The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals

A Study of Medieval Vault Erection

John Fitchen

The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals
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John Fitchen

364 pages | 3 halftones, 69 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1961
Paper $21.00 ISBN: 9780226252032 Published April 1997
John Fitchen systematically treats the process of erecting the great edifices of the Gothic era. He explains the building equipment and falsework needed, the actual operations undertaken, and the sequence of these operations as specifically as they can be deduced today. Since there are no contemporary accounts of the techniques used by medieval builders, Fitchen's study brilliantly pieces together clues from manuscript illuminations, from pictorial representations, and from the fabrics of the building themselves.

"Anyone who has caught the fascination of Gothic Churches (and once caught, has almost necessarily got it in the blood) will find this book enthralling. . . . Clearly written and beautifully illustrated." —A. D. R. Caroe, Annual Review, Central Council for the Care of Churches

"Fitchen's study is a tribute to the extraordinary creative and engineering skills of successive generations of mediaeval builders. . . . This study enables us to appreciate more fully the technical expertise and improvements which enabled the creative spirit of the day to find such splendid embodiment." —James Lingwood, Oxford Art Journal

"Fitchen, in what can only be defined as an architectural detective story, fully explores the problems confronting the medieval vault erectors and uncovers their solution. . . . This is a book that no serious student of architecture will want to miss." —Progressive Architecture

Contents
List of Figures
1. SOURCES OF INFORMATION
The structural aspects of medieval building, and the contemporary sources of possible information about its execution.
2. CONSTRUCTIONAL MEANS
The multiple nature and scope of the falsework requirements—scaffolding, shoring, formwork, and centering—with some provisionally assumed solutions.
3. MEDIEVAL TYPES OF VAULTING
An analysis of the chief structural developments in medieval times; problems, innovations, and solutions.
4. GOTHIC FRAMEWORK
The significance of the rib. An assessment of what others have written on the nature and extent of the formwork used in Gothic vaulting, together with a possible solution of the formwork problem.
5. GOTHIC CENTERING
An analysis of the centering problem in Gothic vaulting, along with the types of falsework employed as support for the centering.
6. ERECTION OF RIB VAULTING WITHOUT FORMWORK
Systems of construction that dispense with falsework. The Gothic system of vault erection without formwork. Summary review of the erectional sequence and procedures in French Gothic rib-vaulted churches.
NOTES AND COMMENTS
APPENDIXES
A. An Annotated Bibliography of Falsework Literature
B. The Occurrence of Putlog Holes and the Location and Extent of the Scaffolding They Reveal
C. Passageways in Lincoln Cathedral
D. A Tower Vault of the Eleventh Century
E. Medieval Vault Thickness
F. Surfaces of Double Curvature in Gothic Vaults
G. The Slow Setting Time of Medieval Mortars and Its Consequences
H. Oblique or Skew Vaults of Masonry
I. Pole Scaffolding
J. Arch and Vault Ties in Medieval Construction
K. Medieval Falsework Practices in England
L. Abbot Suger on the New Work at St-Denis: A Reinterpretation
M. Strutting Systems Used in Centering Frames
N. An Instance of Vault Centering that Survives from the Gothic Era
O. Intersecting Centering Frames, and the Use of Models to Solve the Difficulties Encountered
P. Medieval Lifting Devices and Procedures
GLOSSARY
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEXES
1. Author
2. Subject
3. Places and Buildings
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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