Talk:Cathedral diagram

From Academic Kids

I think that perhaps we need a specialist to do a bit of re-writing. Perhaps something to indicate that the gothic is not the epitome (or is only arguably the epitome) of cathedral building. There's also stuff here that I'm not sure is correct -- are all cathedrals cruciform? if they are, are they all cruciform with a nave longer than the transept? I seem to remember from a couple of classes that this is not true. This is a great start, and IIRC, Suger's plan of St. Denis is considered the "how to" of cathedral building -- after St. Denis. But there are lots of cathedrals built before and after that may not fit the model. JHK

Yep - this is problematic. The original article was an import from Britannica and written by, I think, Ralph Adams Cram or someone of his school. I'll get to work on it - damn you Julie for tempting me! MichaelTinkler

I think that using some sort of cross shape for cathedrals has been the norm for a long time. At least some of them had the four 'branches' from the center of equal length, with the entire eastern one reserved for the sanctuary. Part of the reason for having so much space in the sanctuary was so that all the 'supplies' could be kept there, i.e. spare candles, oil, incense, wicks, etc. Wesley

No doubt there, Wesley -- but AFAIK, those cross shapes could also be short arms going around even a circular transept -- that's why I tempted Michael back -- I think he's the only real art/architectural historian we've got -- not to mention being a medievalist and teacher of art history surveys to boot!
Michael, think of it not as a temptation, but as a moral imperative! Jules

No, the nave didn't even usually run the entire length to the transept; in Westminster Abbey, for example, the transept cuts between the choir and the sanctuary. St. Denis is non-standard in a number of ways, like the two-lane ambulatory, but it was the first Gothic church, and you have to admit that Suger did a pretty good job of inventing the thing.
Yes, they were always cruciform, but you have to use a little imagination sometimes to see it. At Notre Dame, for example, the "arms" of the cross are only a gap of one column in the two rows running on each side of the E-W axis.
But the article on cathedrals was way too esoteric for anyone who just wants to know the basic parts of the building, and the links to them weren't there yet. So I thought I'd put this there to fill the void in the meantime, and I didn't want to make it too complicated, just cover the definitions. I was toying with the idea of preparing floor plans like this for the rest of the great cathedrals but figured there wasn't enough interest out there to justify it. -- isis

Isis, no criticism was meant -- In point of fact, however, we do have a specialist "on staff" as it were, and I thought it made sense to get him to take a look and make any clarifications he thought helpful. It's one of the nice things about having been here a while -- we tend to get to know each other's strengths -- especially if they're listed on the user pages. For example, if I saw an article on an animal that could use some work, I'd probably point it out to Vicki or Karen, because they've done a lot of those. Math-wise, I tend to point out articles to Axel, since he's a mathemetician. In the same way, people who know what I do tend to ask my opinion on things historical. JHK

Not to worry -- I didn't take it as criticism but as an invitation to a discussion. I wrote it partly to get a reaction from whoever here does specialize in that area, and when you all started talking about it in front of me, as it were, I figured it was okay to join in. -- isis

Absolutely! Glad there was no misunderstanding. The semi-resident art history person is user: MichaelTinkler. He's not often around, but knows more about art history, Christianity, and most things late antique and medieval than almost anyone I know. JHK

First pass. Lots to do. MichaelTinkler

St. Denis - not a cathedral; cruciformity - nope - check Bourges, for one - high gothic, no transept at all in original plan. 'rood screen' - not a term used on the Continent, which is where most Gothic is. apses - more common than chevets in general architecture, though indeed not common in 'gothic'. MichaelTinkler

Of course, NEITHER of these is a Cathedral. As the cathedral article points out, a frequent misusage is to apply 'cathedral' to any large church. This article is about generic large gothic churches - in which case it probably needs to be consolidated more firmly with gothic architecture and less oriented to cathedral. MichaelTinkler

cathedrals and abbeys

Firstly, I think this article is one of the most concise and clear explanations of a topic usually well beyond most non-architects or church historians and often rather dull. I have a few remarks on minor details and feedback comments left by other readers.

Presently, St. Denis is, in fact, a cathedral with a bishop. This is a recent development, however, and due to an administative need to subdivide a burgoning bishopric. As most people know, the building was designed and supervised by an abbot and remained an abbey until the time of the French Revolution. I highly recommend anyone visiting Paris to take a few hours and a quick train ride to visit St. Denis. You won't find the crowds of Notre Dame there.

Concerning the absence of a transcept at Bourges. My memory may fail here, but I recall that only the enormous choir was actually built before funds ran out. Thus, the lack of a transcept and nave doesn't necessarily mean that these elements were not intended in the original, possibly cruciform, design. At Salisbury (the present cathedral), as I recall, the sanctuary and some of the choir were largely completed and in use before the more western portions, but fortunately in this case, the rest was finished for us to admire. There are other instances (e.g., Canterbury) where prolonged rebuilding of the nave forced church use into the eastern portions. So although we often take for granted the familiar cross-shaped layout of a cathedral, the course of events sometimes required the buildings to be used with some flexibility.

Rich Mooney

Surely this article should be renamed. As has already been pointed out, these diagrams don't just apply to cathedrals or even to 'great' churches (many largish, but not huge, churches use this pattern). And in my experience, few non-cathedrals are referred to as cathedrals. Usually churches without a cathedra are only called cathedrals if they once did officially have the status. Generally a fairly inaccurate title. 'Church diagram' or 'Church design' would be better. -- Necrothesp 15:40, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

East-West dyslexia

Are these diagrams East-West reversed? Altars generally face east. - Nunh-huh 05:50, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I wish they were mapwise, with north at the top. In my paragraph shifting and minor rewrite I thought it was important to present the text in progression from the west end doors to the apse or chevet or whatever. It would be great to have further ground plans (even some cathedrals). Groundplan of St Peters would show that the elements remain, even in a non-gothic structure. Wetman 09:59, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)


Note that all three images illustrating this article have been long listed on Wikipedia:Possibly unfree images and tagged for deletion. Perhaps someone can upload useful GFDL or PD images to replace them? -- Infrogmation 19:25, 14 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Images schedualed for deletion removed. I put a cleanup message on the article, as the text is heavily dependant on references to the images. -- Infrogmation 18:22, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Until someone can supply PD floor plans, let's put editing this on hold. With new images, the text can easily be tailored to suit them. Can anyone rework abbey and cathedral groundplans to pass muster for PD? The more accurately detailed, the better. --Wetman 18:41, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The following text that directly refers to deleted images is removed: From intro:

The diagram below represents the floor plan of the Abbey of St.-Denis, showing the parts of a Gothic church. (The black dots are the columns supporting the roof.)
For comparison, the plan of Tewkesbury Abbey has the corresponding parts highlighted in the same colors. (Note: These plans are not drawn to the same scale; they are drawn to be about the same length in the diagram.)

From "Nave" section:

Salisbury Cathedral's choir and nave looking west from the High Altar, through the rood screen

Mikkalai 22:46, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC) ry


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools