall of the tower.
Bible Box Locked box in which the great church Bible could be kept for protection. Invariably richly carved.
Billet Norman moulding consisting of short, tailored rectangles repeated at regular intervals.
Blind Arcade Row of unpierced arches attached to a wall in order to strengthen of decorate it. Those intended for decoration are often richly carved.
Blind Clerestory Structure formed by extending the wall of the nave above the roof of the aisle without adding windows along its length.
Blind Storey See Blind Triforium.
Blind Tracery Lines drawn out in solid, unperforated masonry.
Blind Triforium Area of blank, unpierced wall surface above a nave arcade but below the clerestory.
Block Capital Cube- shaped head to a Romanesque column or pilaster. The lower angles are rounded to meet the circular supporting shaft below.
Boarded Chest Rough, rectangular box formed by affixing large planks to timber end-pieces with wrought iron nails. This was a thirteenth century improvement on the monoxylon.
Bonding Binding masonry which structurally effects a union of walls.
Bone Hole See Charnel House.
Boss Projecting ornament which is placed at the intersection of ribs in a vault or roof in order to disguise the point at which they join. Bosses are usually carved with foliage or figures, made in wood or stone, and painted.
Bowtells Rounded edges to the receding mouldings in an arch, etc. (See also Arch Ordering).
Box Pew Bench seat set in a high, plain, wooden enclosure most often with a door.
Brace Slanting or curved timber used to support, strengthen or bring together the main roof timbers.
Bracket Flat-topped projection at right angles to the surface of a wall, used to support some horizontal member from underneath.
Brass A sepulchral monumental slab of alloyed metal inlaid on a large slab of stone, usually in a church pavement or wall, often elaborately incised in outline with the figure of the deceased. It usually marks the spot where the person is interred. See also Palimpseet.
Brattishing Carved openwork in a parapet or on the solid part of battlements.
Bressumer Beam Low beam which extends horizontally across the front of a gallery or over an opening. It supports the frame of a floor above.
Broach Elongated half pyramid of masonry between the corner angle of an unparapeted tower and one side of the octagonal spire above.
Broach Spire An octagonal spire with pyramidal masonry in the four angles of the tower top instead of a parapet.
Bullnose Moulding Rounded or blunt moulding which has no particular shape.
Buttress Stone or brick support which gives additional strength to a wall and counteracts its outward thrust.
Cable Moulding Decoration which takes the form of a twisted cord. It sometimes looks like loosely intertwined string but is more often thick and rolled.
Caen Stone Fine-grained limestone which came from Normandy and was used in English mediæval church building.
Camber Horizontal beam which has a slight upwards curve in order to prevent the structure it supports from sagging.
Came Grooved strip of lead indented to accommodate the small pieces of glass used in lattice windows.
Campanile Detatched or isolated bell-tower.
Candelabra Holder for candles in several arms radiating from a central stem.
Canopy Covering above an altar, tomb,pulpit, niche,etc; ornamental and sometimes highly decorated.
Canopy of Honour See Ceilure.
Capital Large carved headstone of a column or pilaster which supports arches or vaulting ribs. Often richly carved with foliated, human or animal designs.
Cardinal North, south, east and west. The points of the compass as usually applied to appendages on a particular feature.
Carrel Open or closed closet or pew in the bay of a cloister used for study or meditation.
Cartouche Marble wall tablet in the shape of a scroll. It usually contains an inscription and is sometimes elaborately framed.
Caryatid Figure of a woman used as a pillar.
Castellated Adorned with a series of battlements.
Cathedral Principal or mother church of a diocese which is the seat of a bishop.
Cavetto Concave moulding.
Ceilure Part of a wagon roof above an altar or roof which is decoratively panelled to draw attention to the feature beneath.
Celtic Plan Simple single or two-celled plan of church building with characteristically high walls in relation to the ground area.
Censer Vessel in which incense is burned.
Centring Temporary wooden framework which is used to support an arch, vault or dome whilst it is being constructed.
Chalice Wine goblet used in the celebration of Holy Communion.
Chamfer The result of cutting away to any width the sharp edge which is formed where two blocks of wood or stone meet at right angles.
Chancel Eastern continuation of the nave which usually contains the altar and is reserved for the clergy and the choir. The name is derived from the cancelli or screens which separated it from the rest of the building, and many are still railed off or gained by mounting steps.
Chancel Arch Single span at the west end of the chancel, dividing it from the nave.
Chancel Screen Partition from floor level which divides the chancel from the nave. Such screens are usually highly decorated (especially in Devonshire), have doors and are made of wood or stone.
Chandelier Arrangement or cluster of artificial lights, radiating from a central source and suspended from the roof.
Chantry Chapel A small church or chapel, often erected in the aisles of churches, to which was attached a revenue left by the founder in his will providing for the singing of Masses for the repose of his soul and of others specified. Such areas often include the tomb of the donor and may also be a separate building.
Chapter House A special building, normally rectangular and sometimes polygonal, used for the business meetings of a monastic or other community. A chapter of the rule was read daily, hence the name.
Clapper Bridge A mediæval bridge built of rough stone piers, with long slabs on top to form a pathway
Charnel House Crypt, vault or cellar in which are piled bones removed from the churchyard.
Chest Large box, usually made of oak and often well carved, in which the church kept the parish documents, valuables and subscriptions. Many contain ancient padlocks; at one time every church had at least one.
Chevet French word for an apse; used to describe a semicircular or polygonal east end with chapels radiating from it.
Chevron Zigzag pattern charactaristic of Norman decorative moulding.
Choir Section of the church occupied by the choristers and the clergy. This is usually the eastern arm of the building; and for this reason a section of the chancel is sometimes called the choir even when it is not strictly used for that purpose.
Chrismatory Receptacle for the consecrated oils.
Christ's Board Early name for the wooden tables which preceeded stone altars.
Church Registers See Parish Registers.
Churchyard Enclosure surrounding the church and sometimes used for burials. Circular ones often indicate that the area is an ancient, pre-Christian burial ground.
Churchyard Cross Stone cross which was erected to the south of all pre-Reformation churches to denote consecrated ground. Some were very tall and beautifully carved, although only the shaft now remains of most. Cornwall is particularly rich in this feature.
Ciborium Canopy built above, or as part of a shrine. The term is also used to describe a similarly shaped covered container which is used for the consecrated elements in the Eucharist.
Cill Horizontal base member of a window or screen.
Cinquefoil Five-cusped ornamental filling for a circle or arch.
