6. Glossary

abacus: the flat slab at the top of a column separating the entablature from the capital.

absidiole: a small chapel projecting from the apse of a church or cathedral.

abutment: solid stonework or brickwork built against an arch or vault and counteracting its lateral thrust.

acanthus: Greek ornament based on acanthus leaves, as used in Corinthian and Composite capitals and other mouldings.

acroterion: (pl. -ia) plinth at feet or apex of a pediment holding statues or ornaments; the entire ornamental element at these angles.

adytum: (Greek) the inner sanctuary of a temple, entered only by the priest.

agora: (Greek) public square or market place.

alternating supports: a system in which piers of complex section alternate with simple columns or pillars.

aisle: a narrow space that provides access through the length of a building, which in a church runs parallel to the nave.

alcove: a recessed space in a wall, sometimes vaulted and originally used for a bed.

ambulatory: the aisle running round the eastern end of a church.

anta: (pl. -ae) strengthening of a wall termination, resembling a pilaster, generally at the ends of the projecting walls of a portico.

antefix: (pl. -ae) decorative blocks placed on the lateral edges of a roof to conceal the ends of the tiles.

anthemion: a Greek form of ornament based on the honeysuckle flower and leaves.

antis: as in a portico in antis, which is recessed so that the columns are flush with the walls of the building on either side.

apron: the raised panel beneath a windows sill, sometimes shaped or decorated.

apse: semi-circular or polygonal structure, often the end of a chancel, forming a recess inside a building and a projection outside.

Arabesque: a flowing interlaced ornament based on geometrical patterns of Arab origin.

arcade: a row of arches supported by columns.

arch: a structure spanning an open space, such as a wall opening, and often supporting a structure above. The simple semi-circular form can be created using wedge-shaped masonry or bricks.

architrave: the lowest of the three parts of an entablature, resting directly on the columns; also applied to moulded door or window surrounds. The Doric entablature usually includes triglyphs separated by panels called metopes.

arcuated: descriptive of a building dependent on the use of the arch, not post and lintel (trabeated).

arcuated lintel: an entablature bent up to form an arch projecting into the pediment.

arrow loop: a narrow vertical slot in a fortified building through which archers could fire their arrows.

ashlar: regularly dressed masonry; usually in squared blocks of stone, or masonry constructed of such blocks.

astylar: without columns.

atlantes: male sculptured figures used as supports.

atrium: (1) the inner court of a Roman house, open to the sky; (2) an open court in front of an Early Christian church.

axial layout: planned longitudinally (as opposed to centrally) along an axis.

bailey: a court in a medieval castle, lying between the outer walls and keep.

balustrade: a barrier consisting of several small columns, each known as a baluster, supporting a horizontal member.

barbican: a small structure outside a castle that provides the first line of defence.

bargeboard: a wooden board in front of the edge of the roofing material at the end of a gable and often carved to decorative effect.

baroque: a classical style popular in Italy, with facades of contrasting concave and convex forms. Baroque churches are often oval.

barrel vault: a simple vault forming a continuous stone roof, generally of semi-circular section

bar-tracery: tracery consisting of stone ribs forming patterns.

basilica: originally a Roman judgement hall; later used to mean a building with arcades, aisles and clerestories.

bastion: a tower-like structure projecting from the corners or from the length of an outer wall, as used in fortified buildings.

battered: leaning inward.

bay: (1) division of a church between one pier and the next; (2) division of a facade corresponding to one window.

belvedere: a tower or loggia for enjoying the view.

billet-moulding: a moulding shaped like a long roll cut up into thick slices.

blind arcade: a row of arched recesses in a wall, but not forming a full arcade.

boiserie: French word for panelling, especially carved, of the 17th and 18th centuries.

boss: carved feature marking the meeting of ribs in a vault.

brise-soleil: a sun-break, often of concrete, applied to over-fenestrated facades.

buttress: pier of brick or stone giving additional strength to the wall to which it is attached.

buttress, flying: an arched support carrying the thrust of a vault to an outer buttress.

campanile: (pl. -i) Italian word for bell-tower, usually detached from the main building.

cap: the topmost order of the pedestal in a classical order.

caisson: see coffer.

capital: the uppermost part of a column, usually carved with abstract or figural ornament.

