A diverse offering twixt the interesting, the unusual, and the amusing.
Saturday, 30 December 2017
How did they do that!
Many of us who watched Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve, must have wondered how on earth its mid 15th C builders managed to construct that amazing fan vault ceiling; and why it doesn't simply fall down. The chapel's fan tracery ceiling is the world's biggest, and was completed in 1515.
It's the 'close to horizontal' form of the ceiling that baffles the viewer. It seems almost impossible that all that weight can remain in situ.
Such a ceiling relies on a few basic essentials. Extremely solid exterior walls (probably with ordinary, or flying, buttresses), extreme accuracy from the stonemasons themselves, and plenty of weight from above. The medieval stonemason would have known the process, but not the theory behind its success.
The process is roughly as follows. Once a very solid wooden template had been constructed, the main cross ribs were placed in position from one side to the other, and secured with a key stone; these were quite solid and stable. Then the major inter-connecting ribs were added, and the huge keystones (bosses) secured to hold everything in place (the decorative bosses at Kings weigh about 1,500 kilos each). Only then can the decorative infill begin, using all the other solid ribs as support; sand would probably have been used to hold-up the exact positioning for the newly laid stones. Eventually when all was in position, several tons of stone rubble was placed on top to create a huge downward force, and (hopefully) secure everything in place.
During the whole process, the stonemasons would have seen nothing of how the finished job would look from below.
It is claimed that the wooden template was often burned away to reveal the ceiling in all its glory, as the builders stood back with fingers crossed. It certainly would have been a very tense moment.
So, when you next look up at some vaulted fan tracery, I hope you will be like me, and marvel at the skill of the medieval builders who managed to do all that with just hammer chisel rope and a lot of prayer.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away; we also have a Border Collie called Billy. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!