Clamp Buttress Shallow flat-sided wall brace which is more decorative than supporting. It is usually to be found at the corners of the building.
Clasping Buttress Supporting structure which entirely encloses, equally on both sides, the right angle formed where two walls meet.
Classical Architecture Style and decoration in the manner of Greek and Roman architecture, as opposed to Gothic influence.
Classicism See Classical Architecture.
Clear Story See Clerestory.
Clerestory That part of the nave wall in a church which rises above the adjoining roofs of the aisles, usually containing a number of windows to allow more light into the church.
Clock Jack Mechanical figure which chimes the time on bells by striking them with a hammer or one of its feet.
Cloister The area, quadrilateral, within the precincts of a monastery or cathedral, formed by the grouping of the buildings and usually having covered, sometimes vaulted, walks. Mostly on the sunny side of the church.
Cob Walling of mixed clay and straw, found mainly in West Country villages.
Coffer Decorated, sunken ceiling panel.
Coffin Oblong container in which a corpse is buried.
Coffin Table Raised oblong of stone under the lychgate or at the entrance to the churchyard, used to rest the coffin.
Collar Beam Horizontal timber which connects a pair of principal rafters just below their highest point.
Collecting Box Small wooden box for the collection of various offerings, these days used for the fabric fund, and the price of books, pamphlets and parish magazines. Usually sited just inside the main doorway, unless the church is a very large one. Other collecting boxes are sometimes protected by wrought iron.
Collegiate Church Church endowed for canons or as a cathedral church, but without a see. Served in the Middle Ages by a staff of clergy.
Colonnade A row of columns.
Column Cylindrical, vertical pillar which usually supports an arch.
Common Altar Sloping beam is a roof, which connects the horizontal ridge piece to the sole plate at the top of a supporting wall.
Communion Table Wooden table which was used in the place of an altar in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. Often nicely decorated, and situated in the middle of the chancel.
Composite See Order.
Compound Pier Independent group of columns and angles of masonry.
Conoid Cone-shaped section of fan vaulting.
Consecration Cross One of twelve usually incised or painted on the interior and exterior walls of the church at its dedication.
Corbell Short block of stone or timber which projects from a wall in order to suggest a beam, an arch or any horizontal feature. Often carved or moulded.
Corbel Table Row of exterior or interior corbels supporting a roof, parapet or cornice, and usually connected. Corbel tables are a feature of Norman work.
Corble Steps See Crow Steps.
Corinthian See Order.
Cornice Highest horizontal moulding on a wall, or above a column.
Corona Circular band of metal or wood which contains candles around the rim and is usually hung from the roof. This is also a general architectural term for the projecting part of the highest horizontal wall moulding or cornice.
Corpse Gate See Lychgate.
Cove Concave arch, or the junction of a ceiling and wall.
Cover Paten Receptacle for the consecrated bread of communion, made from the cover of a communion cup.
Coving Usually the curved junction of a ceiling or wall, but also used to describe the under surface of an arch.
Cradle Roof See Wagon Roof.
Cradle Vault See Barrel Vault.
Credence Small shelf or table used to hold sacred items. Such shelves are usually to be found built into the wall near the altar, and often as part of a thirteenth century piscina.
Crenellated A term applied to a wall or parapet with a series of embrasures or openings through which missiles might be shot.
Crenellation The appearance of a series of battlements.
Cresset Stone Stone slabs in which several hollows (crosses) have been scooped out to accommodate burning wicks floating in oil.
Crest or Cresting Ornamental horizontal band along the top of a screen.
Crocket Projecting buds, flowers, curled leaves or bunches of foliage usually carved and placed at regular intervals along the sloping sides of arches, canopies, spires, finials, pinnacles, gables, etc. Decoration to break up a flat skyline, but which also served a useful purpose in affording some foothold for masons.
Crocket Capital Early English column which was decorated by single buds, flowers or curled leaves at regular intervals.
Cromlech A prehistoric structure consisting of a large stone placed horizontally on two or more unknown stones fixed upright in the ground. Sometimes called a dolmen.
Cross Emblem of the Christian church which is always the centre piece of any altar and is to be found carved, painted and in relief at almost any other point within the church and its environs.
Crossing Area formed by the intersection of trancepts, chancel and nave.
Cross Vault Structure formed where two barrel vaults meet at right angles.
Cross Window Window divided into four sections by only one horizontal bar, and one vertical face.
Crow Steps Steps in a battlement or gable.
Cruciform Church plan in the shape of a cross, with a central tower between the trancept arms.
Crypt Chamber or vault, usually beneath the east end of the church and sometimes containing an altar.
Cupola Dome shaped roof or polygonal turret.
Cushion Cup Early Norman type of capital with a square upper section but rounded into an ornamental convex shape towards the pillar below.
Cylindical Vault See Barrel Vault.
Dado Loosely used to describe any decoration on the lower section of a wall surface.
Dagger Decoration Fourteenth century tracery which takes the form of a spearhead, cusped and arched on the inside.
Daub Coating of mud and clay. See also Wattle and Daub.
Deambulatory See Ambulatory.
Decalogue Fixture containing the Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer or Creed.
Dedication The name of a saint or especial event which is given to each church for convenience.
Demi-angel Relief depicting the upper part of an angel appearing out of the clouds.
Demi-column Half of a shaft which projects from a flat wall.
Detached Tower Tower which is built, usually in order to overcome some difficulty in geographical locations, away from the rest of the church.
Devil's Door Small entrance in the north wall of the church. Although most of them are now bricked up, they were once left open at baptism to allow the child's evil spirits to leave. Also used for processions at the same service, and at funerals.
Diagonal Buttress Projecting exterior support at the point where two walls meet, but not enclosing the angle formed at that point.
Diagonal Ribs Arched members which run at right angles from corner to corner across the bay of a vault.
Diamond Ornament Norman decoration, in the form of a continuous band of diamond shapes.
Diamond Pane Small pieces of glass which, when inserted into a lead frame prepared to receive them, form a lattice window.
Diaper Orderly, repetitive and comprehensive decoration of squares or diamonds, carved in low relief or painted on a plain wall surface.
Dissolution Term applied to Henry VIII's two-part suppression of the monasteries, and appropriation of their lands.
Dog Tooth Late Norman and Early English repetitive decoration around doorways and arches. It takes the form of groups of two or four tooth-like ornaments in a hollow moulding, set diagonally to each other and repeated continuously or at short intervals.