Carolingian: pertaining to the Emperor Charlemagne.

canted: sloping at the edges or set at a slight angle.

cantilever: a projecting beam supported by a weight on the other end.

cartouche: a heraldic panel, generally with curved sides.

caryatid: female figure supporting a capital or entablature.

catenary curve: the curve formed by a chain or rope hanging from two points not in the same vertical line.

cavetto: concave moulding about a quarter-circle in section

cella: principal interior of a temple, housing the cult image chamfered a corner truncated at an angle of about 45 degrees.

centralised plan: a plan in which length and width are equal.

centring: temporary wooden scaffolding on which an arch or vault rests until the mortar has set.

chancel: east end of a church containing the altar; in a large church, east of the choir; in a smaller one, east of the nave or crossing.

chapter house: room for daily monastic business, in which the chapter (capitulum) of monastic rules is read.

cheek-walls: low walls protecting the flanks of a flight of steps.

chevet: the apsidal east end of a church with chapels radiating from it.

chevron: zigzag ornament in the form of an inverted ‘V’.

chief: upper third of a shield.

choir: the east end of the crossing occupied by the choir in a monastic church or cathedral; loosely, the eastern arm of a large church.

cinquefoil: with five foils or cusps.

clerestorey: the upper part of the side walls of a building, especially a church, rising above the aisle roofs and pierced by windows.

cloisonné facing: wall ornamentation in patterns of stone and brick.

cloister: four-sided enclosure with covered walk along each side

coffering: sunken square or polygonal panels in ceilings, vaults and in the soffits of arches.

colonnade: a row of columns.

colonnette: a small column.

column: free-standing vertical support; in the classical orders this consists of (from top to bottom) abacus, echinus (or volute) and shaft, together with optional base and plinth.

coffer: a recessed panel, often ornamented, set into a ceiling.

Composite order: Roman column with acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order surmounted by diagonal volutes of the Ionic order.

compound: complex in section, not simply rectangular or circular.

corbel: a bracket or projecting block, usually of stone, serving as a support for another member.

Corinthian order: late Greek style of column and capital.

cornice: the crowning projecting moulding along the top of an entablature.

corona: projecting upper member of a cornice.

cottage orné: a rustic cottage, often thatched, originating in the Picturesque movement of the 18th century.

cruciform: cross-shaped in plan.

cupola: (1) a small dome-shaped roof or lantern; (2) an ornate turret in a roof that provides light or contains a bell.

curvilinear: style of tracery using ogees in which the patterns assume free curving shapes resembling leaves, flames etc.

cusp: projection on the underside of an arch, especially in Gothic architecture; three cusps form a trefoil, four a quatrefoil, and so on.

dentil: small square block resembling a tooth, used in horizontal rows on the lower part of a cornice, particularly in the Corinthian order.

dipteral: (Greek) having two rows of columns around the cella.

Doric order: (Greek) oldest classical form of column, usually employing entasis.

dormer: window with its own roof set vertically in a sloping roof.

dorter: Monastic dormitory.

dosseret: block above a capital, as used in Byzantine and Romanesque architecture to help carry the voussoirs of the above arcade.

double pile: a house two rooms thick in plan.

dressings: blocks of stone that have been cut with true plane faces or shaped into quoins or keystones.

drip moulding: a shallow projection that throws rain water clear of a door or window. In Gothic buildings this follows the curve of an arch.

drip stone: see drip moulding.

drum: cylindrical substructure of a dome, although a drum can exist without a dome.

Dutch gable: a gable with curved sides, convex, concave or both, usually with a small pediment at the top.

echelon, echelon apse: apse flanked by chapels placed in a stepped or ladder-wise manner.

echinus: the convex or ovolo moulding like a cushion below the abacus of a Doric capital.

egg-and-dart: an ovolo moulding ornamented with egg-shapes

egg-and-tongue: see egg-and-dart.

engaged: built into a wall.

engaged column: a column attached to or sunk into a wall or pier.

engaged order: columns attached to or sunk into a wall or pier.

entablature: the upper horizontal part of an order consisting of (from top to bottom) cornice, frieze and architrave. This area originally existed between the capitals and gutter of ancient classical buildings.

entasis: slight convex curve given to the profile of columns (particularly Greek) and sometimes in horizontals.

exedra: an apse or niche.

fan vault: the application of decorative cusped panels to solid semi-cones, as used in late Perpendicular churches.

fascia: a plain horizontal band in an architrave which may incorporate two or three such bands, decorated in some Corinthian examples.

fenestration: the arrangement of windows in a facade.

finial: a carved or moulded ornament crowing a pinnacle, gable or spire.

fluting: shallow rounded grooves, commonly applied vertically to a shaft or column.

flying buttress: a buttress containing a half-arch leaning against a wall.

frater: monastic refectory or dining hall.

frieze: the central part of an entablature , above the architrave and below the cornice, sometimes decorated with figure sculpture.

frontispiece: decorated composition emphasising the entrance bay of a Renaissance house.

galilee: a large enclosed porch at the west end of a cathedral or abbey-church.

gallery: any upper storey of a building with a passage open to the interior or exterior; more specifically, in larger churches, the middle storey of a three storey elevation, between the arcade and the clerestorey.

gargoyle: grotesque spout with human or animal mouth, head or body, projecting from a gutter and carrying rainwater clear of the wall.

garth: closed garden, especially the space enclosed by a cloister.

