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Terme Définition
AediculeAn architectural structure with small dimensions in the form of a tabernacle, niche or aedicule, which generally houses a statue or a painting.

Its position often depended on the saint to whom the cathedral was dedicated: in fact, it was aligned with the point in which the sun rises on the day that the main liturgical mystery or feast-day of the saint of that site was celebrated. In early-Christian basilicas it is in front of the bishop’s throne, positioned in the middle of the main apse.  During the middle ages the altar was banked to make space for the “memorials” of martyrs and apostles kept in a crypt.


A painted or sculpted table made of wood, marble or terracotta positioned on the alter and often inserted into an architectonical frame. It occasionally consisted of several panels. It may also be a bas-relief in marble or wood. It is a synonym of “ancon”.


A podium that is closed on three sides by a parapet, which can be accessed through a stairs on the fourth side. The ambo is not documented during the early-Christian era as the Word was heard by the assembly only if proclaimed in the apse, an element that had efficient phonic amplification. In Romanesque churches there were two large ambos at the sides of the altar: one on the right for the reading of the Epistle, one on the left for the reading of the Gospel.


In general: an arcade or covered corridor which is circular or semi-circular in shape or which develops longitudinally.  In Romanesque and Gothic churches it is the extension of the side naves beyond the transept, which isolates the altar and the choir and which may give access to the radial chapels


A hollow construction complete with a vault, which is generally semi-circular in shape and which interrupts the continuity of a flat wall. Especially in pre-Christian and Christian basilicas it is located at the end of the central nave and amplifies the voice of the Chairman of the assembly, sitting on the “pulpit”, and of the Council, which acts as a crown to him. The apse is occasionally accompanied by side apses, as is the case in Monreale. During the middle ages and in the modern age, the choir of canons or monks was positioned here.

ArcadeAn arched structure usually resting on pillars with quite a large diameter or a series of arches one after the other.

A curvilinear structure resting on two points (pillars, columns etc…). It may have various shapes:
round (or centred), semi-circular, the most common one;
ogive (or ogival) arch consisting of two curves that intersect and form a cusp or acute angle at the top. Already known of during ancient times, this type of arch was used very frequently in Arabic and Gothic architecture;
rampant, with imposts on different levels: it balances the horizontal pushes of other arches, performing a counterthrust action;
other arches (blind, lobed, lowered, triumphal, horseshoe).

Arches, rampant

To support the stone roof of medieval cathedrals, buttresses were used, large external columns, which offloaded the weight onto the ground. It is no coincidence that cathedrals are considered to be a great work of engineering in terms of balance and weight distribution.


A horizontal architectural element resting on columns or pillars. It constitutes the lower section of the trabeation in classic orders.

Art, illuminating

An art form originating in the east, with which manuscripts are decorated and illustrated. It also indicates a small sized painting, generally a watercolour on ivory, parchment, paper, copper or another material.


A building with a central plan, with a dome roof, containing the baptismal font, which is usually beside the church.

Barrel vault

A curved roof in a room or a bay consisting of a semi-cylindrical structure that offloads the weight that it is subjected to onto two walls with parallel springers.


A sculpture carried out on a flat surface, in which the figures emerge from the background with contours with a slight relief. The opposite of this is a high relief.

BaseThe lower section of a building, a column, a pillar, which has a support function.
Basilica eng.

A large Roman-Imperial building with a rectangular layout, with the internal space divided up by rows of columns. It was used as a court and trade center, with an apse (even double) that amplified the phonic emission of the voice and with large windows to guarantee sufficient light at assemblies. The roof was made of lightweight wooden trusses, thus eliminating the need for the so-called external or buttress arches, which were necessary for stone roofs, as in medieval Gothic cathedrals.  The church took on this motif for the first buildings of worship that had a rectangular layout, divided up lengthways by columns or pillars into three or five naves, ending up with a semi-circular area called the apse, which was occasionally cut up transversally by a transept, which was useful for the liturgical action and significant for giving the layout of the building the shape of a Latin cross.


A space between four pillars that support a cross vault or between two support elements (columns, pillars, walls). It is part of the nave of the church.


A suspended architectonic element with various shapes that protrudes from the wall and that acts as a form of support for a beam or cornice, small arches, roof etc…


A generally quadrangular shaped constructive element with a spur or rampant arch shape, which counteracts the pushes of the vaults and arches from the outside of the building

Candle, paschal

A large circular base onto which a consistent quantity of wax was placed with a consistent wick, so as to illuminate the celebratory and assembly space.  From the archaic Christian era, the strong light deriving from it is a symbol of Christ, who rose from the dead during the night following Easter Saturday of the year 30.


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