Dole Cupboard Cupboard which originated in mediæval times to store bread for travellers and the poor of the parish.
Domesday Book The record of William I's great assessment inquiry into the value of land in England. Made in 1086. It contains a survey of all the lands in the country, giving the areas of estates, the amount of land under tillage, pastures, woods, and so on. For several centuries it served as a register for taxation.
Domical Vault Arched roof of ceiling shaped like a dome.
Doom Painting Frightening portrayal of the Day of Judgement. A feature of churches in the Middle Ages, as was interior painting generally. Those extant, and in some cases only fragments which remain, are usually to be found on the chancel arch.
Dorle See Order.
Dormer An upright window which projects from a sloping roof.
Double-framed Roof One in which the rafters, etc., which comprise the cross section, are joined along its length by other members.
Double Hammerbeam Roof Structure in which there are two stages of roof braces which rest on right-angled, hammer-shaped supports.
Double Ogee Design formed by a double moulding, concave and convex, round and shallow.
Double Splay Window Window placed centrally in a thick wall so that the masonry slopes away from it towards both the interior and the exterior wall surfaces.
Double Tracery One layer of ornamental stonework between windows, etc., superimposed upon another.
Dowel Headless oak or metal pin used to secure wood or stone members together.
Dripstone Ornamental stone moulding above a doorway, arch or window to throw off the rainwater and prevent it from running down the walls. See also Hood Moulding and Label Stop.
Drum General term for a vertical interior wall which encloses a circular or polygonal area. Often applied to the similar part of a dome or dome-shaped roof.
East End Wall of the church against which the altar is usually placed.
Easter Sepulchre A wall recess on the north side of the chancel near the altar, representing the entombment of Our Saviour, for here, from Good Friday to Easter Day, was placed the consecrated host. It is often beautifully adorned.
East Window Usually the largest window in the church, and to be found behind the main altar. Many contain magnificent mediæval stained glass.
Eaves Underside of a sloping roof where it overhangs the wall below.
Effigy Any sculptured likeness of a person, created in stone, brass, marble, alabaster, etc.
Embattled Moulding Ornamental moulding of the Norman period, depicting a raised outline resembling battlements.
Embrasure Opening in the battlements of a parapet. The word is normally used in connection with fortifications but church battlements were used as lookout posts.
Encaustic Tiles Glazed clay tiles of varying colours used on the floor of the church.
Engaged Column Vertical pillar or shaft which is partly let into a wall.
Engaged Shaft See Engaged Column.
Entablature Order above a column which includes the horizontal mouldings such as cornice and frieze, also the architrave.
Entasis Single convex curve given to the shaft of a column in order to correct the visual illusion that straight lines are concave.
Epitaph Comment to be found on tombstones and wall plaques. Usually takes the form of a strange or humorous rhyme which describes the character or the fate of the deceased.
Escutcheon See Funeral Hatchment.
Extrados Outside or higher curve of an arch, opposite the soffit.
Facade Exterior surface of a building; usually applied to the main side of the building which faces a street.
Family Pew Fine arrangement of seats in the church which were set aside for the use of a local family. These are especially plush and well upholstered in churches adjacent to country houses which were once the seats of the lords of the manor.
Fan Vaulting Ultimate development in English Gothic vaulting, confined to the Perpendicular period. Decoration takes the form of trumpet-shaped, inverted semicones of masonry in fan-like shapes, enriched by tracery and springing equally in all directions.
Feather Edge Finely tapered edge of a wedge-shaped board which is inserted into the V-shaped opening of an adjacent plank.
Feathering Row of small arcs which are separated at each intersection by projecting points and applied as the decoration on an arch.
Fenestration Arrangement of windows.
Feretory Tomb or coffin for the remains of a saint. Sometimes the chapel or an area behind the main altar in which such a receptacle is placed.
Fillet Small flat moulding which either horizontally or vertically divides two others. May also be cut on the surface of a larger moulding or around a pier.
Finial Usually leaf-like decoration which forms the terminal at the top of a gable, canopy, bench-end, tower corner, etc. Originated in the fourteenth century.
Flagon Large vessel used to hold the wine at the celebration of the Eucharist.
Flier See Flying Buttress.
Flowing Tracery Ornamental stonework of the late Decorated period; the form did not include circular or ogee shapes.
Flushwork Carved or cut stone or flint used as surface ornamentation.
Fluted Bevelled or grooved.
Flying Buttress Open half-arch or arch which either bridges two walls or connects a wall across the roof of an aisle in the main buttress.
Fogou A souterrain, or underground refuge hole, roofed and walled and generally well concealed. Found in Cornwall
Foil Area between the projecting points in a traceried ornament. See also Cinquefoil, Quatrefoil and Trefoil.
Foliated Carved with a leafy ornamentation. Mostly applied to crockets, finials and capitals.
Font Structure designed to hold the holy water which is used at the sacrament of baptism. Most are made of stone, but a few lead ones survive and even less of copper and bronze.
Font Canopy Wooden screen which completely surrounds a font.
Font Cover Protective cover for the font when it is not in use. Most are simple, flat constructions, carved in wood. There are many beautiful carved examples which tower into the air.
Footstone Small incised stone at the opposite end of the grave to the headstone. Usually contains brief details of the deceased such as the initials and the date of death.
Fosse A ditch or motte, originally full of water, outside castle walls or the ramparts of a fortification.
Foundation Stones or concrete below ground level which are used to support the weight of the building above.
Four-centred Arch Head of a doorway, window, etc., which springs from four points.
Four-leafed Flower Decoration consisting of a small ball in the centre of four equal, joining leaves. Ornamentation charactaristic of the Decorated period.
Freestone Extremly finely grained stone which can be broken or cut in any direction.
Fresco Sometimes applied loosely to a painting on a wall; the true fresco, which is a mode of painting with mineral and earthy pigments on plaster while in a moist state, is rare in England.
Frieze Carved band of ornamentation worked horizontally on a wall surface immediately below the cornice.
Frontal See Altar Frontal.
Funeral Hatchment Diamond shaped painting, usually on board, which depicts the arms or family crest of the deceased against a background which shows both the sex and marital status of the person involved.
Gable Any triangular shaped canopy over doors, windows, sedilia, piscina, etc., but almost always applied to the triangular upper section of the exterior wall at the end of a building.
Gable Cross Stone cross placed above a gable.
Galilee The name given to a porch or chapel, usually of considerable size, at the entrance of a church. Sometimes applied to the west end of the nave.