Geometrical: style of tracery in which the patterns are formed by regular circles or segments of circles.

giant order: columns or pilasters rising from the ground floor through more than one storey.

groin vault: a vault caused by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults, the edges meeting in a cross.

grotesque: decorative painting or sculpture, fantastic interweaving of human or animal forms with foliage; comically distorted figures.

guttae: small peg-like projections carved on the top of the architrave, beneath the mutules and triglyphs of a Doric entablature.Some experts consider such features to be the ‘petrified carpentry’ of the original methods of classical construction.

hall church: one with aisles equal in height to the nave

hammerbeam: type of roof construction in which the braces rest on cantilevered beams supported on brackets.

herm: a pier ending in a head or bust, often a female figure used as a support.

hexastyle: term descriptive of a 6-columned portico.

hipped roof: a pitched roof in which the ends are also sloped.

hypaethral: (Greek) open to the sky.

imperial staircase: one with a central arm breaking into 2 flights which follow the outer walls.

impluvium: (Roman) water tank housed in central hall or atrium provided with an opening in the roof.

in antis: term descriptive of a portico with columns which do not project from but range with the flanking walls.

Ionic order: late Greek style of column and capital.

Isabelline style: florid Gothic style in Spain under Isabel I (1479-1504)

jamb: side post of doorway or window.

keep: the tower or innermost stronghold of a medieval castle.

key: the central voussoir, sometimes decorated, at the crown of an arch.

lancet: a narrow pointed window, much used in 13th-century Gothic.

lantern: topmost section of a dome, with small vertical windows admitting light or air to the interior.

lierne vault: a ribbed vault incorporating liernes, i.e. decorative tertiary ribs not springing from the principal boss or springers.

linen-fold panelling: a form of decoration, commonly found on Tudor woodwork, that resembles folded linen.

lintel: a horizontal member supported at each end by a wall or columns.

liturgical east end: the altar end in a church that is not geographically orientated east/west.

loggia: a gallery or verandah, open on one or more sides, often incorporating an arcade.

long-and-short-work: Saxon type of stonework in which long stones are set alternately upright and horizontal in a vertical group.

longitudinal plan: a plan in which length exceeds width.

lunette: a semi-circular opening, usually a window.

machicolation: the furnishing of openings between the corbels of an overhanging parapet, as originally used for dropping objects onto those intruding into a medieval castle but later employed as a decorative feature.

majolica: a type of coloured glazed earthenware.

Mannerist: a style using complex surface modelling, ambiguous rhythms and distortion of classical motifs; often witty.

mansard roof: a pitched roof of two sections with different slopes, which provides greater space within the roof.

Manueline style: the rich Late Gothic style of Portugal named after King Manuel I (1495-1521).

megaron: rectangular room of Mycenean origin preceded by a porch and containing a central hearth and four roof columns.

metope: the square panel between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze.

minaret: a tall slender tower with balconies, usually related to a mosque.

modillion: a bracket or console used in the Corinthian or Composite cornice.

moulding: any continuous ornamental feature, especially round an arch, doorway or window.

Mozarabic: style of Islamic inspiration developed by Christians in Spain in the 9th-11th centuries.

Mudejar: Spanish Christian architecture in a Muslim style and largely the work of Muslim architects.

mullion: upright post dividing a window into two or more openings.

mutule: flat slab-like or peg-like member, carved on a Doric frieze, just beneath the cornice, one above each metope and each triglyph.

narthex: large porch or vestibule at the western end of a church.

nave: main arm of a church, west of crossing and flanked by aisles, extending from the choir to the west and used by the congregation.

neo-plasticism: name given to the style of the Dutch artistic movement De Stijl, 1917-31

nodding: three-dimensional, as in nodding ogee arches. Such arches bend forward at the apex, away from the wall.

nymphaeum: grotto or garden building dedicated to the nymphs.

obelisk: a tall pillar of square cross-section, tapering sides and a pyramidal top.

ogee: (1) a double-curved line incorporating concave and convex parts; (2) an ‘S’-shaped curve, as found in some arches.

ogee arch: two ogees meeting at a point.

