Late English Gothic Style of Vaulting

Perpendicular or fan vaults are one of the characteristics of English Gothic architecture. In the 14th century, the masons converted the rectangular pyramid shaped vaults into hexagonal pyramids. This vaults were later simplified (the size of the panels decreased and more ribs were added) and called the fan vaulting in the 15th century. Here is a compilation of incredible perpendicular vaults from England.

Chapel of King’s College at Cambridge University

The construction of the Chapel of King’s College took place between 1446 and 1515. It is one of the best examples of perpendicular English Gothic architecture. Additionally, it has the largest fan vaulting in the world.

Chapel of King's College at Cambridge University, English Gothic Vaulting
Chapel of King's College at Cambridge University, fan vaulting

Oxford Divinity School

The Divinity School was built specifically for Theology lectures between 1427 and 1483. Its ceiling consists of lierne or stellar vaulting, which came into use in the 14th century in England. This form of vaulting comprises of a tertiary rib (a lierne) connecting one rib to another, and as a result, a star shape occurs.

Oxford Divinity School perpendicular vaulting
Oxford Divinity School vaulting detail

Gloucester Cathedral and its English Gothic Style Vaults

The construction of Gloucester Cathedral gradually took place between 1089 and 1449. In 1222, a fire burnt down the timber roof and several buildings, so the south and the north transepts as well as the choir were rebuilt in perpendicular style in the 14th century. Additionally, the cloisters in the Gloucester Cathedral are the oldest surviving fan vaults (built between 1351- 1377).

Gloucester Cathedral and its English Gothic Style Vaults
Gloucester Cathedral and its English Gothic Style Vaults
Gloucester Cathedral and its English Gothic Style Vaults

Sherborne Abbey, Dorset

Sherborne Abbey initially served as a Saxon Cathedral (705-1075), then as a Benedictine Abbey Church (998- 1539), and finally, it has been a parish church since 1539. During the 14th century, the Abbey was almost entirely rebuilt in the perpendicular gothic style.

Sherborne Abbey, Dorset vaulting
Lawrence OP
Sherborne Abbey, Dorset vaulting detail
Lawrence OP
Sherborne Abbey, Dorset fan vaults
Lawrence OP

The Windsor Castle, Berkshire

The Windsor Castle is a royal residence as well as the longest occupied palace in Europe (the 11th century-present). The interior design of the castle was renovated in perperdicular gothic style in the 15th century. The building also served as a military headquarter during the English Civil War (1642-1651) which caused a great damage to the structure. During the Restoration Period, Charles II restorated the castle in Baroque style. One century later, George III and George IV also renovated the castle by adding Baroque, Gothic, and Rococo elements to the design.

The ceiling of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle features a great example of the English Gothic style of vaulting.

The Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

Canterbury Castle has a great importance in English history. For instance, it was the place where Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 which became a pivotal moment. Later, Becket’s death and his subsequent miracles turned Canterbury Cathedral into a pilgrimage site in Europe.

The cathedral was rebuilt between 1070- 1077, and renovations continued until 1834. The nave and the transepts were rebuilt in perpendicular style between the late 14th and the mid-15th century.

Canterbury Cathedral Perpendicular Vault
Aidan McRae Thomson
Canterbury Cathedral Perpendicular Vault on the roof
Wayne Murphy