1st Edition

Digital Analysis of Vaults in English Medieval Architecture

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after July 30, 2021
ISBN 9781138541337
July 30, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
328 Pages 211 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Medieval churches are one of the most remarkable creative and technical achievements in architectural history. The complex vaults spanning their vast interiors have fascinated both visitors and worshippers alike for over 900 years, prompting many to ask: ‘How did they do that?’ Yet very few original texts or drawings survive to explain the processes behind their design or construction.

This book presents a ground-breaking new approach for analysing medieval vaulting using advanced digital technologies. Focusing on the intricately patterned rib vaulting of 13th and 14th century England, the authors re-examine a series of key sites within the history of Romanesque and Gothic Architecture, using extensive digital surveys to examine the geometries of the vaults and provide new insights into the design and construction practices of medieval masons. From the simple surfaces of 11th-century groin vaults to the gravity-defying pendant vaults of the 16th century, they explore a wide range of questions including: How were medieval vaults conceived and constructed? How were ideas transferred between sites? What factors led to innovations? How can digital methods be used to enhance our understanding of medieval architectural design?

Featuring over 200 high quality illustrations that bring the material and the methods used to life, Digital Analysis of Vaults in English Medieval Architecture is ideal reading for students, researchers and anyone with an interest in medieval architecture, construction history, architectural history and design, medieval geometry and digital heritage.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Groins and ribs

Case study 1: Norton Priory

Case study 2: Gloucester Cathedral

Digital diary 1: surveying techniques

Chapter 2: Experiments with ribs

Case study 3: Lincoln Cathedral

Case study 4: Chester Cathedral

Case study 5: Ely Cathedral

Digital diary 2: rib tracing

Chapter 3: Plans

Case study 6: Wells Cathedral

Case study 7: Ottery St Mary

Digital diary 3: orthographic representations

Chapter 4: Curves

Case study 8: St Mary’s, Nantwich

Case study 9: Norwich Cathedral

Digital diary 4: generative design tools

Chapter 5: Stonecutting

Case study 10: Exeter Cathedral

Case study 11: Westminster Abbey

Digital diary 5: detailed analysis and 3D modelling

Chapter 6: Webs

Case study 12: Pershore Abbey

Case study 13: Tewkesbury Abbey

Digital diary 6: studying webbing





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Alexandrina Buchanan is an archivist and architectural historian in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool. She specialises in the study of the material past, both archival and architectural, with a particular interest in the history and historiography of medieval architecture including vaults.

James Hillson is an art historian who worked as Postdoctoral Research Associate on the Tracing the Past: English Medieval Vaults project at the University of Liverpool. He specialises in the study of architectural design practices and international artistic exchange in Northwestern Europe during the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.

Nicholas Webb is an architect and lecturer at the Liverpool School of Architecture. His research focusses on the application of digital tools and techniques to enhance our understanding of historic works of architecture, focussing on methods enabling new information that would not have been possible in a pre-digital context.


"This work eloquently brings out the interplay between technical innovation and artistic ingenuity in the architecture of Medieval English Vaults. In particular, the book breaks new ground on how digital surveying techniques and three dimensional computer modelling can uncover new approaches to the study of architectural history."

Professor Sambit Datta, Professor of Computational Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Curtin University

"This innovative study contributes significantly both to the scholarly understanding of English vaults, and to the understanding of Gothic design more generally. With exemplary rigor, transparency, and methodological self-awareness, the authors show how modern techniques such as laser scanning and 3D modelling can help to reveal the complex dynamics of the medieval builders’ creative processes."

Professor Robert Bork, Professor of Art History, School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa

"This book is a fascinating exploration of what technology can tell us about the development of Gothic vaults. It both reveals and reinforces the complex nature of medieval vaulting, demonstrating above all the skill of those who constructed these amazing buildings."

Dr Carol Cragoe, Author of How to Read Buildings

"This ground-breaking study uses digital technology to investigate the conception, creation and construction of vaults in medieval England. Drawing on an impressive range of documentary evidence, this profusely illustrated book offers both a history of the vault and fresh insights into English architectural design in the Middle Ages."

Dr John Goodall, Architectural Editor, Country Life Magazine