The timber vault in Exeter Cathedral

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The timber vault in Exeter Cathedral

The two towers which flank the crossing of Exeter cathedral had formed part of the Norman cathedral. In the years c. 1313-20 they were absorbed within the new Decorated Gothic building: new windows were cut into the old masonry, galleries were added, and vaults built within each tower.

The towers were given ribbed tierceron vaults which conformed in style with the high vaults used in the main vessel of the church, but built in wood rather than stone. The choice of wood was almost certainly because this would allow the vault to be so constructed that its centre could be removed when bells were drawn up into the bell chamber at the top of each tower. These drawings show the ingenious structures employed. It allowed the central portion of the vault to be removed, leaving the remainder suspended from vertical posts, pegged into the floor above.

Acknowledgments: J. Allan and B. Jupp, Exeter Archaeology