Gallery Covered upper storey above an aisle or at the west end of the nave. After the Reformation this area was often used by the village orchestra.
Gargoyle Carved stone waterspouts, built outwards from the gutter or side of the church in order to threw water clear from the roof. Some support a rainwater pipe; most are carved in the form of animals, mythological creature or grotesques, although some less ambitious examples do portray human heads.
Garth Open space surrounded by cloisters.
Geometrical Tracery The bar and plate tracery of the Early English period, which filled the upper parts of the windows with their own particular forms. These simple beginnings soon gave way to many and various shapes.
Gnomon Rod at the centre of a mass dial. The time of day is indicated by the position of its shadow as the sun falls across the rod.
God's Acre A churchyard.
God's Board See Christ's Board.
Graffiti Varied and ancient drawings, markings, etc., to be found on windows, doorways, buttresses.
Grain Texture and arrangement of fibres in a piece of stone or wood.
Grate See Grille.
Grave Recess or hole in the ground containing a corpse or corpses for which it was prepared, filled in and usually with a slight mound above ground level.
Grave Board Narrow piece of wood supported by stilts at each end, and used in the place of a headstone to record biographical details of the deceased.
Gravestone Variously shaped stone marking the place of a grave.
Grid Tracery The effect of narrow upright windows or openings with cusped heads set in tracery and usually divided by a horizontal member.
Grille Wrought iron or similarly decorated screen, often with gates or doors, and used to protect a tomb.
Grisalle Type of stained glass window painting, using greyish-white glass and monochrome decoration fired into the glass in a neutral coloured enamel.
Groin Plain edge formed by two intersecting vaults.
Groined Vault Structure resulting from the right-angled intersection of two tunnel vaults.
Gurgoyle See Gargoyle.
Hagioscope or Squint An opening in the internal walls of a church, usually running obliquely from the trancepts into the chancel and affording a view of the altar. Uncertainty prevails as to the original use
Half-timbered A type of construction employing a visible wooden frame, with a filling of brick or other material. When the panels between the timbers are plastered the architecture is sometimes described as "black and white" or "magpie".
Hall Church Building in which the main body of the church and the aisles are of about equal height.
Hammerbeam Projecting right-angled, hammer-shaped beam or bracket at the foot of the curved member and principal rafter in a wooden roof. Some are decorated, and they often support vertical or arched braces.
Hammerbeam Roof A wooden church roof, with projecting beams, their ends often enriched with carved angels, taking the place of tie-beams.
Hatchment See Funeral Hatchment.
Haunch Part of an arch between the pillar from which it springs and the highest or central points.
Headstone Variously shaped stone at the head of an exterior grave. Usually takes the form of a memorial and includes biographical details of the departed, often together with an epitaph.
Herringbone Pattern formed on masonry by a zigzag of diagonally placed stones alternately inclining to the left and right.
Herse Metal framework over a coffin or tomb, containing holes for candles. The candles were lit and prayers were said at the ceremony of the deceased.
High Altar Principal altar of a church in which there are more than one.
Hipped Roof Roof structure of sloping instead of vertical sides and ends.
Hogs Back Type of carved Saxon gravestone.
Holy Water Stoop See Stoup.
Hood Moulding Gothic ornamental stone moulding which projects over an arch, doorway, window, etc., in order to throw water clear of the building.
Hospital A building or institution for the old, infirm or sick, for destitute persons or for the care and education of orphans. In mediæval times more closely equivalent to almshouses than to a modern hospital.
Hour Glass Waisted glass of sand, usually to be found by the side of the pulpit and attached to it by an ornamental iron bracket. Introduced later in the sixteenth century in order to time sermons.
Hypocaust The space under the floor of a Roman house for distributing heat from the furnace to the rooms.
Impost Moulded upper member of a pillar which carries an arch; the point from which an arch springs.
Indent Any shallow area which has been chiselled out of a flat surface but usually to allow a brass to be placed flush with the surrounding stonework.
Intersecting Tracery The shape formed, in Early English windows, where several mullions in the same window branch into Y shapes, and continue with equal curves. The effect is that each group of two or more lancet windows which result forms a pointed arch.
Intrados See Suffit.
Ionic See Order.
Jamb Straight upright side-post of a doorway, or the side of an arch window.
Jamb Stones Masonry blocks forming the side of a doorway, etc.
Jesse Window Representation of the genealogy of Christ in either stonework or stained glass.
Jube Rood screen which includes a pulpit as part of its structure.
Kentish Tracery Ornamental stonework in a particular star-like form, with very elaborate cusping.
Kerb Stone edging to mark the boundary of a grave.
Keystone Centre stone at the crossing of the ribs of a vault or a round arch. Often decorated.
King Post Vertical beam in a wooden roof which connects the tie beam to the junction of the rafters above.
Kneeler That section of the moulding around the face of an arch which continues horizontally along the member or impost from which the arch springs.
Label Ornamental stone moulding over a Perpendicular square-headed window.
Label Stop Decoratively carved end to the dripstone or hood moulding.
Lady Chapel Chapel dedicated to the Virgin, usually to the East of the main altar in a large church.
Lancet Window Tall, narrow light which is sharply pointed at the top and a feature of Early English architecture. Often to be found in groups of three or five; groups of seven are less common.
Lantern Cross Churchyard cross, usually with a several-sided lantern shape at the top. The lantern itself usually contained sculptures or decorations in each of its sides and was surmounted by other decoration.
Lantern Tower Tower which is extended vertically with a lighthouse-like structure, illuminated by upper windows.
Lattice Window Window constructed of diamond-shaped panes set in diagonal lead strips. See also Came, Diamond Pane.
Laudian Rails Railings which were placed around wooden altar tables in the seventeenth century by order of Archbishop William Laud.
Lean-to Roof Roof with only one slope, adjoining a higher wall.
Lecturn Reading stand to support the church bible. May take the form of a desk, but is commonly designed as an eagle with outstretched wings.
Ledger Stone Large flat slab over a grave and sometimes let into the floor of the church. Often includes a coat of arms and an interesting inscription.
Lent Veil Curtain which was hung across the sanctuary during Lent.
Lepers' Window Low side window on the south side of the chancel. It was so named from the belief that lepers, who could not enter the church, used it to see the mass in progress. The position of most such windows proves this to be untrue.
Lierne Ribs Short vaulting rib which crosses from one boss to another and, with others, effects a star-like shape. Particular decorative characteristic of the late fourteenth century.