onion-shaped dome: used in Russian and Islamic architecture and derived from the domes of Byzantine basilicas. As well as being aesthetically pleasing it throws off snow more easily than a conventional dome.

opisthodomus: space or open porch at the back of a Greek temple, ‘sometimes used as a treasury.

order: (1) the Greek and Roman system of column, capital and entablature of which the three main types are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian; (2) one of the religious fraternities of the Catholic Church for monks or friars bound by a common rule of life.

organic: of buildings with curved shapes, supposedly close to natural forms (examples can be found in the work of F L Wright).

oriel window: an upper projecting bay window, often supported on corbels.

ovolo: a small convex moulding.

palmette: a stylised leaf ornament based on the shape of a palm leaf.

parapet: a low wall at the end of a roof, usually an upward extension of the wall below, sometimes incorporating sections of balustrade.

pargetting: plastering on a wall or ceiling that incorporates scratched or shallow moulded patterns.

pastas: south-facing loggia in a Greek house.

pavillion: a small villa or pleasure pavilion.

pediment: the triangular or curved gable above a portico, door or window. A ‘broken’ pediment lacks an apex, which is replaced, for example, by ogee curves ending in scrolls and enclosing another decorative element.

pendentive: the spherical triangle or concave spandrel connecting the corners of a square or polygonal interior with a circular dome.

peripteral: descriptive of a building surrounded by a single row of columns.

peristyle: a row of columns surrounding a temple or court.

piano nobile: the principal storey of a building, of greater height than the other storeys and raised above a basement or ground floor.

piazza: an Italian public square; in 17th and 18th century England it came to denote a covered arcade surrounding a square.

pier: a mass of masonry serving as a vertical support. If cylindrical it is called a pillar or column.

pilaster: a shallow decorative pier resembling a flattened column and projecting very slightly from the wall surface.

pilotis: stilts or pillars carrying the weight of a building in such a way as to raise it off the ground.

pinnacle: small ornamental turret usually ending in a pyramid or cone crowning a buttress or roof.

plasticity: sculptural modelling.

plate-tracery: tracery consisting of apertures apparently punched out of the masonry.

plinth: projecting masonry at the base of a wall or column.

polychrome: a many-coloured finish.

porch: a roof structure or room providing shelter at the front of a building.

portal: a doorway.

porte-cochere: a portico through which wheeled traffic can pass.

portico: aa projecting porch consisting of columns and (nearly always) a pediment, often with a flight of steps.

post and lintel: a term descriptive of trabeated construction, i.e. vertical supports carrying horizontal beams.

presbytery: the eastern part of a church, lying between the choir and the retrochoir, and containing the high alter.

prodigy house: name given to a group of extravagant country houses built in England around 1600.

pronaos: vestibule of a temple behind the front row of columns.

propylon: classical freestanding gateway.

prostyle: with a row of columns one deep.

pteron: an external colonnade, especially round a temple.

putto: (pl. -i) small boy or cherub, painted or carved.

pylon: rectangular tower, especially a tapered one.

quadratura or quadraturista painting: illusionistic perspective painting, particularly in Italian ceilings by Pozzi etc.

quadriga: sculptural group of a chariot drawn by four horses. Often used on top of the attic of a Roman gateway.

quadripartite vault: vault in which each bay contains four cells, divided by groins or ribs.

quattrocento, cinquecento: 15th-century, 16th-century.

quincunx: (Byzantine) cross-in-square plan consisting of a large central square (usually domed) surrounded by 4 barrel-vaulted rectangular bays plus a further 4 square corner bays (which may also be domed) — making a total of 9 areas.

quire: choir of a church.

quoin: the emphasised bricks or stones that appear at the corners of a building.

re-entrant corners: corners with angles pointing inward.

refectory: the dining hall of a monastery.

reinforced concrete: concrete strengthened by an inner core of steel wire, making it equally effective in tension and compression.

relieving arch: an extra arch above an opening in a wall that relieves the load from the lintel or arch that exists directly over the opening.

reredos: carved or painted superstructure forming the back of an alter.

respond: half-pillar or half-arch attached to a wall to support an arch.

retable (retablo): painted or carved screen behind an altar.

retrochoir: space to the east of the choir and high altar.

revetment: (1) wall supporting a mass of earth or water; (2) facing, especially of marble, to a wall built of another material.

rib vault: a vault in which the groins are replaced by stone ribs, which may be structurally independent of the surface behind them.

ridge rib: longitudinal rib extending the whole length of a vault.

Rococo: late Baroque phase, highly ornate; usually refers to interior decoration.

Romanesque: in English architecture, the same as Norman, characterised by thick walls, round arches and small windows without tracery.

rotunda: a building or room of circular plan, usually domed.

