The Arch and Vault
By J. M.
The Types of VaultsA vault is related to an arch in that a vault is an arched masonry structure that forms a ceiling or roof. The Romans used three basic types of vaults:
From that, they constructed the groined vault. A groined vault istwo barrel vaults of the same size and height that they build at right angles to each other over a single square area. The barrel vaults naturally intersect in elliptical curves placed diagonally across the square area. The curves are called groins. Since the vaults end at the sides of the square in semicircles, making a large arched opening on all the sides of the square is possible, and the whole roof is then supported only on four piers at the corners.
The cloister vault is based on the intersection of two barrel vaults at right angles. Instead of having an arch on each face of the vault, they rise to a high center from a level beginning on all four faces to form a square vault(Hamlin 27).
This variety of vaults was used to make things like:
The Structure of a VaultThe vault is a very simple structure. It consists of an arch at both ends. Between the arches is a long arched tunnel that is made of concrete. When making the large vaults, it was difficult to construct it all at once. They built a vault in sections. They used centerings, or temporary supports, to support the finished concrete in one section until the other sections were finished. Buttresses were used to give the heavy concrete vaults extra support. Architects would lay layers of light tiles directly on the centerings. When the tiles were finished, it gave the centerings extra support until they laid the final layer of concrete. When all of the concrete was dry and the tiles were laid, the Roman architects would pour concrete onto the vaults until they reached the desired thickness(Hamlin 25).
The History of the Vault
The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to have a widespread use of the vault. They did not use a groined, or cloister vault. The Egyptians created the vault from the idea of the arch. They used the vault in:
As with the arch, the Romans assimilated the vault to fit into their architectural scheme. One of the elements that made the vault so successful was the creation of concrete as a building material. It made production faster and cheaper. The creation of the vault led to other useful structures like domes(Curl 36).
Arches and vaults were important parts of the Roman classical architectural scheme. They were the greatest Roman contribution to modern architecture. Our civilization still uses the arch and vault in our modern architecture. In conclusion, the Romans took ideas from other civilizations, improved upon them, and made them their own.
Rich East High School *Park Forest, IL 60466
This page was created by J.M. Last revised 03/05/00.