Lierne Vault Vault decorated by Lierne ribs.
Light Wal opening for the purpose of letting in light; a window or the spaces created by dividing a window with vertical bars known as mullions.
Linenfold Panelling Series of wooden panels, carved to look like pieces of material hanging vertically in their natural folds.
Lintel Flat horizontal stone or beam which spans a window opening or the top of a door.
Lithic Of, or pertaining to stone.
Long and Short Work Large vertical stone slabs which alternate with horizontal ones to form the angle where two walls meet in Saxon work.
Long Barrow See Tumulus.
Longtitudinal Street Vertical timber between the main beam and the ridge piece in a timber roof.
Low Side Window Unglazed opening in the south wall of the chancel, built to assist ventilation.
Lozenge Moulding Ornamental moulding of diamond shapes, joining each other in a continuous line. A feature of Norman decoration.
Lucarne See Spire Light.
Lych-gate Stone or wood roofed structure at the churchyard entrance where a coffin could rest.
Mason Craftsman who works in stone.
Mason's Mark Trade mark or 'signature' of a mason or his descendants.
Mason Stop Right-angled end-piece on the ornamental stone moulding above a doorway or window.
Mass Dial Sundial which told the time by the position of the shadow from a central rod, on lines radiating in the stonework from its base. The hour for mass is usually marked by a deeper groove.
Medallion Large circular or oval-shaped medal, panel or tablet. Used to depict a biblical scene, symbol, figure of a saint, etc.
Medallion Moulding Pictorial, medal-shaped, ornamental moulding of the Norman period.
Mediæval Of the Middle Ages, about 1100 to 1550
Menhir A tail upright stone of prehistoric origin.
Mensa Stone altar slab, sometimes marked with consecration crosses.
Mercy Seat See Misericord.
Merlon Raised section in the battlements of a parapet. Such may be solid, pierced, panelled or carved. They are spaced at regular intervals and were used for shelter.
Minster Large church which was originally attached to a monastery.
Minsdtrel Gallery See Musician's Gallery.
Misericord or Misericorde or Miserere The projecting bracket on the underside of the hinged seats of choir stalls, which, when the seat was raised, gave some support to the infirm during parts of a church service when they had to stand. Often grotesquely carved. Wrongly called "miserere".
Monolith A single block of stone, usually of large size, forming a pillar, column, obelisk or other monument.
Monoxylon Dug-out chest, roughly carved from the trunk of a tree. Saxon and Norman work.
Monstrance Open vessel in which the sacred host is shown.
Monument Generally any permanent item which commemorates a person or event. More usually used to describe an effigy or carving which depicts the likeness of people.
Moot Hall An early English term for a hall used as a meeting place for discussion or debate, for making laws or administering justice, and now sometimes applied to the Town Hall. See also Witan.
Mortsafe Stone or iron vault which was erected around a churchyard tomb to prevent the body inside from being carried off by body snatchers.
Mortise Hole cut into a piece of timber to receive exactly the end or tenon of an adjoining piece, so carved to fit into it.
Mouchette Fourteenth-century tracery basically in the shape of a curved spearhead, cusped and arched on the inside.
Moulding Contoured outline which adds beauty and tone, through light and shade contrasts, to projections, cornices, pillars, windows, arches, etc.
Mounting Steps Steps placed at the entrance to the church path in order that visitors could dismount more easily from their horses.
Mullion The vertical bar, usually of stone, dividing the lights (spaces) of a window, screen, etc., frequently used with transoms, or horizontal bars, especially in the later Gothic and in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
Multifoil Arrangement of several cusped ornamental fillings for a circle or arch.
Muntin Vertical member in a wooden screen which either supports the head beam or frames the panelling.
Mural Painting Colourful wall decoration which depicts religious events, etc.
Musician's Gallery Upper storey above an aisle or at the west end of the nave. The area was used by small village bands during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Nail Head Ornamental moulding of the late Norman period, consisting of raised pyramidal shapes in a continuous sequence.
Narthex Enclosed, sacred, single-storey vestibule at the western end of the church. Sometimes a covered porch at the main entrance, which was used only by women in early churches.
Nave Main body or the western arm of the church in which the congregation is housed during services. Comprises the area between the chancel and the west end.
Needle Spire Particularly narrow conical structure which is built from the tower roof but well within any parapet.
Neolithic Denotes the later phase of the pre-historic stone age civilisation which preceeded the use of metals; characterised by the use of polished, highly finished tools and weapons.
Niche Vertical hollow, or ornamental recess, in a wall originally designed to hold a small statue.
Nimbus A halo.
Nogging Brickwork (where only this is used) between the timber framework of a building.
Nook Shaft Pillar set in the right angle formed by adjoining vertical faces in a door jamb or window.
Obelisk Square or several-sided stone shaft. Often used as a memorial, marker or headstone.
Offset Sloping part of a wall or buttress which has been exposed by a reduction in thickness of the section immediately above.
Ogee Moulding shaped in a continuous, flowing, double curve which is concave above and convex below and springs from two opposing radii.
Oratory Private place of worship, built by a saint.
Order Term used in classical architecture to define the entire structure which includes all parts of a column and the entablature. The five of those defined in classical architecture are Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. The last is a mixture of Ionic and Corinthian. Tuscan was a mixture of Doric and Composite which became a feature of Renaissance architecture. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian were the names which the Romans gave to the three types of columns invented by the Greeks.
Order Arch Receeding arch of a doorway or window.
Oriel A projecting bay window, usually corbelled out from the face of the wall.
Ovolo Convex moulding which runs either horizontally or along the contour of an arch in Renaissance architecture. The upper edge projects.
Packhorse Bridge A form of bridge, common in mediæval times, but now rare, which was only wide enough for pedestrians and loaded horses (packhorses).
Padstone Stone block on the top of a wall between the beam which supports the rafters and the parallel timber which takes the ceiling laths or floorboards.
Painted Glass See Stained Glass.
Palimpost A brass, the metal plate of which has been reversed, with a fresh engraving on the back.
Palladian Style Architecture influenced by the designs of Andrea Palladio (1518-1580), an Italian who was famous for his domestic buildings. Sir Christopher Wren modified this in much of his church-building and the style was copied by some of his successors in the same field.
Parapet Low wall above roof or eaves level of a tower or wall. It prevents accidents and breaks the visual line of a flat roof.
Parapet Spire A spire which rises wholly from within the parapet of a tower.