Rundbogenstil: ‘round arch style’, German with Romanesque origins.

rustication: masonry, or masonry simulated using stucco, in which the blocks are separated by deeply-cut joints. Often used at the base of classical buildings to give an impression of strength.

saddle-back: type of tower roof consisting of two steeply sloping sides and two gables.

sala terrena: a ground-floor room giving access to the garden, often decorated naturalistically or like a grotto.

Salomonic term: descriptive of a column twisted like barley-sugar.

sedilia: seats for clergy carved in stone on the south wall of a chancel.

segmental arch: an arch formed in the shape of a segment of a circle, usually less than a semi-circle.

sexpartite: of vaults, divided into six by ribs: an extra transverse arch intersects where they cross.

sgraffito: incised decoration of different colours on plaster.

shaft: a column, excluding its base or capital.

socle: a base or pedestal.

soffit: the surface beneath an arch, cornice, window, door head or other feature.

spandrel: (1) the triangular space between the tops of two arches; (2) the space between the shoulder of an arch and the surrounding rectangular moulding.

spherical triangle: a triangle with convex curving sides.

springer: lowest stone of an arch or vault rib.

springing: the part where an arch begins.

squinch: small arch diagonally across an internal angle of a square building, smoothing the transition to a circular or polygonal structure.

stereotomy: the art of cutting and dressing stone to fit vaults, especially in Gothic architecture.

stiff-leaf: stylised foliage decoration, usually of long leaves with the tops curling outwards.

stoa: a covered colonnade.

strapwork: 16th-century decoration (France, Netherlands, England) of interlaced bands, like leather pieces slotted into one another.

string course: a horizontal band of brick or masonry, usually projecting from a wall, running right across an elevation.

stucco: external plastering, usually moulded and painted to give the appearance of stone.

stylobate: the platform on which a colonnade stands.

term: classical sculptured figure whose lower half turns into a pedestal.

terra-cotta: a hard unglazed pottery material made of brick earth, usually burnt in moulds and used for decoration or facings.

tholos: a circular building.

tierceron rib: secondary rib leading from a main springer in a vault to a place on the ridge-rib, below neither a transverse or diagonal rib.

torus: a semi-circular convex moulding, especially on the base of an Ionic column.

trabeated: of architecture based on the post-and-lintel system of the Greeks in contrast to the arcuated system of the Romans.

transept: the transverse part of a cruciform church.

transom: a horizontal division of a window.

transverse arch: an arch at right angles to the main body of a building.

travertine: an Italian cream-coloured limestone, which can be polished with good effect.

trefoil: having three foils or cusps.

tribune: (1) the apse of a basilica; (2) a gallery in a church.

triforium: an arcaded passage in the wall of a church above the arcade and below the clerestorey.

triglyph: a vertically-grooved block separating metopes in a Doric frieze, possibly originally covering the ends of wooden roof beams.

trompe l’oeil: illusionistic painting.

truss: beams or struts fixed together in a triangle to make a rigid component, generally of a roof.

tunnel vault: a continuous stone roof, either semicircular or pointed in section.

tympanum: (1) triangular or segmental vertical surface enclosed by the mouldings of a pediment, sometimes incorporating sculpture or a lunette; (2) area between the lintel of a doorway and the surmounting arch

vault: an arched ceiling.

Venetian window or opening: one having three openings, the central one arched and wider than the others. Much used by Palladio and also known as Palladian, Serliana or Serlian type.

vermiculated rustication: rusticated masonry that is carved with tiny writhing lines, like worms.

vernacular: the characteristic style of building for an area, usually unaffected by other architectural styles.

volute: the spiral scroll on the corners of Ionic and Corinthian capitals; immediately beneath the abacus.

voussoir: a wedge-shaped stone or brick in an arch.

wall-pillar church: northern late-Gothic type in which walls dividing the side chapels are carried to the full height of the church, allowing for galleries over the chapels.

waterleaf: stylised smooth foliage with tips curving inward.

weather-boarding: overlapping horizontal planks of wood attached to the exterior of a building so as to protect it from the elements.

westwork: the two-storey towered west end of a Carolingian or Romanesque church with an upper room open to the nave.

ziggurat: a temple-tower, e.g. the Tower of Babylon, with stepped storeys linked by ramps.


A History of Western Architecture, David Watkin, published by Laurence King, 1992

English Architecture; a Concise History, David Watkin, published by Thames & Hudson, 1979

Pears Cyclopedia, 90th Edition, published by Pelham Books, 1981

[Both of the books by David Watkin are highly recommended]