Did Groin Vaults always require buttresses? (Medieval Architecture)

Feb 2019
37
Denmark
On some floorplans of medieval abbeys/churches provided for reconstruction attempts, there seem to be missing buttresses.

Is this an indication that the church only had a vaulted ceiling where the buttresses were located? Could it have a groin vault despite lacking buttresses?
Or would the lack of a buttress indicate the ceiling here was made of wood?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,580
Dispargum
How old are these churches/abbeys? My understanding is that stone vaults were not built prior to the High Middle Ages. Stone vaults are one of the characteristics of Gothic cathedrals.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,653
San Diego
On some floorplans of medieval abbeys/churches provided for reconstruction attempts, there seem to be missing buttresses.

Is this an indication that the church only had a vaulted ceiling where the buttresses were located? Could it have a groin vault despite lacking buttresses?
Or would the lack of a buttress indicate the ceiling here was made of wood?
Buttresses are required for ALL stone arches and domes. You just can't always see them as separate structures.
Masonry arches produce an outward thrust on either side. domes produce an outward thrust on all sides.

In the pantheon- which is cast as a single monolithic concrete structure- the buttress is the ridiculously thick perimeter wall on which the dome sits.
in most later cathedrals, if you look at the cross sections of the columns, the dome had four massive pillars... but these transfer outward thrust thru the transept- and down the aisles and nave.
A roman aqueduct, for example, transfers outward thrusts thru the solid masonry between arches, to the adjacent arches, and so on all the way until it can be transferred into the rising terrain at either end. That is- each arch acts as the buttress to the adjacent arch.

The Hagia Sophia has each of its four corner columns outweighing the entire dome.

Most buttresses in medieval structures look like ordinary pilasters on the outside of the wall. Those things that look like embedded columns sticking halfway out of the wall- those are buttresses.

As they built taller masonry walls, the thrusts of the roof vaulting had more leverage to over tip the wall, and the buttresses became deeper and more massive- until they tried to lighted the structure and make windows more effective by converting exterior buttresses from just being massive- to being half arches. Transferring the outward thrust at the TOP of the wall from the roof- outwards to the ground thru a stone arch.
But even these arched buttresses had an outward thrust that you can see they compensated for by ending the buttresses in Massive piles of masonry to resist the thrust thru the sheer force of gravity on the anchorage.

So when you look at floorplans, you have to consider the direction of the thrusts... each column supports an arch, and the next column supports an arch that acts as buttress for that arch... Follow a line of columns and you will find a massive column, or wall, or exterior pilaster acting as terminal buttress.

So the center aisle of a cathedral has its vault transfer thrust to the vaults of the side aisles, which are always lower, then then from there to the exterior walls, which have buttresses on the outside.

The dome has Four radiating sets of columns and arches carrying thrusts downward and away.
 
Feb 2019
37
Denmark
Follow a line of columns and you will find a massive column, or wall, or exterior pilaster acting as terminal buttress.
It's just that... On the floorplan, there are no columns, pilasters or buttresses or any other added structures for the nave, only at the apse and choir.
The wall for the nave is no thicker than the wall for the apse/choir.

Unfortunately I cannot show you the floorplan, I think there is still some copyright.

The apse/choir had gothic arches/vaults (pointed).
But no signs of any added walls on the exterior for the nave.

How old are these churches/abbeys? My understanding is that stone vaults were not built prior to the High Middle Ages. Stone vaults are one of the characteristics of Gothic cathedrals.
The abbey and church was built in 1235.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,653
San Diego
It's just that... On the floorplan, there are no columns, pilasters or buttresses or any other added structures for the nave, only at the apse and choir.
The wall for the nave is no thicker than the wall for the apse/choir.

Unfortunately I cannot show you the floorplan, I think there is still some copyright.

The apse/choir had gothic arches/vaults (pointed).
But no signs of any added walls on the exterior for the nave.



The abbey and church was built in 1235.
Which chruch are you referring to? Is it still standing or are you looking at an old floorplan?

there are a LOT of old abbeys and churches that are no longer standing because they lacked proper buttressing.
The masons of that era did not have calculus... they learned thru trial and error.
 
Feb 2019
37
Denmark
Which chruch are you referring to? Is it still standing or are you looking at an old floorplan?

there are a LOT of old abbeys and churches that are no longer standing because they lacked proper buttressing.
The masons of that era did not have calculus... they learned thru trial and error.
It's the Greyfriars Abbey of Viborg, Denmark which I'm attempting to digitally reconstruct. Some few buildings remains this day (from the Late Middle Ages), the church built in the 1230's was teared down in then 19th century. Before tearing down the church, lots of information about it was recorded and some drawings made. Unfortunately, they didn't record everything.

Though for the remaining buildings they do have some vaults but no buttresses. How is that possible?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,580
Dispargum
How high was the vault? Height was one variable driving the need for buttresses. Also, are you talking only flying buttresses, or are you also claiming a lack of other buttresses also?
 
Feb 2019
37
Denmark
How high was the vault? Height was one variable driving the need for buttresses. Also, are you talking only flying buttresses, or are you also claiming a lack of other buttresses also?
I don't know the height, but "standard height" would be my guess. I'm not talking about flying buttresses, only buttresses.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,967
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
How old are these churches/abbeys? My understanding is that stone vaults were not built prior to the High Middle Ages. Stone vaults are one of the characteristics of Gothic cathedrals.
Your are incorrect. Stone vaults in churches were used before Gothic architecture, in the preceding Romanesque style and in the styles preceding Romanesque, and those churches often or always had butresses.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,653
San Diego
It's the Greyfriars Abbey of Viborg, Denmark which I'm attempting to digitally reconstruct. Some few buildings remains this day (from the Late Middle Ages), the church built in the 1230's was teared down in then 19th century. Before tearing down the church, lots of information about it was recorded and some drawings made. Unfortunately, they didn't record everything.

Though for the remaining buildings they do have some vaults but no buttresses. How is that possible?
Well- its not. Its possible that it was only torn down because a large part of it FELL DOWN. That happens rather a lot in the medieval era as europeans kept trying, and often failing to build buildings like the romans' had.

Keep in mind that it was not until the printing press- rediscovery of Ancient greek, and roman texts thru the Caliphate- and the renaissance that europe managed to vault a larger span than the pantheon.

The height of the vaulting and the surroundings all contribute to how much of a buttress is required.
In a relatively low vault with a narrow span- you can buttress with simply a very thick solid wall. A row of arches can be buttressed by a solid masonry wall ( without windows or with very small windows) an example is Santa Maria Novella in Florence- which is only decorated on the front facade- look at the side walls and you see mostly solid masonry with very small windows- and very stubby buttresses on the exterior side walls in the form of masonry pilasters.

I would have to see the plan you are looking at- but it is also possible it was drawn by someone who did not understand the actual construction of the building.

So- for example- in most gothic churches, Like notre dame, the nave had 3 aisles... the central aisle is the widest with the highest vault. The two side Aisles are narrower, with lower vaults.
These lower vaults are arches that buttress the central vault's arches. And the exterior walls have flying buttresses supporting them on the outside.
However- the rows of columns separating the aisles are connected by arches that carry nearly the entire weight of the roof and upper walls of the central aisle. These thrusts are transferred down each row of columns to the front facade of the church- which if you look at it is Huge Box of massive masonry. This is the primary buttress for the massive weight of the longest stretch of roof and walls in the building.
 
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