Parclose Screen A partition or screen around a shrine or chapel in order both to enclose it and to separate it from the main body of the church.
Pargetry Plaster on exterior walls, sometimes decorated.
Parish Registers. Written records of christenings, marriages, burials, churchwarden's accounts, tithe books,etc. Originally kept in the parish chest; many are now in local authority's archives. First ordered to be kept in 1538.
Parpeting See Stucco.
Parvis(e) Enclosed area before the entrance to the church, or a room over a church porch used as a schoolroom.
Paten Flat cover for a chalice, which is used to hold the sacred host.
Patera Small circular or square decoration set at regular intervals in hollow moulding.
Pax Tablet showing the Crucifiction which is kissed by both the priest and the congregation as a sign of peace.
Pedestal Supporting base between a column and the plinth.
Pediment A low-pitched gable covering the front of a classical or Renaissance building, especially above the portico, doors, windows, etc.
Pele or Peel Tower A term applied to a tower or keep built as a place of refuge, especially during border raids. Peles are usually as high as they are long, and most have vaulted storeys. Found chiefly in Northumberland.
Pellet Moulding Ornamental moulding of the Norman period, consisting of small spheres or beads in a continuous line.
Pendant Hanging feature especially applied to a boss in a mediæval roof.
Pew Bench seat, often enclosed and with high walls and doors.
Pier Vertical and freestanding pillar; cylindrical, octagonal, rectangular or in clusters. Mostly solid in construction except for those of the Norman period which were often filled with rubble. Usually ornamental, as well as a structural necessity.
Pilaster Shallow rectangular column attached to, and projecting from, a wall on which it was used as a form of decoration. A feature of Saxon building.
Pillar Vertical member, usually freestanding and supporting an arch. May also be attached to a wall as decoration.
Pillar Piscina Stone basin built on to a pillar or shaft, through which the water used by the priest was drained.
Pinnacle Vertical turret to be found at the head of buttresses, roofs, gables, towers, etc. The elongated, cone-shaped head is usually decorated by crockets or other foliated shapes and the whole tapers to a pointed apex which is known as a finial.
Piscina Niche, containing a perforated stone basin, usually of ornamental form and placed near an altar within a canopy, for carrying away water used in rinsing the chalice and the Priest's Fingers at Mass. The water drains away to consecrated ground outside the walls of the church. Double piscinas were sometimes used, one for the washing of hands, the other for washing sacred vessels. A piscina without an altar usually denoted the former position of one.
Pitch Slope of a roof in relation to the horizon.
Plank Chest See Boarded Chest.
Plantain Leaf Flat, broad, sectional leaf used as decoration, especially on fonts made of Tournai marble.
Plate Valuable items such as bowls, chalices, cups, figures,dishes, patens, etc., which belong to the church and are invariably made out of precious metals.
Plate Tracery The earliest form of ornamental ribbing in the upper section of Gothic windows; simply openings pierced in the solid flat surface. The forerunner of bar tracery.
Plinth Lowest projecting base member of a pedestal, column or walk.
Ploughshare Vault Vault skewed at an angle and away from its normal radius.
Polygonal Many-sided. Usually applied to the shape of a chapel, apse, or the east-end of the church.
Polypod Means several-legged. Usually applied to the type of font which consists of a bowl which is supported by a central stem but has several other shafts either attached as decoration or constructed as additional supports.
Poppy Head A carved or ornamental top to a stall or bench-end. Usually a leaf-like or floral carving.
Porch Covered entrance built against the outside wall of the church to protect the south doorway.
Porch Tower Tower, or upper rooms built in a tower-like shape, subsequently raised on an existing porch.
Portico A range of columns in front of a building, or forming the porch of a classical building, usually surmounted by a pediment. Used in Classical styles.
Porticus Loosely applied to a chapel or side chamber which abuts the main building or a porch supported by a colonnade.
Poupee Head Alternative spelling of Poppy Head
Presbytery Sanctuary reserved for the clergy and usually to be found beyond the choir at the east end of the church.
Priest's Door Small entrance for the use of the priest, usually located in the south wall of the chancel.
Principal Rafter Main rafter supporting the roof and taking the weight transmitted through the purlins
Processional Cross Ceremonial crucifix on a long stem, used to head processions.
Pulpit Raised, fronted platform reached by steps and used by the preacher as a podium from which to deliver his sermon. Most are carved in wood; canopied Jacobean examples are very well done. There are rare stone pulpits.
Pulpitum The stone rood screen of a major church. It has a central doorway and usually divides the monk's quire from the rest of the building.
Purlin Heavy horizontal beam which is set at a distance along the slope of a roof in order to conduct the weight from the common rafters to the principal rafter.
Putlog Hole Square aperture which once held scaffolding.
Pyx Vessel used to contain the consecrated bread used at the blessed sacrament.
Quadripartite Vault Vault which is divided into four sections of equal size by transverse diagonal ribs which cross at the centre.
Quarry Diamond-shaped piece of glass used in lattice windows.
Quatrefoil Open tracery shaped as a four-lobed flower.
Queen Post Vertical beam which joins the main rafters of a roof with the horizontal tie beam.
Quire Alternative spelling of Choir.
Quirk Sharp groove in the moulding immediately above or below a chamfer.
Quoin Large, dressed corner-stone as it forms the external angle as the meeting of two wall surfaces.
Rabbet Stepped semi-groove which is cut to project along the outer edge of a plank and exactly fit the groove in an adjoining plank.
Radiating Chapels Chapels built outwards in radial fashion from the wall at the east end of the church.
Rafter The sloping beam in a timber roof which connects the ridge above with the wall plate. Several of these form the interior framework of the roof and support the boarding and the exterior covering.
Rail Horizontal member which connects a series of panels.
Reading Desk See Lectern.
Rebus A carved or pictorial representation of a name.
Recessed Grave Burial chamber constructed within a thick wall.
Rectangle See Single-celled Plan.
Rectilinear Characteristic straight line, upright appearance of windows or panelling in the Perpendicular period.
Refectory A room used for meals in monasteries, etc.
Reformation The religious revolution of the sixteenth century. It repudiated the supremacy of the Pope and resulted in the Protestant or Reformed church. There was some church building, but generally very little until the eighteenth century.
Registers See Parish Registers.
Rere Arch Inner arch of a window or doorway which differs from the outer side.
Reredos Decorated screen of wall-covering behind the altar. May be a tapestry, painting or a stone construction beneath the east window so shaped to accommodate figures of the twelve apostles.
Respond Half pillar which is built against the wall at the end of an arcade.
Restoration Rebuilding or repair of a potentially ruinous building. The term is often used in connection with the unaesthetical rebuilding by Victorian architects.
Retable Raised shelf behind the altar, which sometimes takes the form of a decorated stone screen or panels. It is used to hold ornaments, candlesticks and vases.
Reticulated Tracery Form of pattern in tracery which consists of circles which are elongated into ogee shapes and repeated in a honeycomb pattern.
Retro-choir Section of a cathedral or a major church to the east of the choir, and behind the presbytery.
Rib Arched, and generally moulded, member which supports a vault or ceiling and divides it into compartments.
Riddells Curtains at the side of the altar.
Ridge Piece Horizontal beam along the line where the sloping sides of a roof meet.
Ring of an Arch Plain or moulded right-angles contour of an arch.
Rococo Successor to Baroque. Flamboyant style of European architecture which originated in France in the mid eighteenth century. Has since given its name to any extremely ornamental style.
Roll Moulding Cylindrical or convex form of contour.
Roll-top Tomb See Bale Tomb.
Romanesqu Round-arched style of Saxon building. It became typical of Norman work, with which it is most usually associated.
Rood The cross of Christ; symbol of the Christian faith.
Rood Beam Horizontal member which spans the chancel and supports the rood above
Rood Loft Gallery on top of the rood screen, usually carved and supporting a large cross. Some still have statues of Saint John and the Virgin. Such galleries were used as access to the rood in order to clean and decorate it, but many were destroyed at the Reformation.
Rood Screen Carved wooden or stone screen which divides the nave from the choir and chancel. The rood was placed over the screen.
Rood Stairs Steps leading to the rood loft, often through a pillar.
Roof Truss See Truss.
Rose Window Circular window with tracery radiating from the centre.
Royal Arms Board or canvas square containing a painting of the royal arms. They became a compulsory part of the parish church after the Reformation.
Rubble Rough infilling and stone fragments used in Norman pillars, etc.
Rubblestone Unsquared, roughly hewn stones which have been irregularly constructed.
Running Vine Decoration of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods, which takes the form of a continuous single vine with leaves falling alternately above and below the stem.
Rusticated Pitted, roughened surface to masonry.
Sacristy Depository for the valuables owned by the church, such as the sacred vessels, vestments, etc.
Saddleback Roof Tower roof built in the shape of two opposite gables.
Saltire Cross Diagonal form in the shape of St. Andrew's cross.
Sanctuary Area to the east of the main altar rails, which includes the altar.
Sanctuary Chair Seat within the main altar rails, reserved for use by a visiting bishop. Many elaborately carved Jacobean examples remain.
Sanctuary Ring Knocker on the exterior door of the church. It was used by persons who wished to claim the ancient right of sanctuary within the building or churchyard, until they could be lawfully brought to trial.
Sanctus Bell Small bell hung on the exterior of the church, usually in the own turret at the junction of the nave and the chancel. The bell is rung at the elevation of the host.
Scolloped Capital Romanesque style head to a column or pilaster, cone-shaped with the lower angles carved into a series of cone-shapes which are rounded towards the lower edge in order to meet the circular supporting shaft.
Scantling Small beam.
Scissor Beam Timber placed diagonally to its fellow from each side of a timber roof, so that at some point they cross through each other forming an X shape.
Scoinson See Rere Arch.
Scratch Dial Sundial which was lightly incised into the exterior wall of the church in order to tell the time for masons.
Screen Any partition which separates one part of the church from another. See also Jube and Rood Screen.
Scribing Cutting a moulding in order to meet it exactly at an angle.
Scuncheon Arch See Rere Arch.
Sedilia Set of two, three or four seats recessed in niches in the south wall of the chancel. Used by the priest and his assistants. Sedilla are often stepped, decorated and canopied and built in stone, although there are some wooden ones.
See Ecclesiastical extent of a bishopric.
Setback Buttresses Exterior supports placed an equal distance apart from the angle formed where two walls meet.
Set Off See Offset.
Seven Sacraments Fonts. Group of fifteenth and sixteenth century fonts almost exclusive to East Anglia, on which are carved illiustrations of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony, although not necessarily in that order.
Sexpartite Vault Four-sectioned (quadrapartite) vault with an additional arch rib dividing it into six unequal parts.
Sgraffito Decorated plasterwork.
Shaft Any independent column, or the part of a pillar or column between the base and the capital.
Shaft Ring See Amulet.
Shingle Rectangular, wooden roofing or walling tile with one end thicker than the other.
Shrine Usually the tomb, altar or special chapel associated with a saint or martyr.
Single-celled Plan Earliest style of church-building in which there was no division between the nave and the chancel.
Single-framed Roof System of rafters, etc., in cross section not joined along its length.
Sleeper Large wooden post set into the whole height of a wall to support indirectly the timbers of the roof.
Soffit Flat ceiling under a gallery, rood loft, etc. Otherwise the underside of an arch.
Sole Piece Timber placed on the top of a wall in order to provide a base for a rafter.
Sound Hole Opening pierced in a belfry wall for ventilation.
Sounding Board Horizontal canopy above a pulpit.
Spandrel Space between two arches, or the triangular-shaped blocking between the posts and beams of screens, roofs, etc. Sometimes decorated.
Spire Tall conical structure tapering to a point and built on top of a tower.
Spire Light Pierced opening on the flat surface of a spire. It contains horizontal, ornamental stone openwork.
Splay Shape of masonry which slopes backwards towards a deep-set window in a thick wall.
Splay-foot Spire Type of broach spire with the broaches flattened outwards.
Springer Single block of stone in a wall from which springs the curve of an arch or the rib of a wall.
Squinch Arches which are built across the interior angles of a square tower in order to support an octagonal superstructure.
Squint See Hagioscope.
Stained Glass Painted pieces of glass which, when held together by a lead-work frame, form a complete picture. The result is bound by the tracery of a window, and collectively often forms scenes of detail and beauty to be read right across the window.
Stair Turret Covered stairway which is built on the outside of the tower and giving access to the interior. Although some actually rise above the tower, some only reach the belfry stage.
Stall Fixed wooden seat in the chancel or choir, often carved or canopied.
Staple Thin, curved piece of metal which was driven into the upper side of a font in order to secure the font cover. Such action was necessary in the Middle Ages because holy water was often left for very long periods, if it was not otherwise stolen for profane use.
Stave Staff belonging to the churchwarden as guardian of the church, and often exhibited in the nave.
Steeple The whole structure of a spire built on to a tower or roof where the two are not clearly defined into separate parts.
Stellar See Lierne Rib.
Stiff Leaf Early English decoration which resembles stiff stalks of curling leaves and is to be found on capitals, corbels, mouldings, bosses, etc.
Stoup Stone basin used to hold holy water. Located inside the church or on the right-hand side of the porch.
Strainer Arch Arch which is built between two pillars in order to stabilise the structure.
String Course Projecting band of masonry running horizontally around the exterior of the church as well as between each stage of a tower.
Strut Diagonal or upright brace, placed between the king post and the beam it supports in a wooden roof.
Stucco Decorative plasterwork
Stud Vertical piece of timber.
Superimpose Formation of two layers of carving into a canopy.
Tabernacling Covered, ornamental canopy of Gothic origin placed over an altar, choir stalls, etc.
Table Tomb Grave made of masonry in the shape of an altar, and raised above the level of the ground.
Tenon Projecting end of a piece of timber so prepared to fit into a mortice or socket.
Tester Canopy above a pulpit.
Three-celled Plan Style of design which originated in the twelfth century, and consisted of nave, choir and sanctuary.
Three-decker pulpit Accomodation ascending vertically in three tiers for the use of the clerk, the reader and the preacher. High box pews of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries meant that the preacher had to be high off the ground to be seen by the congregation.
Tie Beam Large, horizontal main beam in a timber roof. It spans the distance between two walls and supports the rafters it connects on both sides.
Tierceron Ribs Subsiduary pairs of ribs which begin at the same point as the main supports but meet at an angle and do not complete a continuous line across the vault. They do not cross through the centre.
Tierceron Vault A vault containing ribs of the same name.
Tithe Barn The barn where the produce collected for tithes was stored. The tithes were the tenth part of the fruits of the earth set apart for the clergy.
Tomb Vault or grave containing human remains.
Tomb Railings Decorative metalwork used to enclose table tombs, or an altar in the fourteenth century.
Tombstone Monumental stone, marble, etc., which denotes the position of a grave and often contains some biographical details of the deceased.
Tournal Fonts Large, richly decorated group of fonts made from blue-black marble taken from the quarries at Tournal on the Scheldt river in Belgium.
Tower Square or circular structure rising above the roof of the church and usually positioned either centrally, at the crossing of nave and trancepts, or at the west end. Some are detached from the main building.
Tower Church See Turriform.
Tracery Perforated, ornamental stonework in a window, screen, panelling, etc.
Trancept Onr arm of the crossing in a cruciform church.
Transom Horizontal cross-bar in wood or stone which spans a window, the top of a door, or is present in the tracery of a screen.
Transverse Arch Arch set at right-angles to the axis of a vault which it divides into bays.
Trefoil Foliated, three-lobed ornamentation in a pierced circle or at the head of an arch.
Trellis Ornament Norman decoration consisting of a continuous band of lattice work.
Tribune Raised floor or gallery over an aisle, which has arched openings into the nave.
Triforium Blank arcading, gallery or wall passage between the top of the main arcade and the clerestory above.
Triglyph Decorative tablet in a frieze of classical ornamentation.
Truss Rigid beam which supports rafters.
Tub Font Stemless, bucket-shaped font of Saxon and Norman periods.
Tunnel Vault See Barrel Vault.
Turriform The complete church building including the tower as an integral part.
Tuscan See Order.
Two-celled Plan Eleventh century style of building, dividing the church into nave and chancel.
Tympanum Space between the lintel at the top of a doorway and the arch shape above it. Characteristic of Norman and Gothic buildings; the remaining examples often contain a scripture in relief.
Undercroft Underground crypt below a church.
Vault Underground room of interment.
Vaulting Arched roof, ceiling or arch-like structures with ribs radiating from a central point. See also Fan Vaulting, Groined Vault, Lierne Vault, Quadripartite Vault, Sexpartite Vault, Tierceron Vault.
Vesica Pointed oval shape formed by the intersection of two circles of equal diameter
Vestments Clothes of office worn by the clergy, choristers, etc.
Vestry Room within or adjoining the church and used by the priest to store vestments and items relevant to church matters.
Vice Spiral staircase winding around a pillar.
Volute Spiral twist of an Ionic capital, often to be found in Norman work.
Votive Cross Lightly scratched marking made as tangible proof of a personal vow.
Voussoir Wedge-shaped stone block which, with others, makes up an arch.
Wagon Roof Curved roof with similarly shaped wooden rafters, together resembling the interior of a covered wagon. A feature of churches in Cornwall.
Wagon Vault See Barrel Vault.
Wainscot Panelled woodwork around the lower walls of the church, or in a similar position in modern screens.
Wall Arcade See Blind Arcade.
Wall Panelling Any form of painted decoration within the church. May be whole scenes from the Bible, or repetitive or isolated two-dimensioned representations of carved motifs. (See also Doom Painting.)
Wall Plate Horizontal piece of timber which is placed on the top of either side of a wall in order to support the load imposed upon it by one of the rafters in the roof above.
Wall Post Vertical member which is placed against a wall in order to support the downward thrust of the roof.
Wall Tablet Commemorative plaque placed on the interior wall of the church. Contains biographical details of an individual or family, and sometimes an epitaph.
Water Hold Hollow between two cylindrical or convex mouldings at the base of a pillar.
Waterleaf Early English leaf-shape which begins in the centre of each face of a capital, divides outwards and curls upwards at its extremities towards the abacus.
Wattle and Daub Early wall which comprised a bound interweave of twigs and rods covered with mud and clay.
Weather Boarding A protective covering for an external wall surface, usually made of horizontal planks of wood which overlap each other.
Weather Mould See Dripstone.
Webbing Filling between the ribs of a vault.
Weepers Carved figures which are set in niches along the sides of a mediæval tomb.
Wheel Window See Rose Window.
Wool Church Fine Perpendicular structure, built and enriched by the prosperity of the wool trade.
Yew Tree Usually found on the south side of the churchyard where yews were originally planted to protect the building from the elements. There was a pagan belief in its sacredness, and the tree later became a symbol of immortality. Its foliage was used as decoration at festivals.
Y Tracery The resulting shape when a single mullion divides itself, forming an elongated diamond shape above two lights.
Zigzag See Chevron.

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